HomeNewsClassical music and wine harmonise the senses

Classical music and wine harmonise the senses

Did you know that listening to classical music can make wine taste better? It’s well-known that tasting and appreciating wine involves the senses of taste, plus smell and sight, but researchers and anecdotal reports suggest that what you’re listening to also makes a difference as to your perception of what wine tastes like.

Tasting wine involves more senses than taste alone

Tasting wine firstly involves looking at the wine; is this the medium yellow of a Semillon wine, or the rich deep yellow hue of a sweet Sauterne? A Bordeaux wine that’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes might be more of an intense deep ruby red than the pale purple tinged red of a Beaujolais Nouveau. 

Moving on to smell the wine and then taste it, there are primary, secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors. Broadly speaking, primary aromas and flavors might be floral notes, green, citrus, tropical or stone fruits for white wines, red or black fruits and spices for red wines. Secondary aromas and flavors include biscuity bready yeast notes, or vanilla or cedar indicating wines made or matured with oak.  Then tertiary aromas, developed during maturation, might include dried fruit, leather, or honey. So tasting wine involves your eyes and nose as well as your taste buds.

Listening to classical music makes wine taste better

So how and why does listening to music affect what wine tastes like? It’s thought that music has the power to affect our sensory perceptions and emotional states. A research scientist, who also happens to be both a Master of Wine and a classical pianist, carried out a blind taste test, i.e. participants in the experiment didn’t know what they were tasting. Researcher Susan Lin was based in San Francisco, where she got people to taste five glasses of wine, four glasses of wine were tasted while she played four different pieces of music, with the fifth glass of wine tasted in silence.

The four pieces of music chosen by Lin had contrasting tempo and pitch, etc. 
Whether the piece played was soothing or energetic created a different ambiance, which led the participants to equate the flavors they tasted with the music they heard, for example, describing both as ‘exciting’. Classical music is known to engage multiple regions of the brain, and this synchronization between music and the sensory experience of wine tasting is believed to enhance the overall enjoyment and appreciation of both the music and the wine.
Participants were asked to rank each glass of wine according to different characteristics and say how much they enjoyed the wine and the music. The participants scored the wine on its effervescence, fruitiness and complexity and so on. Only one participant out of 71 guessed that all five wines were the exact same non-vintage champagne! Listening to different pieces of music affected participants’ perceptions of the flavour and even how effervescent the champagne was.

It’s clear that wine-tasting is multi-sensory and that for many people it’s best experienced by listening to classical music and creating a harmonious atmosphere. In many ways, there are parallels to be drawn, between the complexities of wine and classical music, the different textures and layers and notes.  

When and where can you listen to classical music in Bordeaux?

If you’re an aficionado of classical music, or if you’re just interested in experiencing the wide range of what Bordeaux has to offer, why not spend an evening at Le Grand-Théâtre de Bordeaux, which dates back to 1780? This impressive building  with its Corinthian-style columns is home to the Opera National de Bordeaux. And just a short distance from Place de la Comedie is the Auditorium, which celebrates its 10th anniversary with its 2023/2024 season of classical music concerts. The cathedral and churches often hold events and exhibitions too. We can show you where these venues are, if you’d like to join Bordeaux With Elodie on one of our guided tours of Bordeaux city, as well as show you more highlights of the city and its architectural and culinary delights.

So the next time you’re taking a sip while listening to a symphony, whether at home or here in the city or Bordeaux’s wider wine region, bear in mind it’s not just music for your ears but for your taste buds too! Cheers! 🍷

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