This is what happens when I find myself home alone on a cold rainy night with a lot of unopened wine and an iTunes habit that borders on obsession. This list, though somewhat thoroughly researched, is far from scientific. But hey, if VH1 can produce the Top 100 Child Stars of All-Time, why can't I make a similarly pointless wine song list? I have too much time on my hands. Cheers.
1. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel
How can this not be the #1 wine song off all time? It begins and ends with Joel's instantly recognizable lyrics "A bottle of white, a bottle of red, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead?" and the imagery of an in-his-prime Billy Joel with a gorgeous date (perhaps ex-wife Christie Brinkley?) dining at a New York City restaurant and having this verbal exchange with a waiter just makes it that much more perfect. This song made wine cool to a generation of Billy Joel fans. On an A&E special, Joel said he came up with the "Bottle of white, bottle of red" line while he was dining at a restaurant and a waiter actually came up to him and said, "Bottle of white... bottle of red... perhaps a bottle of rose instead?". In a later interview, Joel cites the second side of The Beatles album Abbey Road as one of the main influences behind Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.
2. Red, Red, Wine by Neil Diamond
Make me forget that I, Still need her so"
Originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond, Red Red Wine was then covered by Tony Tribe and most famously by UB40 in the late 1980's. With a lyrical theme of red wine as a prescription for lost love, the Neil Diamond version is actually much more sad and desperate than the poppier UB40 version. Diamond's version only reached number sixty-three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1968. UB40's 1988 re-release reached US #1.
3. Killer Queen by Queen
"She keeps Moet et Chandon, In her pretty cabinet
'Let them eat cake' she says, Just like Marie Antoinette"
Any band that can drop a lyrical nod to "Moet at Chandon", the world's largest champagne house, in a rock song deserves a spot on the list. That the band is Queen and the song about a high class call girl vaults this to number 3. In the New Musical Express November 2, 1974, Queen singer Freddie Mercury elucidates on this song: "It's about a high class call girl. I'm trying to say that classy people can be whores as well. That's what the song is about, though I'd prefer people to put their interpretation upon it - to read into it what they like."
4. Hotel California by The Eagles
"Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice
And she said 'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device'"
An iconic song with multiple wine references, this song did for wine what Jim Morrison did for whiskey. I mean seriously, how many burnt out ex-hippies soon to become yuppies started drinking pink champagne on ice after this song came out?
Urban legend has attributed the name "Hotel California" to many actual physical locations, one being The California State Mental Hospital at Camarillo. The lyric: '"So I called up the captain, Please bring me my wine, He said "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969"' supposedly backs this up as the hospital staff used to give wine to the patients to calm them before dinner. This practice was halted in -you guessed it- 1969.
5. Cracklin' Rosie by Neil Diamond
"Cracklin' Rosie, you're a store-bought woman
You make me sing like a guitar hummin'"
On the surface this song appears to be about a spirited woman named Rosie. Truth be told it's about drinking a cheap blush wine. Cracklin' Rosie is a type of wine drunk by a native Canadian tribe that Diamond had visited in Canada. The title refers to rosé wine (misspelled, deliberately or not as Rosie) which is "crackling" - a US term equivalant to pétillant or lightly sparkling. Apparently the tribe had more men than women. Cracklin' Rosie was the nickname they used for their homemade alcoholic brew, which the single men, who did not have dates, would sit around the fire and drink together.
6. Champagne Supernova by Oasis
"Some day you will find me caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova - A champagne supernova in the sky"
Does a cooler song title exist? Noel Gallagher got the title when he misheard the name of the Pixies album Bossanova. Apparently, he was watching a documentary about champagne at the time. This seven-minute anthem is the closing track on Oasis (The UK's 90's version of The Beatles for you old timers out there) record-breaking album (What's the Story) Morning Glory?. Former Jam frontman Paul Weller provided the lead guitar and some of the backing vocals on the track.
7. Old Red Wine by The Who
"Old red wine, not worth a dime; we'll have to finish it after crossing the line."
By no means a famous Who song, it's one of two new songs off their 2004 greatest hits compilation Then and Now. Written by Pete Townshend in New York during The Who's 2002 tour, what makes the song noteworthy is that it was written in memory of bass player John Entwistle, who died on June 27, 2002. Entwistle loved red wine and often drank it past it's prime, which inspired the lyrics.
8. Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter
"He was working through college on my grandpa's farm.
I was thirsting for knowledge and he had a car.
I was caught somewhere between a woman and a child.
One restless summer we found love growing wild.
