Bach with German Riesling. . . Mozart with Champagne. . . Led Zeppelin with Syrah. . .
A fascinating rabbit hole of study investigates the influence of music on the taste of wine. There is even a professor at Oxford University that has worked with the likes of the illustrious Champagne house of Krug - Charles Spense, a professor of Experimental Psychology who specializes in cross-modal perception (a very fancy way to study how one sense impacts the perception of another sense). He is not alone in his study of how various types of music can influence the perception of how a wine is experienced on the palate of the listener. I found two very compelling studies that explore the impact.
The first was in 2011 at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. A group of 250 adults participated in a study that had them drink 125ml of both cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay as they listened to music for five minutes (without conversing with each other). The participants were broken up into five separate rooms – no music, powerful (Carmina Burana by Carl Orff), subtle (Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky), zingy (Just can’t Get Enough by Nouvelle Vague), and mellow (Slow Breakdown by Michael Brook). What they found is that all the music improved the base score of the wine for the tasters. In fact, any music used in the study made the wine seem different by up to 60% - the heavier music made the wine seem richer and more powerful for both the red and white, and
the zingy and refreshing music brought out the acidity, mellow music made the wine smoother, and the subtle made the wine seem more elegant.
Another study conducted recently by Susan Lim, Master of Wine, had 71 participants taste the same wine, Veuve Clicquot Brut NV Yellow Label, blind whilst listening to four different pieces of music and silence. The group was comprised of Master of Wine students, social drinkers, and industry pros that were asked to note the complexity, fruitiness, effervescence, and freshness of the wine. The music was Violin Concerto: Movement 3 Allegro Grosso by Johannes Brahms, Danses Sacrée et Profane by Debussy, Pictures at an Exhibition: Promenade by Modest Mussorgsky, and Carnival of the Animals: XIV – Finale by Camille Saint-Saëns. Her findings mirror the first study, in that the heavier music made the wine seem more structured and powerful and the more vibrant music brought out the freshness – the very same wine tasted blind would match the style of music. In fact, out of the 71 participants, 70 thought they were drinking five different wines and even the individual who realized it was the same wine noticed the changes to the taste of the wine on their palate.
What an intriguing topic that inspires me to devote time to going through my vinyl collection and exploring my cellar – all in the name of knowledge, of course - dutifully noting the tasting notes from my friends and myself. I’ve always thought that Bach pairs well with riesling and I did perform Carmina Burana with my High School marching band that did win the state competition that year – bring on the drama of a rich syrah. Music lovers rejoice, there is a whole way to enjoy your collection of music and wine!
Please reach out to Mariano if you are in the need of wine for the experiments noted above. Cheers!