Wine Talk

Snooth User: Philip James

Music affects how wine tastes

Posted by Philip James, May 14, 2008.

I thought this was pretty interesting:

At a basic level it makes sense, good music will make good wine taste better, but I'd never thought of it as this complex: "cabernet sauvignon was most affected by "powerful and heavy" music, and chardonnay by "zingy and refreshing" sounds."

I know just the person to get to chip in here

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Reply by John Andrews, May 14, 2008.

And apparently HipHop makes Cristal taste better ... just ask Jay-Z! ;-)

Yeah, I know he has switched ... okay ... Champagne and hiphop!

Reply by Sung, May 15, 2008.

That's interesting because come to think of it, I am hardly ever listening to music when I'm drinking wine. Normally, I have some with the TV in the background, or if at a restaurant, they are playing some background music that I don't even notice.
I'll have to try this and report back.

Reply by winoMD87, Feb 11, 2009.

very interesting, just read up on the article. i'll have to "research"

Reply by vinorojo, Feb 11, 2009.

It is true indeed. Often in the cellar we have Stravinsky or Brahms or whomever and it's not so much that it makes the wine taste better as it makes the overall experience better. If you think about it, the taste of a wine is largely dictated by factors that have nothing to do with the wine at all. Think about it, if your just having a grand ole time at a dinner party and everyone is laughing and having fun, chances are the bottle your about to pop the cork on will be unanimously enjoyed.

Reply by amour, Apr 2, 2010.

I do hope that I would not be slaughtered by...........but we do have people interested in the topic and I have chosen to re-ignite it!

I read about a winemaker called Clark Smith who has been sampling wines with different songs and presenting his experiments and findings at panel events in the wine-industry.


Reply by amour, Apr 2, 2010.

Smith ( MIT drop-out) who became a winemaker,

is convinced that music influences the way wine tastes.

Do note, that professional tastings are done in total silence.

He has come up with some findings...however unscientific they may be,

and the conclusion is that PINOT NOIR PAIRS WITH MOZART,

especially with Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Apparently, Pinot Noir goes with sexy music!!

While cabernet Sauvignon goes with angry music...I do not quite appreciate that one.


Reply by dmcker, Apr 2, 2010.

Well, Amour, let's see a cite, errhhh..., link if you please. Nothing like well-qualified info... ;-)

And cab and angry music sounds a bit hinky, like the guy himself, if he's who said so, may have an axe to grind.

Reply by amour, Apr 2, 2010.

I read voraciously and I saw this thing somewhere....

the article also spoke of a French trained winemaker called Don Blackburn formerly at BERNADUS/Carmel Valley who poured 3 different vintages of Chardonnay and played 10 different pieces of classical music. I do not know what he concluded.

The article also said that red wines need minor key or music with negative emotion...well I do not listen to anything negative to begin with...and in any event , would someone explain what is really meant by music that has negative emotion ?

One scholar spoke of wanting to one day experiment on subjects in the middle of an MRI to see what is happening in the brain as they taste....

presumably subjects would be drinking during the MRI or just before...I have no idea...

So , what is the purpose of all of this information being put on Snooth by me....?...So that we are aware of how others are thinking, I guess!

This could also stimulate discussion...some people are terribly bored!

I have never been bored...or boring...!

Cheers...I am looking forward to a great weekend!


Reply by zufrieden, Apr 2, 2010.

I must respectuflly disagree with the idea that music affects our olfactory bulb and taste buds.  Rather, it is a surfeit of alcohol that produces the soporific and falsely contempative state that music affects your taste.  I claim that your self-induced state of euphoria is the complete and final cause of your association of music with taste.  Au contraire, the alcohol enhances your sentimentality which then connects loosely with the (sentimentally chosen or serendipitously received) music and produces an illusion that the two aesthetic forms of appreciation coincide.

Sorry, no cigar on this one (or premier cru for tha matter).

Reply by atonalprime, Apr 3, 2010.

Sure, why not?  Matter vibration (sound) is a powerful thing at high volumes, and can be equally affecting at lower volumes and over time.  Whether it puts you in a contemplative mindset or a joyful mindset, it is more likely focusing your senses into a more heightened sense of the present moment as those few milliliters of wine hit your taste receptors. Not to mention when you aerate it through your teeth to the rhythm of the beat....  

My caution would be that while certain pieces of music have basic characteristics, they can have fewer or more nuances depending on the state of mind that the listener is bringing to the audio, the context in which they hear it, as well as how familiar the listener is to that particular song (even more so if there are intelligible lyrics.)

