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The Wine Show: episode two – pairing wine with music

The Wine Show: episode two – pairing wine with music

by Amelia Singer 18 April 2016

Amelia Singer takes us behind the scenes of the second episode of ITV's The Wine Show, looking at the relationship between wine and music.

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Can music affect the way you taste wine? Even more specifically, can music influence the way wine is produced? In this episode, wine’s relationship to art, science and emotion is carefully explored. Joe Fattorini visits a Chilean winery which relies on very specific lullabies in the cellar. Gizzi Erskine meets up with a famous rock musician who views winemaking as another art form – and even Matthew Goode admits during his wine tasting in Italy that heavy Danish thrash metal would indeed affect the way wine tasted in his glass.

I have always considered wine to be an art form and I love conducting wine tastings that involve ‘cross-dressing’. No, not in that way – I love mixing one art form with another. Wine with art, jazz, literature, classical music; the list goes on. Wine, like all art forms, can be experimental, creative or technical, but ultimately it is meant to be fun and enhance the world around us.

I have to admit, wine and music is my favourite sensory combination. However, can music really influence the way we taste?

Experiments have been conducted to show how music influences wine shopping behaviour by scientists North, Hargreaves and McKendrick in 1997. Accordions were played over the speakers of one wine shopping aisle in a big supermarket which resulted in a significant increase in French wine sales that day. The next day the same experiment was carried out with German oompah bands over the same aisle, and not surprisingly, there was a surge in Riesling!

As farcical as this might seem, a range of experiments have consistently shown that when people hear music it represents more than just sound waves hitting the ear drum. Rather, when this information reaches the cortex, the braininterprets these sounds. In particular, hearing a specific piece of music activates related pieces of information.

The sound of flavour

But can we go even further with this idea? Specifically, could music influence the taste of wine? Or as Joe mentions in the show, how would listening to Danish thrash music affect wine tasting versus Wagner? An experiment undertaken by Heriot Watt University proved quite significantly that if the music playing in the background is powerful and heavy then people had an increased perception that the wine they were drinking was powerful and heavy. Similarly, if the music playing in the background is subtle and refined then people tended to perceive that the wine they were drinking is subtle and refined. The music shifted people’s perception of the wine by an average of thirty-seven percent! We may be more emotional than we think when it comes to our wine preference.

Joe’s expedition to Chile raised a possible even deeper connection between wine and music. Can music influence wine production? In the cellar at Montes, Joe sees rows of barrels being serenaded by Gregorian chants.

It is not unheard of for winemakers to use certain types of music within their vineyards, cellars and wineries to help enhance yeast fermentations, wine maturation as well as their worker’s concentration!

‘The secret lies in the vibrations, the waves,’ says Hylton Appelbaum, owner of DeMorgenzon winery in South Africa. At his winery he plays Baroque and early classical music from the Age of Enlightenment twenty-four hours a day, with speakers placed in the vineyard, winery and cellar spaces. ‘In our analysis, the music seems to give us phenolic ripeness with lower sugars. The consequence is ripe fruit and lower alcohol,’ he adds.

When it comes to this physical relationship between music and wine, Joe and the two Matthews’ open-ended conclusion that we ‘don’t know for sure’ definitely seems to be valid.

The idea of wine being interconnected to a sum of factors is taken to a whole other level at the second Chilean winery Joe visited, Vina Vik. Their quest is to make the best wine in the world based on a unique concept of ‘holism’. I will let Joe guide you through that Chilean Disneyland tour – it is certainly worth a watch. Jeremy Paxman would be proud!

Wine rack
It seems playing certain music whilst wine ages and matures can have a final effect on the flavour
Tasting wine
Even tasting wine when listening to certain genres of music can change our perceptions

Rocking out

It was rockstar and winemaker Maynard James Keenan’s wine philosophy that resonated with me the most – he viewed wine as an art form. He really believes that wine, like art, ‘is not all about the successes but the learning’. Like his music, he wants to be hands-on with his wine. ‘I want to direct it,’ he says. ‘I want it to be my legacy. If my music lives on, then great. I have the two.’ His wines are literally his legacy, being named after members of his close family. This combination of creativity, science and passion was a holistic appreciation of wine that I could definitely understand and believe in.

Who knows if we will ever find out the affect of music and wine’s molecular structure. Being no scientist but a music lover myself, I prefer to finish with the philosophical conclusion put forward by Greg La Follette, winemaker for La Follete Wines, California: ‘Music is like anything. It can be used to great effect on all living things if used with intention and purpose.’

Lesson learnt. If you are ever worried about serving Jacob’s Creek to friends, just turn on Wagner’s Ring Cycle!

The Wine Show

For more information on all the wines featured in the show, as well as the stories that surround them, check out The Wine Show website: www.thewineshow.com. The show is broadcast on Sundays at 6.55pm on ITV4 and then repeated on Saturdays at 4.25pm on ITV.

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The Wine Show: episode two – pairing wine with music


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