Your Next Spotify Playlist Might Be Curated with Wine Pairings in Mind

Spotify-Tarpon Cellars-Wine Music
Tarpon Cellars and Spotify teamed up to release two playlists corresponding with the winery’s 2018 releases. Courtesy of Emma K. Morris/Tarpon Cellars
Courtesy of Emma K. Morris/Tarpon Cellars

Would you listen to a Spotify playlist inspired by the image of crushing grapes? That’s a question we can now answer for ourselves, as Tarpon Cellars and Spotify have teamed up to release two playlists in connection with the winery’s 2018 offerings.

The 2018 Tarpon Cellars Sauvignon Blanc and 2018 Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon playlists are composed of original songs meant to evoke the experience of winemaking, from the expressions of tannins to the feelings of anxiety right before harvesttime.

But how much of a role does music really play when it comes to the overall taste inside the glass? And are more food and drink inspired playlists on the way to appease Spotify subscribers?

Music and Wine: A Powerful Pairing

Veteran winemaker and founder of Tarpon Cellars Jeremy Carter doesn’t subject his grapes to the music of Mozart—like winemaker Giancarlo Cignozzi of Paradiso di Frassina in Montalcino, Italy. However, music has a tendency to move us all in different ways. While creating playlists in his Spotify Premium account to accompany the release of new wines—matching the right songs to the right moments—Carter was inspired more by food pairings. So what does that sound check look like?

“I have always called tannins the bass notes or depth of a wine, and high-tone red fruit are the treble notes,” says Carter. A wine’s acid structure is represented by a lead guitar, and other instruments evoke certain characteristics of the production process. However, this might be one of a few playlists that don’t include Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” Songs from Tom Petty, The Grateful Dead, and Futurebirds were all incorporated into the two unique playlists, which feature 75 songs in total. “My winemaking background is very heavy in chemistry and microbiology, but I also think there is truth in higher vibrational frequencies,” Carter says of the impact music can have on the wine-tasting experience.

Spotify-Tarpon Cellars Jeremy Carter
Tarpon Cellars founder Jeremy Carter.
Courtesy of Emma K. Morris/Tarpon Cellars

However, this partnership was more about sharing the emotional grind winemakers—and of course the wine—face throughout the season.

Songs like Jerry Garcia’s take on “Sitting in Limbo” by Jimmy Cliff were used to describe a winemaker’s anxiety as he waits for the grapes to ripen before the harvest. “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” by Sharon Van Etten is a testament to the job’s long hours. But Carter went beyond shuffling songs in order to find the perfect mix for this partnership. Teaming up with Futurebirds, Carter traveled from California to Georgia to meet with the band, taste wine, and get the members to commit to helping build the rosé playlist.

Ultimately for the winemaker, the songs strive to create a lasting memory for anyone who tastes Tarpon wines. “We all have those songs that can immediately take us back to a particular year in school, a certain relationship, or even an exact moment in time,” Carter says. Might tasting these wines have you one day humming along to Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” because it’s on the playlist, or is it just the fact that a catchy tune can connect us to anything?

While there are many questions as to why we might feel differently when music is playing, the idea that winemaking now has a soundtrack for its life cycle is a revelation that other businesses may well want to follow.

Can Creative Partnerships Attract a Loyal Audience?

Spotify surpassed 100 million subscribers earlier this year, but even global companies with an established user base must find ways to differentiate their content. (Spotify declined to comment for this story.) Though Carter has not come across a quantifiable way to measure the success of including playlists on Tarpon Cellars labels at present, there have been signs demonstrating that the time invested in this project has already paid off. “We do have the ability to see the landing page for our website traffic, and I can say that nearly 20% of our site visits start on the music page that carries the playlists,” notes Carter on the success of the partnership.

Tarpon Cellars-Spotify-SavBlanc Playlist
Tarpon Cellars and Spotify’s Sauvignon Blanc playlist.
Courtesy of Tarpon Cellars

However, the primary goal of Tarpon Cellars’ investment of time and energy into this musical endeavor was less about direct sales and more about connecting with customers. “I think if even one person is exposed to a new artist they like, or has an emotional response to the pairing, it is a success for me,” Carter says.

Emotional responses to brands in this day and age are of utmost importance to business owners. From a fried-chicken sandwich war to the cancellation of gym memberships owing to campaign donations, 2019 has seen its share of brand loyalty impacted by such decisions. But a conversation led by sweet sounds might just sway an audience in an entirely new direction.

Can Music Make Millennials Rethink Wine’s Fancy-Pants Reputation?

With brand loyalty revolving around a company’s core values, it may be wise for its leaders to share personal tastes in the creative arts, even if they can’t please everyone with their musical selections. And when experts offer state of the wine industry reports like that of Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan—predicting 2019 “sales growth of 4% to 8% for the premium wine segment, which is roughly flat from the 2018 sales growth estimate”—it’s clear wineries will have to make bold choices that cater to different crowds.

And while using Spotify to find your next favorite wine might not have a major financial impact industrywide, it makes the search far more enjoyable than desperately scanning the aisles of a silent wine shop right before a dinner party. Even better, it may help younger generations find their next favorite artist, like that guy named Mozart.

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—What exactly is a super-premium spirit anyway?
—Seven ways to enjoy white (wine) after Labor Day
—Beermakers are experimenting with new—and sustainable—six-pack designs
Napa mountain wines have just as much to offer as Napa Valley bottles
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