I recently came across a San Francisco Chronicle article that piqued my interest. The story starts with a warning: “Beware: If you read this article, you may may never taste wine and listen to music the same way again.”
The article refers to the work of Clark Smith, a winemaking innovator as well as a composer and vocalist who has recently become increasingly interested in the relationship of wine and music. He believes that wine tastes differently depending on the music we listen to.
Smith has spent months with various tasting panels sampling wines with hundreds of different songs. He was able to show that when wine and music match, the wine improves. On the other hand, when they clash, the wine tastes worse. His theory is that wine tasting involves the same part of the brain as listening to music.
“Red wines need either minor key or they need music that has negative emotion. They don't like happy music. With expensive reds, don't play music that makes you giggle. Pinots like sexy music. Cabernets like angry music. It's very hard to find a piece of music that's good for both Pinot and Cabernet.”
A related study led by Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University shows that tasters tend to think their wine has the qualities of the music they are listening to.
“The results showed the music the volunteers listened to consistently affected how they perceived it to taste. For example both red and white wines were given the highest ratings for being powerful and heavy by those participants who drank them to the tune of Carmina Burana. Those who listened to Michael Brook rated their wine as tasting mellow and soft consistently higher than other tastes.”
On his blog, Smith recommends the following to a reader: “It's really quite easy to work up a playlist. Just pop a bottle and download 30 second snippets from iTunes. You'll see what works and what doesn't. It's a fun party game. Eventually you learn the emotional modality that the wine conveys, and you match it.”
Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 is playing tonight. Cabernet or Chardonnay?
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