Pour out, tune in, drink up

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Pour out, tune in, drink up


Wining and dining in Seoul just got a lot fancier.

In the past, most wine enthusiasts focused on which wine went well with a specific dish.

However, recent research on music and wine carried out by a psychology professor in Edinburgh has turned many connoisseurs onto the importance of choosing the right music to accompany their favorite tipple.

For starters, stylish wine enthusiasts share a lot of common ground: They know the “hot” wine bars where urban trendsetters gather.

They possess enough knowledge to politely decline a sommelier’s recommendation and order a bottle that suits their budget. And perhaps most importantly, they know how to select a wine that complements a meal.

But an additional requirement has been added to the list of “must knows”: to select the right music to enhance the flavor of the wine.

It’s a marriage between grape and melody.

This latest trend gives us insight into the maturation of the domestic wine culture. Imbibers are quickly learning to truly enjoy the flavor and culture associated with wine.

In July of last year, this reporter accompanied an Italian woman to a restaurant called Le Tre Basile in a five-star Italian hotel. What took place at the restaurant was surprising.

After ordering her wine, she called the sommelier.

“The music does not suit the flavor of the wine that I just ordered. Can you change the music? I would prefer a mellow piano track,” said the Italian woman.

Soon after, a piano track fitting the description of the woman’s request began to flow from the speakers and the woman could then better appreciate the wine.

“In Europe, ordering music to go with the wine of your choice is as common as choosing a dish to accompany a drink. When taking reservations, we take pre-orders for wines and prepare our music selections accordingly.

“We usually prepare light and upbeat pop music for white wine drinkers and classical music for red wine,” said Blacos Costas, the manager of the restaurant.

Koreans are not far behind this latest trend. The number of wine aficionados who enjoy a decent combination of wine and music has been on the increase.

One such place that offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy such an experience is the Marriage Room at Winenara Academy in Seocho, southern Seoul. A wine expert is always on site to offer the right mix of wine, food and music.

“We have been getting an increased number of requests for music that enhances the overall wining experience,” stated Kim Sae-gil, the associate director of Winenara Academy.

While the experience of enjoying music and wine has gone hand in hand for many over the years, the latest interest is due to a psychology professor’s research.

Adrian North’s study was reported in the Decanter wine magazine in early 2008 and raised a good deal of interest among wine industry leaders.

North, head of the department of applied psychology program at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, looked at the effect of music on the flavor of wine. He provided free wine to the 250 participants and played different music or no music at all in five separate rooms.

The results confirmed what many wine experts have been claiming for years.

Those participants who tasted wine while listening to the right music gave the wine a higher grade, up to 60 percent higher than usual in some cases.

Cabernet Sauvignon received high grades when accompanied by classical music while Chardonnay got high praise from participants when upbeat tunes were played. When music of the complete opposite genre was played to the same wine, the satisfaction rate fell as much as 25 percent in some cases.

Such was the level of interest in his work, North was invited onto a British Broadcasting Company television program to elaborate on his data.

“The latest findings from my scientific research prove music can affect people’s perception and therefore can increase one’s ability to recognize the flavor of various wines in different ways.”

North added that the right combination of wine and music revitalizes or activates specific parts of the brain and hence results in a positive experience.

The wine industry is taking note. A Chilean wine producer called Montes even announced plans to include recommended music lists on its labels in the near future.

Regardless of the scientific research, the union of wine and music has been a prominent topic among wine enthusiasts for years.

In the United States, the Web site www.wineandmusic.com has been at the forefront of this movement. It nurtures communities whose members take the cohesion of music and wine seriously.

On the domestic front, members of the Web site www.wine.co.kr operated by Doosan Liquor can share information related to this topic on a community board.

This reporter had to find out how much of an effect music had on the overall enjoyment of wine. There was a possibility that good music had simply helped enhance the emotion of the participants in North’s research.

Using North’s recommended music list, this reporter tried some Merlot while listening to “Over the Rainbow.”

The familiar flavor of Merlot seemed different when accompanied by the song. The bouquet was richer and bolder than previous experiences.

However, whether or nor the taste was altered by the music remained unclear. Other factors might have played a part.

Wine is not a necessity. It’s a luxury enjoyed by some sections of society, an alcoholic beverage that is unique because its flavor is affected by the surroundings, food and room temperature, among others.

This is why wine experts are placed in isolated areas and blindfolded during wine tasting sessions.

Many of us have experienced firsthand the effect that the mention of the price of the wine has on the overall enjoyment of the drink.

So whatever mechanism or procedure takes place in our body, the positive effect of music on the overall enjoyment of wine seems likely.

