Atlanta-based hip hop duo Outkast graced us with their double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below nineteen years ago. The album takes listeners on a jazzy musical journey that stretches across audiences’ emotional expressions from energized and enthusiastic to melty and in love.
This endeavor started out as two separate solo projects, almost got turned into a film and eventually evolved into a double album. In an interview with Sound on Sound, studio manager John Frye reported that both André 3000 and Big Boi felt pretty burnt out by the final days, pulling all-nighters and adding multiple studios for some last-minute mixing. But in the end, they created a masterpiece that audiences immediately wanted to devour. The Guardian even described the album as a “full-blown banquet.”
The pairing guide for this album is simple: six wines—three for Speakerboxxx and three for Love Below. Let the vibrance of the wine lead the flow of this zestful, psychedelic musical experience.
Press play and pop open a bottle of Champagne. New method sparklings are coming in hot this summer, but we’ll get to the funky wine pairings later on in the album. For this first pairing, find your nostalgic moment in the early 2000s and pair this reminiscence with quintessential notes of citrus, toast and cream.
Laurent-Perrier is a classic traditional method sparkling I go to for consistently well-produced, affordable bottles. But honestly, I brought a Bollinger Special Cuvee to Mother’s Day, and it was a huge hit for good weather on my parents’ patio. Champagne’s exemplary effervescence pairs perfectly with the old-school rave set-up of Speakerboxxx and the bubbly rhythm of songs like “Unhappy.”
Smooth grooves and cymbals continue as we reach the middle of the album. Big Boi’s polished integration of soul in these songs needs a well-balanced wine pairing, so our next stop is Soave. Soave is a light-hearted, perfectly balanced Italian white. You might find the Garganega grape variety in wines from other parts of the world, but the Venetian wines are going to lean toward crispy complexity and salty seasoning.
The best time to drink Soave is September—an inexplicably perfect tasting experience—but Soave is acidic enough to pair with any warm weather day. Drink it now before the summer heat kicks in, or save it ‘til September to celebrate this album’s 19th birthday.
I can’t think of a more perfect wine to end Speakerboxxx’s tasting round. Gamay is a fantastically delicious grape variety—it often has flowers and berries on the rose with a surprising spectrum of tastes from soil to banana to truffle to peppercorns.
Almost all Gamay wines come from Beaujolais, France, hence why it goes by the name. Beaujolais can go with a wide range of dishes, so it’s reliable for pairing with different cuisines. This wine stands up to each of Speakerboxxx’s final few songs, and it pairs super well with another mini round of “Bowtie.”
The Love Below transitions us into a tunnel of love where breezy rhythms create a calmer, more orderly ambiance—but the lyrics diverge into chaos. Rolling Stone declared back in 2003 that André 3000 made an album “more eccentric than he actually is—and that’s saying a lot.” Despite the mayhem, The Love Below begins with a story about falling in love through the singer’s light falsetto notes on top of deep soul beats.
I’m pairing these tracks with a trendy, bubbly Sangiovese from the west coast. A lot of people only know Sangiovese in its dark, full-bodied Chianti form, which is perfect for a romantic meal or elaborate feasts of pasta and steak. But wineries in Oregon and California are putting out some fantastic effervescent Sangioveses with wider pairing options like fish, fruit and spicy barbeque.
In the middle of the album, we’re met with familiar crunk-style moments and classic R&B tunes. This part of the tasting needs a genuine crowd-pleaser wine that stands strong during Rosario Dawson’s feature and the certified platinum banger “Hey Ya!” back-to-back.
So, we’re bringing out the Zinfandel. From the most exclusive Puglio Primitiva to the sugary-sweet White Zinfandel styles in the States, Zinfandel is a variety that impresses a spectrum of tastes with notes of black and red fruits, tobacco and sweet spices. For some Zinfandels, minimalism is key, as they capture a simple, puncturing flavor like many of the songs in The Love Below. But with other styles, complexity completes the experience and signifies the alluring, chaotic journey ahead.
Lastly, for the final stretch, for the eerie journey through “She’s Alive” and drum-and-bass dream ride through “My Favorite Things,” I’m opting for a bottle of Mencía.
Mencía has notes of sour berries, sweet pomegranate and crushed minerals. It has a well-balanced mouthfeel and a smooth, Norah-Jones-like finish. It’s a perfect wine to perfectly conclude Outkast’s psychedelic, twangy, soulful double album experience.