This immediately made me think of three things, apply them how you wish to your state of being while consuming wine and music simultaneously:

1) numerous studies that have been produced to show the affects of certain types of music, the classic one being Rock and Roll versus Classical on rats in a maze, or music and plantgrowth.  Here are a few bullet points on a PDF, with citations:

There are similar studies on plants and animals subjected to magnetism, so it would be interesting to see if people have experimented with magnetizing wine.  Bringing matter closer to absolute zero has interesting affects, but I know that wine is very hard to thaw and retain good tannin structure.

2) Masaru Emoto's water crystals, showing how hexagonal crystalline water structures are affected by various types of sound/action:

An interview with Emoto:

3) A collection of writings, lectures, etc from the very early 20th century by the Sufi vina (Indian lute) master Hazrat Inayat Kan, detailing Sufi mysicism of cosmic vibration, resonances and overtones..


Reply by Cathy Shore, Apr 3, 2010.

I haven't had time to read the reports in detail as I'm waiting for clients who are running late!  However, the Feudi di San Gregorio winery in Campania, Italy, plays music to its wine maturing in barrels and swears it has an effect. I visited in 2005, it's spectacularly contemporary - all stainless steel and black and has a fabulous restaurant.

Don't think there's much info about the music on the website but interesting all the same.  They also have running water in the maturation cellar - very Japanese style and are into ying and yang and feng shui (don't know I'm talking about).



Reply by zufrieden, Apr 3, 2010.

Music can enhance the taste experience - or any experience for that matter - depending on what music works for you. And a lot of that stuff with pyramid power, feng shui, violin quartets playing to aging Nebiolo is fun - for sure.  No argument there.

My point was simply that, from a more carefully considered position, most of these claims cannot be substantiated in any satisfying way using the tried-and-true powers of induction and deduction.

Trivially speaking, any sound impacts the human body.  But so do electromagnetic waves from nearby power transmission lines, radiation from computer screens and sunspot activity.  Music affects us - of that there can be no doubt.  But whether or not it actually turns a valve in the brain that hyper-activates the taste receptors needs a bit more explantion.  I use Occam's Razor while investigating such things; it seems to me that there are much easier explanations at hand (I gave you one - partly in jest, of course, but that's partly my way).

What we are looking at here are simply claims with testimonials presented as supporting evidence. I need a bit more than that, but since I don't want to seem like too much of a curmudgeon, 'nuf said...


Reply by atonalprime, Apr 3, 2010.

Amour, the music of "negative" emotion is pretty vague and music is much more than negative/positive, tonal/atonal, major/minor, etc.  In the old days (around 1600 or so,) a group of Florentine academics decided to set about on a new course and compiled the Doctrine of Affectations which set out the six "affects" of musical modes to be used in the new music of what was later to be called the Baroque era.  These affects are love/hate, joy/sorrow, wonder/desire. The properties of musical modes are not entirely off base, and this wikipedia article gives some good references to modern/contemporary music.

In reality, this doctrine was really harkening back to ancient Greek/Roman philosophies on the ethos of modes (perhaps it was guilt over the Church's actions to destroy almost all of the remaining Greek/Roman (pagan) art, music, writings, etc.)  See Wiki article on Music of Ancient Greece to get a better idea of where they were coming from.

Most composers stopped following these affectations in the Classical era of music and we developed the major/minor scale system and just intonation.  This is when minor music became negative.  In contemporary times, we know that it is not so simple.  Daniel Bowling, a neuroscientist at Duke University examined how our speech habits give away our emotion, and concluded that the frequency relationships in excited speech closely matched those of music in major keys, while those of forlorn speech matched minor music.  We all know that human emotion is not a singular idea, but constantly fluxuating and shaded by various other emotions.  It is no surprise that we find Irish folk music using minor scales in a lot of very happy, dancing tunes, and even Van Halen's Moondance uses minor keys, but isn't meant to be a sad song.  There are some fantastic blues songs out there, like Billie Holiday's No Good Man that are in major keys.  if you want to experience a huge torrential flood of emotion in all sorts of keys, check out some Mahler symphonies.

Its also important to point out that the Greeks weren't the only people paying attention to vibration-affectation relationships.  The rāgas of Indian classical music are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons, and they are done so with great precision.  To get a better introduction into the Carnatic (Southern India) rāgas, check out this website on rāgas.

Alex Ross' New Yorker article on the music of Lord of the Rings.

Reply by amour, Apr 3, 2010.

Thank you atonalprime.

I am not very concerned about the topic but it is stimulating indeed!

I thank you on behalf of everyone on Snooth!

Reply by atonalprime, Apr 3, 2010.

zufrieden, I agree that using music to change Gallo to Graves is a bit like medieval alchemy transmuting lead into gold.  I'd love to find someday that we can control vibrations and target them on other matter substances in order to "harmonize" them and create longer-lasting, better-tasting wine.    The idea of pointing a subwoofer at a bottle of wine and watching it explode pops into my mind, somewhat gleefully.

However, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of music's impact on the human body.  A great documentary recently shown on PBS is Music Instinct.  It covers not just the perception of music and how it goes through our brains and helps scientists understand the brain itself better, but also goes into the ability for music to have a biological therapeutical/healing affect, as in the cases of stroke patients, parkinson's patients, etc.  

In the realm of quantum mechanics, if we can harness the ability to alter matter's already constant vibration, such as making it vibrate faster or slower, who knows what affects we can produce.  

Reply by amour, Apr 3, 2010.

Music and its healing you are talking!

Perhaps along with healthy MADRIAN and Tannat wines!

The consumption of those wines  are said to be the reason that people live to a healthy old age in Gers/France.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 3, 2010.

Atonal, this subject seems to have hit a chord with you and your interests. ;-) Will be back after perusing the plethora of links you so generously provide. Can remember epiphanies at college on particular types, contexts and effects of music, from sarangi to Corelli, Ali Akbar Khan to Rachmaninoff. But there may have been other substances in the mix, and I'm not talking about cherry kijafa...

Reply by zufrieden, Apr 4, 2010.

@Atonalprime.  Interesting reference to medieval alchemy and how little we actually know about the effects of musical vibrations, harmonics and melody on the emotions.  From your post, you may share my presentiment that Pythagorian metaphysics might make a comeback in slightly transmuted but empirically defensible form. 

Many of our trivial observations about physical phenonomena such as air vibrations (sound) lead to more detailed enquiry about the deeper connectedness of things.  It could well be that our emotions and even our sensory perceptions are activate by sound harmonics in ways as yet unknown to us.  Even the different emotional modalities that separate us may have a more orderly explantion at the level of quanta; the problem is we just don't know that as yet.

The modern conjecture on multidimensionality (string theory) could also lead to insight on why people differ so markedly in taste yet appear equal on every other level.  But as in the case with Quantum Theory, it may be a while before anything is known for sure. Our technology depends almost completely on empirical data for advancement - not conjecture.

Also interesting is your reference to studies on how emotions are expressed through pitch and manner of vocalization rather than through intellectual content (words).  That point dovetails beautifully with your other remark that musical expression in all genres communicate emotion in a manner not unlike speech.  We sometimes forget the strong, unbreakable bond between emotion and animal vocalizations generally. In the distant past of pre-humanity our voice was pure expression of emotion - just like it continues to be for all other animals with the power of vocalization.

Would our taste for a subtle product like wine be afected by the emotional catalyst of music?  In a direct sense, perhaps not.  But I would put forward the idea that your enjoyment of the wine might well be enhanced - in the same way that music is often enhanced by the wine...

Thanks for the posting.  I hope we may have the pleasure of your prose for a long time to come.


Reply by atonalprime, Apr 7, 2010.

@dmcker this is definitely a string of thought that resonates deeply with me, most likely greatly aided by the use of wine.  I'll never forget some of the best advice I received from a composition teacher, "If it takes a bottle of wine to come up with more music, then GO BUY A BOTTLE OF WINE!" He had a great ability to describe food and wine in relation to music, so needless to say, I wrote the most while I was studying with him. I may have drank the most, too....

@zufrieden Pythagorean metaphysics, indeed!  Thanks for your kind words, too.  Before I learned about Pythagoras connection to Physics, I only knew 1) his connection to music, vibrations, nodes, etc and 2) his central role in Peter Chung's classic anime, Reign: The Conqueror.  For all our sakes, I really hope that the Pythagorean Cult doesn't resurface.

Reply by cwhissen, Apr 7, 2010.

Unfortunately I'm at work and don't have time to find and cite the article - though I will cite it later if I remember - but I read about this link to music and wine a while back and did a blind test at a wine tasting we had.

I poured a glass of Pinot Noir and subtly changed the background music between tastes. The 10 people there were all picking out distinct notes of the pinot for each of the 4 songs. I repeated the songs and the same notes were replicated(this was an attempt to account for the changes as the wine breathed). When I told everyone why I kept messing with the music, we went back and got the same notes while I played each piece a 3rd time(though this last test was clearly no longer blind).  My wife was the only other participant who knew what I was doing and thought it was complete bull until afterwards. So we definitely think there's a plausible connection.

As for the reason behind the connection,what I read didn't say it hadn't anything to with vibration or emotional resonance or other things I've seen mentioned here. The theory was that the part of the brain that processes taste is the same part - or near to the part -  that process music.Again, I aplogize for not finding the story just yet, but supposedly their were scans that showed brain activity in the same region when people were processing flavors and music. So the activity for processing the music could logically overlap with and alter the processing of the flavors. Makes sense from a layman's perspective, though I have no idea about the scientific validity.

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