Spots to mix fine wines and music

Marriage Room

Winenara Academy, Seocho-dong, Gangnam District, (02) 598-9870.

Located near Gangnam Station, line No. 2, the Marriage Room in the Winenara Academy building offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy wine, food and appropriate music selected by expert staff.

Reservations are required and groups of up to 20 visitors are allowed at a time.

The private nature of the Marriage Room makes it popular with CEOs and for wine-tasting sessions held by wine clubs.

The price of the meals range from 70,000 won ($70) to 100,000 won, not including taxes, and there are four to five courses to choose from, with an extra charge for the wine.

Visitors can select the meal, wine and music of their choice for the complete dining experience.

Jardin Perdu

Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam District, (02) 520-0900.

Jardin Perdu means “lost garden” in French and as the name suggests, the overriding color scheme is green. One side of the interior wall is covered with natural grass.

A vast collection of over 400 wines is relatively affordable compared to other places in the city and the quality of service and food is of a high standard.

The general manager of Jardin Perdu, Chun Hyeon-mo, was the 2006 winner of a local sommelier competition.

Chun is on hand to offer his recommendations on the choice of wine and music.

Prices range from 10,000 won and up for pasta, 20,000 won to 40,000 won for side dishes and 40,000 won and up for wine.

Lago di Garda

Youngtong District, Suwon, Gyeonggi, (031) 204-8875.

The name of the restaurant was taken from a lake of the same name near Milan, Italy.

The owners have put a lot of effort into trying to replicate the scenic environment of the lake.

The chef has experience in Italy and is a sommelier. He can provide a well-balanced package of wine, food and music.

The price of the pasta course including tea and salad starts at 16,000 won and the steak course ranges from 40,000 won to 50,000 won.

The prices of wine start from 40,000 won.

The chef and staff of Lago di Gardia offer special dishes not included on the menu that accompany the music that the diners choose, if calls are made in advance.

From screeching Hendrix riffs to soaring Puccini arias - music for the palate

Cabernet Sauvignon

Distinguishing characteristics: It is noted for its initial bitter taste and a rich, full flavor that lingers in the palate.

Recommended wine: Elegance Cabernet Savignon (Chile, 2003) received the best Chilean red wine of the year award in 2008 from the Chilean wine guide, Descorchados.

Recommended music: Cabernet Savignon has a strong flavor and plenty of tannins. As such, Elegance and other Cabernet Savignon is best served with loud and sublime music.

- “All Along the Watchtower” (Jimi Hendrix)

- “Honky Tonk Woman” (The Rolling Stones)


Distinguishing characteristics: This dry red wine contains an excellent balance of sweet and sour, which blends well with the alcohol content of the wine. Syrah red wines are usually full-bodied and powerfully flavored.

Recommended wines: Montes Alpha Syrah (Chile 2005) is the latest in the line of Montes Alpha Syrah series, but is considered the best of the series. The dark ruby tint of the wine gives it a full ripened color.

Recommended music: Syrah boasts a splendid and luxurious flavor and as such try powerful opera.

- “Nessun Dorma (from Puccini’s “Turandot”)

- “Orinoco Flow” (Enya)


Distinguishing characteristics: Merlot red wine has a light but fruity flavor with the right amount of acidity. Merlot is low in tannins and is known for its smooth flavor.

Recommended wines: Torres Atrium Merlot (Spain, 2006) is popular among wine enthusiasts for its deep, rich flavor and affordable price.

Recommended music: Merlot goes well with romantic music.

- “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding)

- “Easy” (Lionel Richie)


Distinguishing characteristics: Chardonnay white wines contain a rich, sweet tropical fruit flavor.

Recommended wine: Max Reserva Chardonnay (Chile, 2005) is the representative label of the famed Errazuriz winery. Max Reserva has won numerous international awards and is loved by many for its light yet rich flavor.

Recommended music: Chardonnay should be enjoyed with music containing fast tempo for a lighthearted and cheerful evening.

- “Atomic” (Blondie)

- “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (Tina Turner)


Distinguishing characteristics: Riesling white wine has a strong sweet flavor.

Recommended wine: Traminer Riesling (Australia, 2007) has a well-balanced flavor with a delightful aftertaste.

Traminer Riesling is a great wine to take on a picnic.

Recommended music: Traminer Riesling, with its refined and delicate flavor, is compatible with New Age music.

- “Dance of the Dragonfly”

(Kevin Kern)

- “A Song of Swan”

(Yuki Kuramoto)

Source: Heriot-Watt University; Montes.

By Lee Yi-yong JoongAng Ilbo [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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