As Jack White currently tours around the U.S. and Europe, I’m feeling nostalgic about how his work has shaped alternative music over the past two decades. These wine pairing suggestions will help you enjoy your favorite White Stripes albums even more.
In 2001, we were nearing the end of the garage rock revival. The White Stripes, composed of Jack and Meg White, were at their peak, still coasting off the success of their first two studio albums.
This band was quickly gaining popularity for their archetypal rock and roll sound and raw blues melodies. Jack White’s affinity for finding simple, natural connections in music drove their hit 2001 album White Blood Cells. He recounted, to the Detroit Metro Times, a similar appreciation for the simplicity of the number three and a special connection to this project particularly because it was the band’s third album together:
“I think it’s just perfection—like the Holy Trinity… or song structure. It just seems like the perfect connection. There’s vocals, drums and guitar.”
We’re starting off this musical journey with Albariño, and if I were to simplify this classic, tart white into three descriptors, they’d be: salty, light with honeydew and heavy with attitude. This is what we get with this first part of the album: Albariño will hit you fast like “Hotel Yorba” and hard like “Fell In Love.”
This middle bit of White Blood Cells was particularly difficult to pair—I couldn’t choose between Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. For slower tracks like “Union Forever” and “Offend in Every Way,” Pinot Blanc matches perfectly with refreshing dryness and ripe peach notes.
But considering the wide spectrum of Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) styles, this is the wine I’ve chosen. You’ll find similar peachy notes with possible added flavors of cantaloupe and lemon zest. I’d recommend going with a simple Italian style, something smooth to go alongside the consistent beat of “Little Room” and the sunny-day vibes in “We Are Going to be Friends.”
“I Think I Smell a Rat” finally kicks off our transition to reds. This song demands a punchy, vengeful red, so we’re pairing this with Tempranillo. I’d challenge you to move away from a classic Rioja for this one and lean more toward bold Argentinian style with flavors of cocoa, rosemary and lava rocks.
Tempranillo is one of those go-to wines for pairing with almost anything and everything, so it works perfectly for the final few songs of White Blood Cells, which really shows the album’s rushed recording time and the aura of disorganization Jack White was going for.
Two years later, White Stripes kept their primitive drums and ragamuffin vibes when they recorded Elephant, released in 2003. The album hit critics in different ways, with Rolling Stone praising its “gutbucket majesty” as a triumph and the Times calling it “hollow.” Either way, few can disagree that this album was revolutionary for the band’s career.
Start by opening a crisp Oregon red blend. You’ll want to aim for a lighter style that strategically employs white varieties to give the blend a refreshing, complex taste. Fossil & Fawn do this impeccably with their 2020 “Do Nothing” blend. It’s got classic Pinot Noir complexity with Chardonnay and Pinot Gris added for extra layers of fruit and minerality.
Elephant starts out giving a slow but steady punch to the face with its iconic “Seven Nation Army.” This song sets the tone of the first part of the album: consistent, driving beats and layers of sound.
As we simmer into Meg White’s smooth vocals in “Cold Cold Night,” the red blend gets less punchy and more earthy, and that back-of-the-throat heat from the alcohol parallels Elephant’s transition into its middle tracks.
Every few years or so, I get so hooked on an old Jack White song that I’ll swear is the greatest song ever written. Right now, that song is “Ball and Biscuit.” This track, along with the rest in the middle of the album, pairs ideally with Syrah.
Syrah is a widely planted grape with drastically different tastes in different countries. Australian Shiraz wines will be intense, aromatic and sweeter. South American versions will be more fruit-forward and easy to drink. Classic Rhône Syrah is peppery and smoky. However you’re feeling at this point in the music, pair your Syrah accordingly.
I sure struggled to figure out what to pair with this jumbled, emotional collection of child-like imagination, but I eventually came to brandy. Brandy is technically a liquor but made from distilled wine; therefore, it gets a place on the list.
So pour a glass of Cognac and let dulcet tunes of Holly Golightly’s vocals over Meg White’s novice beats drown out your sorrows.