What Can Music Tell Us about Wine?

wine-guitar-514x350Now that food and wine pairings have become standard fare,  we need something else to puzzle and fret over when preparing a dinner—and we scribblers need something else to write about.

For the past few years wineries, sommeliers, and event planners have been fooling around with wine and music pairings. As much as I love music and wine, such comparisons have always struck me as a bit subjective and whimsical based more on the peculiarities of individual preferences rather than any intrinsic relationship between particular wines and particular musical styles.

But this interesting research reported in the journal Flavour suggests that judgments about wine and music pairings may be widely shared. If so, comparing wine and music may provide useful information about a wine’s sensory qualities.

Using a sample of 24 social drinkers and four pieces of classical music, researchers asked subjects to choose which of 4 different wines best matched the music. They were also asked to rate the perceived level of sweetness, acidity, tannin level, fruitiness, etc. with and without music.

And there was surprising statistically significant agreement:

For example, Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 1 in D major turned out to be a very good match for the Château Margaux 2004 (red wine). Meanwhile, Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D major, K285 was found to be a good match for the Pouilly Fumé (white wine). The results of experiment 2 revealed that participants perceived the wine as tasting sweeter and enjoyed the experience more while listening to the matching music than while tasting the wine in silence.

Apparently, we perceive a relationship between sensory properties of wine and at least some features of music. There is a lot of speculation in the linked article about precisely which features of the wine and music are being matched or whether the association is mediated by emotion or some kind of semantic relationship.

At any rate, this is fascinating research. Perhaps when writing tasting notes I should be searching my archives for music that helps clarify the sensory properties of the wine—This cab is definitely early Springsteen!

One comment

  1. It is fun and fascinating. I’d really like to see the comparison between a new group of tasters/listeners, who compared tasting the wine to the previous groups 1st and last choice of music (comparing music to music, instead of music to silence).

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