Study shows music can enhance wine's taste

Good news for Amy Winehouse
Good news for Amy Winehouse

Now, here's some news we can all raise a glass to. A new study indicates that music has a direct impact on the taste of wine.

According to psychologists at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, tracks by Jimi Hendrix or The Rolling Stones pair well with a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. Opera buffs, however, might find their music goes down better with a Syrah.

The research, in collaboration with the Chilean winemaker Aurelio Montes (who admits to playing monastic chants to his maturing wines), indicates that different types of music stimulate different parts of the brain, and prime us to taste wines in a corresponding way. For example, when a bold piece of music such as Carmina Burana is heard, a Cabernet Sauvignon is perceived as being 60 percent more powerful, rich and robust than when no music is heard at all. By contrast, Chardonnay seemed to be enhanced by the light strains of Nouvelle Vague.

"This is the first time it has been scientifically proven that music can affect perception in other senses and change the way wine tastes," said Professor Adrian North.

David Williams, editor of Wine and Spirit magazine, said, "I love the idea that music has such an enormous effect on the way we taste wine, and I love the idea that people in the wine trade might make use of this information. Maybe we'll start seeing buy-one-get-one-free offers replaced by free Mozart, and maybe one day there'll even be music lists in Michelin-starred restaurants."

During the study, which involved 250 university students who were graciously served a free glass of wine in exchanged for their views, four types of music were played: Carmina Burana by Orff ("powerful and heavy"), Waltz Of The Flowers from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky ("subtle and refined"), Just Can't Get Enough by Nouvelle Vague ("zingy and refreshing") and Slow Breakdown by Michael Brook ("mellow and soft").

The white wine was rated 40 percent more zingy and refreshing when that music was played, but only 26 percent more mellow and soft when music in that category was heard. The red was altered 25 percent by mellow and fresh music, yet 60 percent by powerful and heavy music. The results were put down to "cognitive priming theory," whereby the music sets up the brain to respond to the wine in a certain way.

In a service to us all, the Heriot-Watt researchers have made the following wine-song recommendations:

Cabernet Sauvignon: All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones, Live And Let Die by Paul McCartney, and Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who.
Chardonnay: Atomic by Blondie, Rock DJ by Robbie Williams, What's Love Got To Do With It by Tina Turner, and Spinning Around by Kylie Minogue.
Syrah: Puccini's Nessun Dorma as sung by Luciano Pavarotti, Orinoco Flow by Enya, Chariots Of Fire By Vangelis, and Canon by Johann Pachelbel.
Merlot: Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding, Easy by Lionel Ritchie, Over The Rainbow by Eva Cassidy, and Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez.

As a follow-up, the staff of MusicRadar will be conducting its own study. No telling when we'll be posting the results though - these things take time.

By Joe Bosso


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