Last week I went to a fascinating evening created by wine writer Jo Burzynska. It was about wine and the effect sound has on what we taste. I have to admit to being a cynic at the beginning of the evening, but the same wines really did taste different depending on the type of music being played at the time.
I like to think my palate is experienced enough to understand the nuances of the changes and to dismiss any other variability’s such as order tasted. It really is mind-blowing and well worth trying at home yourself.
Jo presented lots of scientific research on the topic. The piece that struck me most was the idea that the senses of taste and sound both resonate in the same parts of the brain; there may in fact be an overlap.
It’s true that smell, taste & music seem to have a strong connection to memory. Play a long-time favourite song and focus on what kind of feelings and memories it can evoke. “Takes me back” in the truest sense of the phrase perhaps. In wine we train ourselves over and over again to have this same memory connection to taste and smell, we use descriptors such as ‘freshly mown grass’ or ‘barnyardy’ or ‘cigar box’.
To completely over-simplify the evening’s experience, higher pitched, brighter music (for want of a better term) accentuated aromatics and acid. Lower pitched, darker music pulled out more base notes and accentuated body and earthiness.
That almost sounds like common sense doesn’t it? I wonder why?
It really wasn’t that simple though. Different pieces of music also masked, to varying degrees, wine faults such as cork taint and excessive reductive-ness.
The idea leads itself to some interesting places. We like to think that when we put a wine into a bottle and seal it that it’s a relatively strong reflection of what we wanted you to drink. Obviously wine ages, and great winemakers can anticipate this process to some degree.
Wine and food matching has a long and well-accepted history, but I think we’ve forgotten how many other variables in our environment can affect the way a wine tastes.
Lynnette and I recently took Tongue in Groove to Pinot Palooza in Melbourne and Sydney. The brain-child of Dan Sims from Bottleshop Concepts; the tastings fully embraced and considered their environment. There were DJs at the event, and the music along with the bright young things, space and light all contributed to how the wines tasted.
The question he asks on this video then, is perhaps more important than we anticipated. It also begs a further question. Does the music played while the wine is being made have a significant effect on the resulting wines? Food ….or maybe music for thought!