Can music really change the way we experience our favourite glass of vino?
If you’ve ever thought that music makes wine better or vice versa, you’d be right. This is not only the result of a night out drinking and dancing but there’s actually a clear reason that can be explained by science. Research from the University of Oxford has suggested that there are associations between taste and pitch. What does this mean? Simply, your taste can be altered (for better or worse) based on the sounds around you (apparently, this is why food often tastes so bad on an airplane).
This was the idea behind Tasting Notes:
aA Story of Sound and Wine. The project set out to determine whether a blend of science and creativity could result in an artistic work which heightens the experience of drinking or tasting wine.
Tasting Notes brought together winemakers from the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG), neuroscientists and musical composers. Through a data led approach, they set out to create a piece of music which heightens the key flavors (or tasting notes) in any glass of Cabernet Sauvignon; meaning the music you’re listening to with your glass of red isn’t only pleasant on the ears but actually pleasant on the taste buds too.
Why do this?
The reason is simple, for the new or casual wine drinker music becomes an easy entry into wine. The oenophiles, on the other hand, may find their sensory sensitivities further enhanced. On the simplest level however, South Africa’s love for music is universal, and if music can attract more people to an industry that was affected more than most by COVID-19 (as a result of multiple alcohol bans), that can only be a good thing for the literally hundreds of thousands of people employed in or around the production of wine. Which is also why Cabernet Sauvignon was chosen for the project. It’s the most widely available and drunk red grape varietal there is.
For those who love looking for hidden ‘easter eggs’, the resulting song comprises organic sounds captured in the vineyard. Leaves rustling in the wind, rasps from oak wine barrels, gong-like reverberations from the stainless-steel wine tanks and delicate chimes from hand-blown crystal wine glasses. The data though is where the magic and the key to the entire concept lies. The final composition not only needed to sound great but it needed to work. The song is thus a result of a data map created by measuring the neural activity (using wearable EEG headset technology) of multiple CWG winemakers as they enjoyed a glass of wine. The data was mapped by plotting peaks and valleys which mirror peaks and valleys in the musical composition. Together with sound to taste mapping this data resulted in a song which peels away at the layers of flavor in a Cabernet Sauvignon.
While no one involved in the project will claim that music or sound is essential to enjoy a glass of wine, their hope is that Tasting Notes, through its novelty and link to our population’s love of music, will have a positive impact on the South African wine industry. They also hope it can become an illustration of how science can be used to heighten traditional experiences, even ones based in art – making them more exciting and appealing to younger, wider audiences.
You can experience Tasting Notes: A Story of Sound and Wine for yourself. Buy any bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from your local bottle store and try the guided tasting experience.
For those interested in the science, go to nedbankcwg.co.za for more on the creation process.