A bottle of house red please. Oh, and some Hendrix to go with it
IF THE next time the maître d' in your local restaurant recommends not only the cabernet sauvignon, but a blast of Jimi Hendrix to accompany it, do not be unduly concerned.
For the first time, Scottish scientists have proved that the type of music we listen to while drinking wine influences the way we perceive its taste.
In a study inspired by a Chilean wine-maker, who plays monastic chants in the belief it improves the quality of his harvest, researchers at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University have concluded that music stimulates or "primes" specific areas in the brain relating to taste.
Having convinced 250 of the capital's students to take part in a sampling session, Professor Adrian North, head of the university's department of applied psychology, discovered that if they were exposed to certain songs, the students would make clear associations with the wine they were quaffing.
If the music was loud and dense – such as Carmina Burana, the thrusting cantata composed by Carl Orff – so the chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon used in the test were deemed more powerful and heavy.
If the soundtrack was of a more sedate, classical nature – such as Waltz of the Flowers from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker – the wine was regarded as subtle and refined.
Similar results were found in tests conducted with music considered "zingy and refreshing" – Just Can't Get Enough by Nouvelle Vague – and "mellow and soft" – Michael Brook's Slow Breakdown.
On average, the music shifted students' perception of the wine in the direction of the mood expressed by the songs by an average of 37.25 per cent.
The effect was more pronounced with red wine than white. Prof North said this was because people might be less certain about judging red wine, as they were less sure how to describe its complex flavours.
The study was launched after Prof North heard about Aurelio Montes, a wine-maker who is convinced that gentle, vibrating music aids the quality and the energy of his produce.
Mr Montes said yesterday: "I've always believed playing Gregorian chants aids in the maturation of our wines – it was therefore a natural extension to determine scientifically the music's impact on wine's taste."
Prof North said: "
It is widely acknowledged within the scientific community that music affects behaviour. However, this is the first time it has been scientifically proven that music can affect perception in other senses and change the way wine tastes."
Though the songs chosen for the study were deliberately obscure – so as to minimise the likelihood that students already drew some previous association with the tracks – Mr Montes has selected music he considers the ideal accompaniment to certain wines. What his list lacks in scientific rigour it makes up for in taste; merlot, he suggests, is best consumed while listening to Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding, while Jimi Hendrix's blazing cover of All Along The Watchtower is considered the perfect soundtrack to a glass of cabernet sauvignon.
David Williams, the editor of Wine and Spirit magazine, suggested restaurants might replace their ambience with soundtracks of blistering guitar solos.
He said: "Maybe one day there'll even be music lists in Michelin-starred restaurants."
It is not the first time Prof North has examined the relationship between wine and song. While at the University of Leicester in the late 1990s he set up shelves in a supermarket and played traditional French accordion music, or a German bierkeller brass band. The shelves contained French and German wines, matched for price and flavour. On days of Parisian sounds, five times as much French wine was sold, while sales of German wine doubled when that nation's music was favoured.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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