In an interesting twist of events, it turns out that there is actually a whole new dimension to wine tasting that only our ears can tell us. Have you noticed how your appetite changes along with the music that is playing in the background? It turns out that this actually plays a significant role in the way we also taste our wine. Hey, this can be a good pointer the next time you’re hosting a wine party.
Music does not taste anything, so why in the world would it affect the way we experience our wine? This is quite an interesting note because wine tasting is a very sensual experience. But according to experts, not only is this limited to inspection, taste and smell, or how it feels on our tongue, but also what our ears tell us.
Can the tongue be deceiving?
A research says that the tongue is an organ that is very suggestible. What a tongue actually tells you has been already altered by several factors, and it turns out that the ears play a large part in it. The thought of eating through your ears is something that would stop you on your tracks. Does this make any “sense” (pun intended) at all?
Some people say that the tongue is an unsophisticated perceptual device that is only limited to five different taste sensations. Now your ears, on the other hand, is lined with thousands of hair cells where each is sensitive to different wavelengths of sound. This makes it highly sensitive and more perceptive to stimuli, even far exceeding the tongue when it comes to discriminating different tastes.
There are several studies done to see how our ears change the way we experience our food or wine for that matter. Just as the soundtrack to a movie affects how we feel while a certain scene plays out, the same also happens while we eat our meal or drink wine.
Wine and Music Studies
Dr. Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University made a study on the Effect of Background Music on the Taste of Wine, which he conducted in 250 university students. He concluded that the specific taste of the wine is influenced by the mood that was evoked by the music which was played in the background. When the participants were exposed to music that was powerful and heavy, they also perceived the wine they were drinking while this music played to be as such. For music that was subtle and refined, it also exuded the same emotions. Meanwhile, the background music which was zingy and refreshing evoked the same emotions as well. Mellow and soft music also gave out a parallel set of emotions. The study also showed that the taste turned out to be more intense for reds than white wines.
In a similar study done on food, it also showed the same results with wine. It was observed that a dish with some bitter notes tend to be more heightened in flavour when the participant was exposed to hard rock. Another study in Oxford also showed that low sounds evoked stronger and spicier tastes. Meanwhile, sweet and creamy tastes are often associated with high notes.
Another famous figure and celebrated chef, Heston Blumenthal, studied the effects of music on the enjoyment of food. In the study, it was learned that food which was served with classical music with a hint of background chatter tend to give the food a better taste. What is interesting is that as the volume is increased, the diners tend to enjoy the taste of their food less. Clark Smith, a wine expert, would also agree to this. He says that different music can make wines better or worse.
Smith spent months sampling 150 wines with 250 different songs to see how they fit and how they also disharmonize with each other. And with that diligence, he was able to come up with wine and music pairings. According to him, if you want to enjoy your expensive reds better it is best to avoid music that are upbeat. Reds don’t mix well with happy music, but rather something more serious. He even went on to say that the taste of Cabernets is made stronger with angry music. There may be some experts who questioned this approach, but Smith has given good points and spot-on pairings.
To show how music also changes the buying behaviour of individuals towards different types of wine, North conducted a research at a supermarket. It showed that people are five times more likely to buy French wines than German brands when accordion music was being played in the background. Meanwhile, German wines sold twice as much as French wines while an oompah band was being played. This shows that any musical stimuli alone already causes a person to anticipate a certain taste, making the sense of hearing a very powerful tool in your wine experience.
What I find very interesting is Frederic Brochet’s experiment in 2001 where he invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of two glasses of red and white wine. What is entertaining is that the wines are actually the same white wine, it’s just that the content on the other glass was tinted with red food coloring. However, this did not stop the experts from going to great lengths and superlatives in describing the “red” wine. They described how they enjoyed its taste of “crushed red fruit” or “jamminess.” They went on and on to describe this made up glass of red wine with all the red wine language.
This is very interesting because as a consumer, you now have to consider your background music or noise, not only when you are drinking wine but even when buying it. According to the Chilean winemaker, Aurelio Montes, he plays monastic chants to his maturing wines because he believes that music has an impact on how a wine tastes. His music recommendations include:
Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney
Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones
Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who
All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix)
Rock the DJ by Robbie Williams
What’s Love Got to Do With It by Tina Turner
Spinning Around by Kylie Minogue
Atomic by Blondie
Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez
Easy by Lionel Ritchie
Over the Rainbow by Eva Cassidy
Cannon by Johann Pachelbel
Nessun Dorma by Puccini
Fire by Vangelis
Orinoco Flow by Enya
This is a very important thing to consider the next time you throw a wine party, or even in choosing where to dine. You know that music plays a big part in creating ambiance, but most of all it largely affects how you experience your wine. Now we know that the tongue can only do so much, and may even be misleading, but there are several other factors that can really affect the total wine drinking experience. Aside from your sense of smell and taste, now you can factor in your sense of hearing the next time you enjoy that good bottle of vintage.