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Can music affect the taste of wine?

We know that the taste of wine is influenced by how we are feeling, if relaxed and happy wine will taste smoother and fruitier whereas if we are tired and stressed wines will tend to taste more bitter. Likewise with food, the flavours of the dish will influence the taste of the wine.

What about music, can it affect how we perceive the taste of wine? It is worth noting that when tasting professionally there is silence so not to have any distractions.

There is a growing body of research demonstrating that the type of music that we listen to can affect our perception of taste in terms of acidity, sweetness, fruitiness and astringency.

Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, compared and matched tastes with the pitch and tempo of music. Fully bodied reds, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon are more suited to instruments with a lower pitch whereas a crisp white Sauvignon Blanc will taste better listening to an instrument with a higher pitch.

Spence worked with the Champagne House Krug to develop an app where you can scan the wine label and choose the music pairing. The idea being that the right music will affect the taste and other sensory aspects for each of the champagnes.

Listening to music can change our emotional state, either positively or negatively. You just have think of the Beach Boys in comparison to Leonard Cohen! This being so it makes sense that how we perceive and enjoy different wines will change depending on our moods.

Some years ago American winemaker Clark Smith extensively investigated how music and wine are closely linked. He tasted 150 different wines with 250 different songs and found that through harmonising both you could enhance the enjoyment of both wine and music.

But what if you wanted to influence the taste of the wine? It has also been found that if the music is too loud the perception of sweetness is reduced and that of umami increased. Higher levels of umami tends to make wine taste more bitter and harsh.

There are even growers in France and New Zealand who have soothing music playing in their vineyards as they believe this improves the intensity and quality of the flavours in the grapes.

Here is a fun experiment that you can do with friends. Open two bottles of different wine you like, one could be a light fruity white or a full bodied red. Taste them without music then turn on Spotify and play a rock track from Led Zeppelin, for example, followed by a jazz track from say Ella Fitzgerald or Flamenco music by Camaron de la Isla. Notice how the perception of the taste of each wine is completely different. The full bodied red will taste smooth and pleasant with rock music will the light fruity white wine will become more bitter and hard. It all has to do with balance and harmony.

I will be holding a workshop on Wine and Music where we will demonstrate how particular styles of music influence how wines taste. If you would like to attend drop me a line.

Written by

I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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