On the banks of the river on a well beaten path.
It's funny how those memories they last.
Like strawberry wine and seventeen."
Let's list the cool aspects of this song:
-First the awards: It was #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and was a 1997 Grammy Award nominee for Best Country Song.
-It's got a cool title.
-The song is on Deanna Carter's humorously titled album Did I Shave My Legs for This?. C'mon.... that title has to make you chuckle.
-The Dixie Chicks did a cool cover of the song.
-And lastly, the lyrics tell that time honored story of teenage lust and innocence lost. Read the lyrics and tell me you don't wish you had a little "Strawberry Wine" in your life right now?
9. Babylon Sisters by Steely Dan
This list includes any songs I found that make lyrical references to specific wines. In this case, Steely Dan references a German cherry wine liquor called Kirshwasser.
"Drink kirschwasser from a shell
San Francisco show and tell"
German for "cherry water", often known simply as Kirsch (from German "Kirsche" for "cherry") in the English-speaking world, Kirshwasser is a clear brandy made from double distillation of the fermented juice of a small black cherry. Unlike cherry liqueurs and many "cherry brandies", Kirschwasser is not sweet. Traditionally, it is served cold in a very small glass and taken as an apéritif. However, people in the German-speaking regions where Kirschwasser originates would more usually serve it after dinner, and high-quality Kirschwasser would more likely be served at room temperature or warmed by the hands, like other brandies.
10. Alligator Wine by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Take a dash of child-like imagination and a hint of witchcraft and you get Alligator Wine by Screamin Jay Hawkins. The lyrics read almost like an old school nursery rhyme:
"Take the blood out of an alligator
Take the left eye of a fish, yeah
Take the skin off of a frog, yeah
And mix it up in a dish
Add a cup of grease swamp water
And then countin' one to nine
Spit over your left shoulder
And you got alligator wine"
Perhaps the first "shock" rocker, Hawkins sometimes used macabre props onstage. He is famed chiefly for his powerful, operatic vocal delivery & wildly theatrical performances of songs such as I Put a Spell on You and Constipation Blues.
11. Big Shot by Billy Joel
"You had the Dom Perignon in your hand and the spoon up your nose"
As previously mentioned, specific wine references will almost always merit inclusion on my list. Big Shot gets included due to the persistent -though false- rumors that this song was based on a bad date Billy Joel had with Mick Jagger's ex-wife Bianca. Add a cocaine reference and this song is People magazine set to music.
12. Elvira by The Oak Ridge Boys
"Eyes that look like heaven, lips like sherry wine"
Elvira was my favorite song when I was 9 years old. In fact, there isn't a person alive born between 1968-1973 that won't admit to at least one instance of singing along with the famous "oom bop a mow mow" bass line of this song. Many falsely believe that the song was a tribute to Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark). Needless to say, unlike Sherry wine, it doesn't age well. BTW....Sherry is a fortified wine, made in and around the town of Jerez, Spain, and in Spanish it is called "Vino de Jerez".
13. Children's Crusade by Sting
"Corpulent generals safe behind lines
History's lessons drowned in red wine
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children's Crusade"
Getting serious for a second -a Pavlovian response many have to hearing the name Sting- this song off Dream of the Blue Turtles, Sting's first solo effort, compares the devastation of young Brits in World War I to the devastation brought about by heroin addiction in London circa 1985. Unfortunately the image of the fat cat, white man "safe behind lines" trading in the lives of the young still holds true today.
14. Summer Wine by the Corrs with Bono
"Strawberries cherries and an angel's kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine, Oh-oh summer wine"
A gem of a cut from the Corrs live show in Dublin, this quintessential song about summer love features a guest appearance by Bono.
15. Elderberry Wine by Elton John
"Drunk all the time, Feeling fine on elderberry wine
Those were the days, We'd lay in the haze
Forget depressive times, How can I ever get it together
Without a wife in line, To pick the crop and get me hot, On elderberry wine"
An Elton John song about celebrating life. What more to say? In the book (and later film), Arsenic and Old Lace, two old sisters take in lonely old men as boarders and poison them with home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic.
16. Days of Wine & Roses by Henry Mancini
This song is from the 1962 movie of the same name that depicts the insidious nature of alcohol addiction in modern life, following the downward spiral of two average Americans who succumb to alcoholism and attempt to deal with their problem. Why list this on a web site that celebrates wine? A word of caution I guess. The phrase "days of wine and roses" is originally from the poem "Vitae Summa Brevis" by the English writer Ernest Dowson (1867-1900).
