Adele is one of my oldest friends. OK, not really. But since she released her first album, "19," in 2008, she’s been at my side through the ups and downs of my 20s and now, 30s.
When I ended my first relationship, she was there with "First Love," putting into song my competing feelings of guilt and ambivalence. "Rolling in the Deep" accompanied my frantic, nonrhythmic dancing every time it was played at bars or weddings. Her third album, "25," dropped a few years after I graduated university — I was in the throes of my first real job, yet struggling personally, a confusing period of quarter-life crisis and existential angst.
Amidst those heady, confusing years of young adulthood, an Adele album was an invitation to pop open a bottle of wine, alone or with friends. To paradoxically feel sophisticated while also dulling the feelings her albums would inevitably stir.
Released today, her latest album, "30," almost invites the same — one track is dubbed I Drink Wine for goodness sake. But if "25" found me drinking a bottle of wine to drown my tears, "30" is a sensible single glass and a walk in the park as the sun fades to gather my thoughts and clear my head. The new album is more dynamic than her previous efforts, self-assured and confident, and Adele has preternaturally echoed my own life stage yet again.
I’m personally gearing up to enjoy a long bath with a glass of red with my bestie, because the wine writer in me can’t help but pair her latest album with a beverage. But as Adele’s musical references, from nods to Judy Garland to gospel to Motown and beyond, mark a growth in her lyrics and delivery, so too have I looked beyond wine to drink while savoring 30 and her soaring exploration of motherhood, love, divorce, and self-care.
"Strangers By Nature"
The first song off the album and redolent with languid strings, Adele croons about new love, singing “I’ve never seen the sky this color before, it’s like I’m noticing everything a little bit more.” If that doesn’t describe Gulp Hablo’s orange verdejo-sauvignon blanc blend, I don’t know what does — it’s the eye-opening color of an autumn sunset, and on the palate, tastes like apricots and candied citrus peel.
"Easy on Me": The power of Adele’s voice on this, the album’s first single, echo her other hits "Someone Like You" and "Hello" — a reminder of her control, range and depth as a singer. Champagne’s L. Aubry Fils Brut is classic, with dusky honeyed tones and the slightest hint of sweet pear. A splurge, but I, for one, am toasting to the return of a queen.
"My Little Love": I am not a parent and I don’t plan on being one anytime soon, but "My Little Love" is sobering and heightens my fear that I’m probably gonna fail as a caregiver! This beverage pairing can go one of two ways: A stiff classic martini for a bit of a reality check that actually, my failings may not be just in my head, after all! (I don’t skip the vermouth, and, in fact, prefer the soft gentian-and-floral flavors of Italian varieties, like Cocchi Americano.)
Or option B: A nonalcoholic wine-adjacent drink, like Acid League’s Wine Proxies, which give my hands something to do (say, moodily hold a wine glass) but I can remain clear-headed about my life choices without spiraling. Either way, I’m still cryin’.
"Cry Your Heart Out": Alright, we’re past the early tearjerkers. “Cry your heart out, clean your face,” indeed! This poppy number requires something matching its energy, like Lunar hard seltzer’s yuzu flavor. At 4.9% alcohol and made with yuzu citrus from Japan, it is floral, bubbly, and delightfully tart.
"Oh My God and Can I Get It": The mid-album mood boosters continue with two songs about letting oneself enjoy new love and also seek something beyond the casual. They’re both fun and lighthearted — seek out Denny Bini’s Spuma Vino Frizzante, a sorbara-based Lambrusco that’s soft-bubbled and reminiscent of strawberry soda (but without the cloying sweetness).
"I Drink Wine": During her recent CBS interview with Oprah, Adele revealed that she “stopped drinking” at some point in the creation of this album. “That’s one great way of really sort of getting to know yourself, is just drinking water and being sober as anything,” she said. This song, which she told Vogue was about shedding her ego (“So I hope I learn to get over myself/ Stop tryin’ to be somebody else”), would be great with Long Island, New York’s Wolffer Estate nonalcoholic Verjus, made from sustainably farmed chardonnay and merlot but not allowed to ferment. The verjus (French for “green juice”) is fresh and straightforward, with tropical notes of unripe mango and the crisp finish you’d expect from the region’s traditionally made cool climate wines.
"All Night Parking" (with Erroll Garner): A song about “the intoxicating feeling of falling for someone new,” according to Rolling Stone, "All Night Parking" is best paired with an easy-drinking, “don’t have to think too hard about” red, like Pas de Probleme’s pinot noir. The informal name itself, which roughly translates to shrugging off potential problems, hints at what’s in the bottle: unfussy fresh fruit flavors.
"Woman Like Me": This, my friends, is the album’s scorcher of a diss track. “Complacency is the worst trait to have, are you crazy?... It is so sad a man likе you could be so lazy.” I don’t know about you, but someone’s gonna need some aloe for those burns. Or maybe mezcal, like Dock Street Spirit’s Vicio mezcal — mixed as a negroni, it’s got the bitter bite to maybe forget that Adele took you out like that.
"Hold On": Throughout "30," Adele opens up her wounds — her divorce, motherhood, finding oneself in chaos. In this ballad, Adele is accompanied by “a chorus of friends,” she told Oprah. Their inclusion (“just hold on/ let time be patient”) bolster her gospel-esque delivery, a message to find support from those around you. In that spirit, call your pals for a listening party and bring out the big guns, namely Schplink’s 3-liter boxed gruner veltliner, full of bracing acidity and lemon notes.
"To Be Loved" and "Love Is a Game": The last two songs are two sides of a love coin: The emotional turmoil and strain of deciding to leave a relationship against the whimsical, swoony headiness of new love on the horizon. It’s a one-two punch of hurt and romance, but the coupling ends the album on a seriously high note. Why not try something ... nouveau, as in the Beaujolais Nouveau-inspired wine by Philly's Mural City Cellars. The wine is a spicy, balanced offering made with Chambourcin grapes from New Jersey, and all the things that make new relationships exciting, striking and intriguing.
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