Pour out, tune in, drink up
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.
By Lee Yi-yong JoongAng Ilbo [email@example.com]