If you think your glass of wine always tastes better with music, we can assure you that you’re not alone.

A recent study conducted by the psychology team at Heriot-Watt University, revealed the influence music has on the taste of wine. In the study, a total of 250 adults were recruited on a university campus and offered a free glass of wine in return for answering a few questions about its taste.

After being asked to gargle a glass of tap water (in order to clear away any other taste), participants were given a 125ml glass of either red wine (cabernet sauvignon) or white wine (chardonnay) and taken to one of five rooms in which to drink it.

They were asked to finish the complete glass in around five minutes or so and to not converse with any other people in the room. Each of the five rooms featured one of the four types of music (or no music) that played on a continuous loop.  25 people (12 males, 13 females or vice versa) tasted each type of wine in conjunction with each type of music.

The research, led by Dr Adrian C. North Revealed that the taste changed by up to 60% depending on the melody heard. In short, background music influences the taste of wine. The specific taste of the wine was influenced in a manner consistent with the mood evoked by the music.

If the background music was powerful and heavy then the wine was perceived as more powerful and heavy than when no background music was played. If the background music was subtle and refined then the wine was perceived as more subtle and refined than when no background music was played.

When the background music played was zingy and refreshing then the wine was perceived as zingier and refreshing than when no background music was played. If the background music was mellow and soft then the wine was perceived as more mellow and soft than when no background music was played. The magnitude of these effects was not insubstantial, and they were stronger for red wine than for white.

Extent of the effect

Breaking down these percentages, it 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.

Perceptions of the wine

Music influence on wineFor each of the four perceptions, ratings in the ‘white wine – no music’ condition were compared against ratings in the four music conditions. In each case, the characteristics of the music primed people to perceive the wine in a manner consistent with the music. The study revealed that ratings of the white wine were consistently higher with music compared to no music conditions.

The same pattern was found in ratings of the red wine. Ratings of the red wine served were also significantly higher with music compared to no music. In each case, these differences between the music and ‘no music’ conditions were statistically significant. In lay terms, this means that these results are not a fluke.

So the next time you decide to open a bottle of your favourite red or white, make sure you’ve got the right tunes ready playing. Discover the full details of the study here.

written by.
Richard Augustin
Former chef turned writer; Richard has tip-toed around the publishing industry for two decades. When not busy chasing deadlines, you can still find him experimenting with recipes in the kitchen.

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