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Sue Courtney

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Does tasting wine with music change a wine's flavor?

by Sue Courtney » Sun Nov 04, 2007 1:44 am

W. Blake Grey writes in SFGate.com that a wine industry provocateur, Clark Smith, insists that music can change wine flavours.

Well I have to say I've never experimented, although I have a friend who must have the right background music on when tasting wines - and he has different music style preferences for chardonnay over shiraz over pinot noir, to get him 'into the mood'.

Smith says, "If food, glassware, ambient temperature, perfume and the people sitting next to you all influence the taste of wine, why wouldn't music?"

All I know is when I'm tasting wine seriously , the music must not be intrusive. It's there in the background, it's turned down low.

So does anyone concur with Smith's thoughts? Does certain music make your wine taste better? Has anyone actually experimented?

Edit to change title from "Does music enhance your wine tasting experience", to "Does tasting wine with music change the wine's flavor."
Last edited by Sue Courtney on Tue Nov 06, 2007 1:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Bill Hooper » Sun Nov 04, 2007 2:00 am

Jesus, yes! I find that the only wine worth drinking whilst listening to Babes in Toyland is Madiran for some reason. Bach needs Corton-Charlemagne (Fine Alsatian Pinot Gris is a suitable substitute) and Anton Bruckner cannot be listened to without Savennieres. Also, different movies 'taste' better with different wines. Stanley Kubrick films go well with Bordeaux (right bank is best), while Coppola flicks are best with (oddly, not Coppola wines) Champagne or Melon de Bourgogne. Pulp Fiction and other QT films are best with Belgian Ale and for reasons unknown, I can't watch a Werner Herzog movie without dry Rose. Classic silent films should not be viewed without Loire Cabernet Franc, Bougueil in particular.
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Michael K

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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Michael K » Sun Nov 04, 2007 2:31 am

I totally believe that this is true. For many, wine is like music but it is simplier for me. It affects my mood and I like it. My favourite combo is Diana Krall and Comte Lafon Monthelie or G Roumier Morey Saint Denis.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Nicholas Grenier » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:12 am

Remember when it used to be as simple as red with Beethoven and white with Vivaldi? Now you have to consider how Haydn's chromatic coloring of augmented 6 chords and flat 2 chords can potentially coax an unpleasant metallic taste out of tannic reds, or how the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 7th is really better suited to red Burgundy whereas the 1st, 2nd, and 4th movements are very much Cali Pinot. To keep it simple, I try to stick to wine friendly fugues by Bach or masses by Josquin des Prez. :D
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Thomas » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:12 am

Sue Courtney wrote:
Smith says, "If food, glassware, ambient temperature, perfume and the people sitting next to you all influence the taste of wine, why wouldn't music?"



Probably because all the things he names have a smell, taste or change in temperature connected to them. What, pray tell, does music smell like?

The ability to change a person's perception of wine is attributed to many things, including music. But the ability to change the actual taste of the wine seems limited to smell and taste. Granted, some music stinks, but I'm not sure that's a literal reference...
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Thomas » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:14 am

Nicholas Grenier wrote:Remember when it used to be as simple as red with Beethoven and white with Vivaldi? Now you have to consider how Haydn's chromatic coloring of augmented 6 chords and flat 2 chords can potentially coax an unpleasant metallic taste out of tannic reds, or how the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 7th is really better suited to red Burgundy whereas the 1st, 2nd, and 4th movements are very much Cali Pinot. To keep it simple, I try to stick to wine friendly fugues by Bach or masses by Josquin des Prez. :D


Rock 'n' Roll always seemed to make Thunderbird taste bad.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Thomas » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:15 am

Michael K wrote:I totally believe that this is true. For many, wine is like music but it is simplier for me. It affects my mood and I like it. My favourite combo is Diana Krall and Comte Lafon Monthelie or G Roumier Morey Saint Denis.


It affects your mood, but does music change the taste of your wine? That is this man's claim.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Tim York » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:37 am

For me, there is more music that detracts from enjoyment of wine than the reverse.

I am absolutely allergic to things like Heavy Metal, the Spice Girls and the sort of music which thumps out of passing souped up cars. And a Gaja tasting was once spoiled for me by a shouting tenor (as well as a no spitting edict).

At the other end of the musically quality scale, I find great composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Shostakovich, etc. just too intellectually and emotionally demanding for me to concentrate on the wine.

Best is satisfying music which is not too demanding like a lot of baroque music, jazz (Belgian radio's Musique3 has a good jazz programme at dinner time most nights), fado and so on.

No music and good conversation is pretty good too.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Robert J. » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:52 am

Tim York wrote:No music and good conversation is pretty good too.


The resident (one of them, at least) composer stands in total agreement.

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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Cynthia Wenslow » Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:57 am

Music is never background for me, so it distracts me from whatever else is happening... whether that's wine, food, conversation, or... er... let's call it "a relaxing day at the beach."
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Michael K » Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:26 pm

It affects your mood, but does music change the taste of your wine? That is this man's claim.


Duh....sorry...misread.

I am more in the camp that music and wine are complimentary in that they go well together. I'm not sure that (though I've not tried) the wine taste any better with music in the background. I just think that my mood is better to both enjoy the music and the wine. It is the experience versus the taste and these are both that I can screen out independently pretty well.

So for me, no change in wine's taste with music.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Howie Hart » Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:29 pm

Nicholas Grenier wrote:Remember when it used to be as simple as red with Beethoven and white with Vivaldi?...
I don't remember, but I suppose Joplin with Rose would work. Which Joplin? Take your pick. 8)
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Sue Courtney

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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Sue Courtney » Sun Nov 04, 2007 3:12 pm

Thomas wrote:It affects your mood, but does music change the taste of your wine? That is this man's claim.


