jamie goode's wine blog: Music affects the perception of wine - a scientific study

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Music affects the perception of wine - a scientific study

An interesting study has been released today showing that music can affect the perception of wine.

Most of us have experience of wines showing differently according to context, but this study actually demonstrates that the style of the music can prime the listener and then alter their perception of a wine being tasted at the same time. The reason this is interesting is because information from one sense (hearing) is affecting another unrelated sense (flavour perception).

The study itself isn't a proper scientific paper, but rather a short publication of the results of a collaboration between Chilean producer Montes and Dr Adrian North, a psychologist working at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. 250 adults from the University were offered a glass of one of four Montes wines in exchange for answering a short set of questions about the experience of this wine. As they were tasting, one of four pieces of music were playing, or as a control, no music was played.

The four wines:

Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2006 - Majestic, Tesco & Morrisons £10.99
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Majestic, Tesco & Morrisons £10.99
Montes Alpha Merlot 2006 - Majedstic & Co-op £10.99
Montes Alpha Syrah 2006 - Waitrose & Tesco £10.99

The four pieces of music:

Powerful and heavy: Carmina Burana – Orff
Subtle and refined: Waltz of the Flowers (from The Nutcracker) – Tchaikovsky
Zingy and refreshing: Just Can’t Get Enough – Nouvelle Vague
Mellow and soft: Slow Breakdown – Michael Brook

The results showed a statistically significant shift in the perception of the wine with music type. The authors concluded that the study "...shows that the music shifted the perception of the wine in the direction of the mood expressed by the music by an average of 37.25%. The mean percentage for the white wine was 32.25% and the mean percentage for the red wine was 42.25%, meaning that the effect of music was stronger on the taste of red wine than on the taste of white wine"

You can read the report here.

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At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Aussie Wine Bloke said...

Wow - I never would have thought that could be true - but if the scientists say so, who am I not to believe them!

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Ole Martin Skilleås said...

This is not specific to wine or to music. Context matters for all perception. Respondents who answered a questionaire about old people walked measurably much slower from the laboratory to the lifts than when they had answered a questionaire about young people. Rather, it would be strange if this common "rule" did not apply to wine and music.

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I just read the "article". I can only speculate based on what is written that people were not trained to identify "subtle and refined" or "mellow and soft". As for the results, they were incompletely recorded. For every person who listened to a particular type of music, they scored the wine in all 4 dimensions, yet the authors only reported on when the music and the dimension matched i.e., when listening to mellow, how the mellowness rating changed. My guess would be that there are cross-effects as well - listening to "zingy and refreshing" music significantly changed the "mellow and soft" dimension when compared to the no music condition.

Or, was the wine tasted under the "zingy and refreshing" music significantly more zingy and refreshing than the same wine listened under the "powreful and heavy" condition.

If they results were more completely disclosed, the paper may be a bit more interesting. As it is written, the authors came up with a hypothesis and picked through the statistics to support the hypothesis.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Wilf G.K said...

Hi Jamie:
Back in November 2007 there was an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding the same notion about how different music can make some wines taste better as proclaimed by Clark Smith. I did an entry on my blog about it, only going in another direction and wondering if what we read might affect how we perceive the taste of a wine. I have a link to my archived entry on my blog below.


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