The varieties of wines, whiskies and cognacs that inspired (and inebriated) some of the world’s greatest composers.
Ludwig van Beethoven: wine
Life: 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827
Accomplishments: Best-known for his symphonies, piano concertos, piano sonatas, string quartets, and his Mass, Missa solemnis.
Drink of choice: Wine. Beethoven liked to drink in the evenings after composing at the Zum Weissen Schwann in Vienna. Not much is know about what we liked to drink, but in a letter to his friend Nikolaus Zmeskall, Beethoven wrote, “Let us meet at seven this evening at the Schwan and drink more of their disgusting red wine.” Apparently, this wine was the local hooch from the foothills of the Kahlenberg at the eastern end of the Vienna Woods. It went down rough but did the trick.
Franz Schubert: Schilcher (rose)
Life: 31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828
Accomplishments: A prolific composer, Schubert wrote over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music, and a large body of chamber and piano music.
Drink of choice: Schilcher (rose). Produced solely in the Austrian region of Western Styria from Blauer Wildbacher grapes, Schubert was introduced to the libation by accident at one of the locations of his famous “Schubertiades” (Wildbach Castle in Austria). The wine is still available today.
Gioachino Rossini: Madeira
Life: 29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868
Accomplishments: Wrote 39 operas as well as a number of sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces.
Drink of choice: Madeira wine. Rossini liked to drink Madeira with his macaroni. The wine is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines ideally paired with desserts.
Richard Wagner: Saint-Péray Wine
Life: 22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883
Accomplishments: One of the most important opera composers in history, Wagner revolutionised operatic drama by utilising a concept known as Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), the synthesis of poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. His opera, “Tristan und Isolde” is thought to mark the beginning of the modern period of classical music.
Drink of choice: Saint-Péray Wine from the Rhône region of France. Wagner liked it so much he ordered 100 bottles to be sent to his home in Bayreuth.
Franz Liszt: Szekszárd wines and cognac
Life: October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886
Accomplishments: In the mid 18th-Century, Liszt was widely considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, he was representative of the New German School (Neudeutsche Schule). Popular works include Transcendental Etudes, Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, La Campanella, and Liebestraume No. 3.
Drink of choice: Szekszárd wines and cognac. Liszt’s was known to enjoy his booze and reportedly made wine and cognac his constant companions. Liszt once sent a bottle of Szekszárd wine to Pope Pius IX as a gift.
Igor Stravinsky: Scotch Whisky
Life:17 June [O.S. 5 June] 1882 – 6 April 1971
Accomplishments: A revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical form, rhythm and structure, Stravinsky was most notable for his three ballets: ‘The Firebird” (1910), “Petrushka” (1911) and “The Rite of Spring” (1913).
Drink of choice: Ballantine’s 30-year-old Scotch. Stravinsky never left home without a full flask of Scotch Whisky at the ready.