"I got a juke box heart full of honky tonk rhythm an' blues…"

by Katie Pizzuto on October 30, 2008

in music,Wine

It goes without saying that several factors can affect the way wine tastes to you. Things like the food that accompanies the wine, the glassware the wine is served in, the temperature the wine is served at, the surrounding aromas, your allergies, etc. all alter your perception of the wine you’re tasting. But now it seems that we can add another influence to that list…your CD player. Believe it or not, the chardonnay you pour yourself on some random Tuesday night could make you either smile or wince, depending on what tunes you’ve got playing in the background. Balderdash, you say? Oh, ye of little faith.

I sympathize, because I was a skeptic, too. When my local wine merchant told me he was having a tasting that was setting out to prove that music affects your perception of wine, I laughed. Then I realized I was the only one of us laughing. OK, I thought. I’m not only a wine geek, but a huge music geek too, so what better way to spend a Thursday night? I arrived with an enthusiasm that was tempered by a large dose of skepticism, and soon realized that everyone else there was equally as incredulous. But the tasting overwhelmingly converted the doubting congregation.

Three glasses of chardonnay were poured for the first flight—a light, fruity ubiquitous sipper, a butter-slathered 2 x 4 and a dry, crisp Chablis. We were told to try all 3 wines and make mental notes of what we liked and disliked. That was easy…yuck, yuck, yumm. And honestly, I didn’t think anything would change my mind. I know what I like and it never includes buttered lumber. Then “California Girls” by the Beach Boys was put on, and we were asked to taste and judge all 3 wines again. Suddenly that first sipper that previously tasted like a fermented fruit bowl now tasted groovy. Number 2 was still undrinkable, but that classic Chablis that I thought I could never hate was now rather unimpressive and flacid. That bastard! I cursed him and those golden-haired surfers for making me like the plonk!

He then pressed play again, and Billie Holliday came out of the boombox speakers. Again, we tried all three wines. Again, my preference changed! The fruit bowl was again a fruit bowl, but…no! It couldn’t be! I grabbed my chest and feigned a heart attack—the malolactic monster had been tamed! It was, dare I say it, potable?!? My entire theory of taste was blown. Light happy music = light fruity wine. Heavy-hearted music = heavy-handed wine. It turns out that if I want to enjoy my Chablis, I’d better do it either in the absence of music, or (according to the results of this tasting) with a nice dose of Mozart.

Try this for yourself at home if you don’t believe me…heck, it’ll make for a fun night with friends. You don’t even have to stick to one varietal. In fact, the second flight at the wine tasting consisted of a cabernet, a pinot noir and a white zinfandel. No, that is not a typo—the word “white” does belong there in front of “zinfandel.” Of course everyone scoffed at the thought that ANY music could make a sane person like white zin. In my case, they were right. But I will say that those dastardly Beach Boys at least made it slightly more palatable. If you try it at home with friends, you can even make a game out of it….take bets on whether Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, Barry Manilow or Shakira goes better with a spicy syrah. And then keep your findings in mind the next time you crack open a bottle and turn on some tunes on a Saturday night—because if that wine isn’t everything you thought it would be, it might not be the wine’s fault.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Coupe 60 October 30, 2008

That is really interesting Katie…I know how mood and atmosphere impact my opinion of a wine, but never realized that in the same exact setting different music would have an impact…


2 Katie Pizzuto October 30, 2008

I can’t possibly express how much it impacted me…I really didn’t think it could to that extreme. That’s why I want people to give it a try at home and have some fun with it. Like GaryV always says, don’t believe ME…who am I? 🙂


3 Jazzy October 30, 2008

I thought it was just me! Music and social settings always effect the way my wine tastes. Great post!


4 Katie Pizzuto October 30, 2008

It’s not you, Jazzy! Glad you enjoyed the post. I find myself VERY conscious of my music choices now because I listen to CDs every night while I’m cooking dinner and having a glass of wine. If I’m not crazy about the wine, I switch the music style, just to see if it’s that, or I just don’t dig the wine!


5 erikagwen October 31, 2008

I do this too! Though it is a tad out of date, you should get a copy of (or at least take a look at) “Wine Magic” by Alan & Sandra Putnam. In the back they have a pretty long list of wines, food, and appropriate music. We started logging our favorites in our wine notebook once we saw this.


6 Katie Pizzuto October 31, 2008

Thanks for the recommendation Erika! I’ll hunt it down….but the thought of more wine-note writing scares me!! 🙂


7 erikagwen October 31, 2008

Brie Soup, Dâo’s 2007 Cabriz – Colheita Seleccionada Branco, and Adele’s “19” was a wonderful dinner.


8 Katie Pizzuto October 31, 2008

Brie soup? Sounds amazing… Got a recipe you care to share???


9 erikagwen November 1, 2008

1/2 c. yellow onion, peeled & chopped,
1/2 c. celery, thinly sliced
4 tblpsn butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. half & half
2 c. chicken broth
3/4 lbs brie, cubed
salt, pepper (to taste)
Chives for garnish

sautee onion & celery in the butter until limp. stir in the flour. remove from the heat and stir in the milk, half n’ half & the chicken broth (use a wisk). return to the heat and simmer stirring constantly until thick. Add the brie (rind and all), stirring until melted. Either run it through a food processor or use an immersion blender, to blend until smooth. Serve very hot.


10 Katie Pizzuto November 1, 2008

Thanks a million, Erika….will try this VERY soon!!!


11 Jeff November 4, 2008

I remember very vividly when you told me about that tasting. Fascinating!!


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