Wine writers sometimes compare wines to pieces of music, a particular musical style or artist, or even to specific musical parameters.
To date, though, it is unclear whether such comparisons merely reflect the idiosyncratic matches of the writers concerned or whether instead they reflect more general crossmodal matching tendencies that would also be shared by others (e.g., social drinkers).
In researchers first experiment, we looked for any consensual patterns of crossmodal matching across a group of 24 participants who were presented with four distinctive wines to taste.
In second experiment, three of the wines were presented with and without music and 26 participants were asked to rate the perceived sweetness, acidity, alcohol level, fruitiness, tannin level, and their own enjoyment of the wines.
The results of experiment 1 revealed the existence of a significant agreement amongst the participants in terms of specific classical music - fine wine pairings that appeared to go particularly well (or badly) together. For example, Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 1 in D major turned out to be a very good match for the Château Margaux 2004 (red wine). Meanwhile, Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D major, K285 was found to be a good match for the Pouilly Fumé (white wine). The results of experiment 2 revealed that participants perceived the wine as tasting sweeter and enjoyed the experience more while listening to the matching music than while tasting the wine in silence.
Taken together, the results of the two experiments reported here suggest that people (social drinkers) share a number of crossmodal associations when it comes to pairing wines and music. Furthermore, listening to the appropriate classical music can enhance the overall experience associated with drinking wine. As such, our findings provide prima facie evidence to support the claim that comparing a wine to a particular style of music (as documented in the work of a number of wine writers) might provide the social drinker with useful clues about the sensory properties that they should expect to perceive in a wine should they eventually get to taste it.