17. A Steel Guitar and a Glass of Wine by Paul Anka
"Just give me a steel guitar, a glass of wine
And let me drink to a love I thought was mine
A love I thought was true to me
But now I'm drinkin' to her memory"
You would think this was a country song by the title and lyrics. All that is missing is a reference to an old pickup truck. This song is something your Aunt Betty would have on vinyl tucked in nicely next to the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Band album. But hey, everyone needs a little cheesy 60's crooner music once in a while.
18. Lilac Wine by Nina Simone
"Lilac wine is sweet and heady, like my love
Lilac wine, I feel unsteady, like my love"
Oh for the days when divas had attitude, talent, AND conviction. Lilac Wine is a song about the feeling of being in love, or better said, remembering the feeling of being in love. So pop a cork, light a candle, and prepare for a wonderful/depressing trip down memory lane. After all, it is generally believed that wine made from Lilac flowers is poisonous.
19. Sweet Cherry Wine by Tommy James and the Shondells
"Only God has the right
To decide who's to live and die
He gave us sweet cherry wine, so very fine
Drink it right down, pass it all around
So stimulating, so intoxicating
Sweet cherry wine"
A war protest song by Tommy James and the Shondells, sweet cherry wine is believed to be a reference for the blood of Christ. Great title if not a great song.
20. Going to California by Led Zeppelin
"Spent my days with a woman unkind,
Smoked my stuff and drank all my wine.
Made up my mind to make a new start,
Going to california with an aching in my heart."
How did parents in the 70's possibly keep their teenage sons from moving to California?
21. Ironic by Alanis Morrisette
"It's a black fly in your Chardonnay
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late"
Alanis took major heat from English teachers across North America for her not always so proper use of irony in this song. Linguists be damned! The woman referenced Chardonnay so she makes my list. Though I must agree that a black fly in a white wine seems more unfortunate than ironic.
22. Livin' La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin
"She never drinks the water and makes you order French Champagne
Once you've had a taste of her you'll never be the same"
Ladies and Gentlemen, ignoring the obvious redundancy that Champagne, by definition, is French, I give you Ricky Martin! Oh for those innocent days of 1999 when all the world cared about was Livin La Vida Loca and the doings of one Monica Lewinsky.
23. Never Tear Us Apart by INXS
"If I hurt you, I'd make wine from your tears"
INXS singer Michael Hutchence died in 1997. At his funeral service, his coffin was carried out of St. Andrews Cathedral by the remaining members of INXS and younger brother Rhett, as this song played in the background.
24. Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho
This song falls into that cheesy 1960's innocent party music your parents had on vinyl. Unfortunately, it's probably the most famous song about Champagne. Tiny Bubbles...... should be a song about a bong.
25. Happy New Year by Abba
"No more champagne
And the fireworks are through
Here we are, me and you
Feeling lost and feeling blue
It’s the end of the party"
Given the immense worldwide popularity of Abba and western culture's love affair with holiday music, it's surprising this song is not a radio staple during the holiday season. From the 1980 album Super Trouper, the song's working title was all the more festive and humourous; "Daddy Don't Get Drunk On Christmas Day". Why can't there be more christmas songs with titles like that? Somebody call Adam Sandler.
26. Grace by U2
One of the greatest album cuts in the whole U2 catalog. A must listen for anybody into U2. This song has only a minor wine reference -"no champagne flute for her lips"- but the sheer greatness of this song merits inclusion. Definitely the number 1 song that references stemware.
27. When I'm 64 by The Beatles
"When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine, Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?"
Ever wonder if, after recording this song, the four Beatles looked at each other and discussed who among them would actually live to be 64? Only Paul and Ringo made it.
28. Jack Straw by Grateful Dead
"We can share the women, we can share the wine.
We can share what we got of yours cause we done shared all of mine."
I'm no fan of hippie rock but here's a nod to all the Deadheads out there. I suppose the Parrotheads and the Phishheads will need a nod then too. Do Phish fans call themselves Phishheads? They should.
29. Dahlia by Phish
"Everything is fine
Crimes of the mind
I drink a little wine"
Here's to the Phishheads....
30. Tin Cup Chalice by Jimmy Buffett
"With a tin cup for a chalice, fill it up with good red wine
And I'm a chewin on a honeysuckle vine"
And the Parrotheads... It would be fun to see whose fans have more fun at concerts, Phishheads at a Phish show, Deadheads at a Dead Show, or Parrotheads at a Buffett show. If Vegas had a line on this, I'd bet Buffett fans would be favored.