For the past three years, Liz Martinez has been the sommelier at Chicago’s The Purple Pig, chef Jimmy Bannos Jr.’s shrine to all things pork. Her wine list is centered around bottles from Greece, Italy (with special attention paid to Sicily) and other parts of Europe. “I’m always looking for something that’s obscure but not too obscure. I like wines that are funky but still taste good,” she says.
But when she’s not working the floor, you can find Martinez working a turntable instead. Since the ’90s, she has moonlighted as a DJ, starting first with house music and now getting into more funk and soul, playing with friends and picking up gigs here or there. (You can find her spinning now and then at Sportsman’s Club in Ukrainian Village.)
Martinez says she has always seen a close tie between wine and music. “They kind of make me feel the same way,” she says. “It’s a creative thing; it makes me feel happy to put some emotion toward them.” She has been known to pair what she’s drinking to what she’s playing, but she does have some go-tos for spinning in general. “When I’m playing records with a friend, I often bring something kind of light and lively,” she says. “I brought an Etna Bianco the other day. Sometimes I like to bring bubbles.”
In August, it seems that all music concerts happen outside, and in the best cases, you can bring a picnic and your own bottle of wine. We asked Martinez to pair a wine to six different genres of music that you’re bound to encounter on an outdoor stage in the next few weeks.
Best paired with: Classical
“This Champagne [$63] is a feminine, emotional brut rosé. It’s always been one of my favorites because it’s super juicy and compelling, even cerebral, which reminds me of classical music. Jean Vesselle is an old-school producer, but the wine itself is a very traditional style. Oeil de Perdrix means “eye of the partridge.” It’s kind of a gross story, but basically it’s the color of the eye of a partridge when it’s killed it out in the fields, so that alone shows you the old-school vintage this wine is coming from.”
Best paired with: Jazz
“This wine [$25] so dreamy. Ruché [from Italy’s Piedmont] is a softer, lighter style of red wine. It’s a lovely bottle, with a lot of purple and red flower aromas, white peppercorns and just a tiny bit of spice. It’s the perfect red for this time of year, because it’s not too bold and you can put a little chill on it. Even though it’s delicate, it still has enough acidity and tannic structure that it can still stand up to the food at the Purple Pig. This will appeal to the people who are looking for a softer style Pinot Noir, but this has so much more personality. It’s that spice that had me thinking about it for jazz. When I listen to jazz, I feel like there’s a lot going on and this wine, without being in your face, feels that way, too.”
Best paired with: Funk
“The Anàstasi [$38] has moxie, and I love funk. When I’m choosing aglianico [a full-bodied red] for the list, of which I have a couple, I’m looking for one that’s fresh and vibrant. The wine doesn’t see a lot of oak, so it’s very clean with very nice plush fruit and great structure—it’s super balanced. It’s one of my favorites on the list at The Purple Pig. It’s a little bit more expensive, but has age on it, too. I was thinking this might be a great pairing for music from Maceo Parker.”
Best paired with: Brazilian
“This Portuguese white wine [$30] is made from 100 percent cerceal, the primary grape typically used in Madeira. I was a Brazilian dancer for a lot of years, and the reason I like this wine with Brazilian music is that it’s so alive. That’s the only way that I know how to explain it. I feel like it’s always changing. It’s lean but with this really creamy texture, interesting aromatics, honey and citrus, and there’s even something sort of briny about it. Every time you take a sip of it, it’s different. I feel like it’s moving the entire time, which is why when I thought about Brazilian music, I went straight to this wine. I’d drink this with batucada – that’s music with live drummers, the one I would always dance to.”
Best paired with: R&B and pop
“I guess I’ve been around a little bit longer, but when I listen to pop, I definitely like Raphael Saadiq. He’s a singer-songwriter and goes in a lot of directions: soul, R&B, pop. When I was in Greece, I was in the north of Greece at Alpha Estate and tried this wine [$18]. It was really surprising to me. I kind of anticipated it to be sort of flabby and not to have a lot of structure, but it’s very interesting—a lot of bright lychee and floral aromas and great body. It’s perfect, very harmonious, super balanced.”
Best paired with: Hip-hop
“When I think about hip-hop, I think about Talib Kweli and Musiq Soulchild and things like that. So for me, I’m thinking of a more sexy style of hip-hop. And this pinot blanc [$34] is pretty sexy. It’s a smaller producer of well-crafted wines in Austria, along Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland. This wine is persistent; it stays with you for a little while. I tasted the wine the other day, and I feel like it’s still with me.”