Thanks for getting the question, Thomas. Music may affect my mood, but personally I haven't experienced music making wine taste better or worse.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Paul B. » Sun Nov 04, 2007 4:48 pm

All I can say is that Deep Blue by Guido Freddi is THE definitive song that I listen to when sipping dry Niagara on a humid summer's day. For me, it forms a perfect olfactory/gustatory/auditory trio.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Ian Sutton » Sun Nov 04, 2007 4:56 pm

Personally I find it a distraction if I'm interested in the wine.

I think the connection, is that music can change your mood. This might mean you enjoy your wine, food, company or surroundings more (or less!) because you're happier (or more depressed). Anything more than that Iand I think cause and effect are being confused.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Thomas » Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:27 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:Anything more than that Iand I think cause and effect are being confused.


You think? I think a product will be on the market soon--a CD to make your cheap Pinot Noir taste like Burgundy, perhaps! These kinds of press releases usually have a purpose.

I'll wait for the CD for Refosco--the guy likely never heard of what that wine can do for a score. Or is it the other way 'round???
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Mark Lipton » Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:19 am

Sue Courtney wrote:W. Blake Grey writes in SFGate.com that a wine industry provocateur, Clark Smith, insists that music can change wine flavours.


Putting aside my feelings for Mr. Smith, I still find that statement hard to take seriously. Our sense of smell is central to experiencing wine, and is also closely tied to memory for most people (most people find that their sense of smell is most evocative of memory); music OTOH is closely tied to our emotional state so one wouldn't expect much of a connection. Perhaps Mr. Smith has a particular form of synesthesia (I'm being charitable). FWIW, I almost always choose jazz for wine tastings because I find that it more easily can be placed into the background. However, given my druthers, I'll have no music at all as I also find that it just distracts me.

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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Thomas » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:46 am

Mark Lipton wrote:
Sue Courtney wrote:W. Blake Grey writes in SFGate.com that a wine industry provocateur, Clark Smith, insists that music can change wine flavours.


Putting aside my feelings for Mr. Smith, I still find that statement hard to take seriously. Our sense of smell is central to experiencing wine, and is also closely tied to memory for most people (most people find that their sense of smell is most evocative of memory); music OTOH is closely tied to our emotional state so one wouldn't expect much of a connection. Perhaps Mr. Smith has a particular form of synesthesia (I'm being charitable). FWIW, I almost always choose jazz for wine tastings because I find that it more easily can be placed into the background. However, given my druthers, I'll have no music at all as I also find that it just distracts me.

Mark Lipton


Mark,

I accept that music has an effect on mood, and mood can have an effect on perception, and that can have an effect on what we decide we have tasted.

The operative phrase, however, is: "insists that music can change wine flavours" That seems to be saying that the music works its magic on the wine, not on us. In my view, that's what's out-to-lunch. But I do expect a product soon.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Oliver McCrum » Mon Nov 05, 2007 3:08 pm

Listening to music, particularly good music, absolutely interferes with my ability to taste analytically. Several members of my tasting group are sophisticated classical music lovers and will play choice cuts during the 'quiet time,' and I always find it much harder to taste when the music's playing.

It feels like the same part of the brain is involved.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Mark Lipton » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:48 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:Listening to music, particularly good music, absolutely interferes with my ability to taste analytically. Several members of my tasting group are sophisticated classical music lovers and will play choice cuts during the 'quiet time,' and I always find it much harder to taste when the music's playing.

It feels like the same part of the brain is involved.


I agree with your observation, Oliver, but that's just an interference with my ability to focus and (to me) has nothing to do with my senses beyond the obvious fact of sensory overload. It seems to me that Mr. Smith is talking about something more subtle, however he and subtlety seem to have a tenuous relationship at best :wink:

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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Oliver McCrum » Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:58 pm

Mark,

My post wasn't very well written, but for me it's clearly not just a generic problem of concentration, it seems something quite specific. I can read a book with music playing, for example, much more easily.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Mark Lipton » Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:05 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:Mark,

My post wasn't very well written, but for me it's clearly not just a generic problem of concentration, it seems something quite specific. I can read a book with music playing, for example, much more easily.


But can you read all kinds of books with all kinds of music playing? What I was thinking of was specifically our analytical facility, located exclusively in the cerebral cortex. Certain kinds of music engage our analytical facilities, as does the analysis of wine. I can sip a simple Cotes du Rhone while enjoying music, but put on the Brandenburg Concertos and ask me taste through a selection of six Grand Cru Burgs and I'll come to a screeching halt. YMMV, of course.

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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Oliver McCrum » Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:06 pm

Maybe I don't read books as carefully as I taste wine. That's a scary thought.
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Re: Does music enhance your wine tasting experience?

by Thomas » Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:11 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:
Oliver McCrum wrote:Mark,

My post wasn't very well written, but for me it's clearly not just a generic problem of concentration, it seems something quite specific. I can read a book with music playing, for example, much more easily.


But can you read all kinds of books with all kinds of music playing? What I was thinking of was specifically our analytical facility, located exclusively in the cerebral cortex. Certain kinds of music engage our analytical facilities, as does the analysis of wine. I can sip a simple Cotes du Rhone while enjoying music, but put on the Brandenburg Concertos and ask me taste through a selection of six Grand Cru Burgs and I'll come to a screeching halt. YMMV, of course.

Mark Lipton


In the Chronicle piece about this music thing mention was made that brain studies indicate that the same part of our brains that analyze music also analyze olfactory sensations. It's supposedly connected to synesthetes.

I know that certain musical chords on my piano induce colors in my mind, but again, this fellow is saying it isn't us being affected by the music but it's the wine, and that is nuts. In fact, the article intermingles perception and direct effect, which are not the same thing.
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