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Music and Wine Pairing: Cabernet in C Major

Old sheet music with goblet of wine shot from above.
Old sheet music with goblet of wine shot from above.

“Notes” on Pairing Wine and Music

Both music and wine evoke emotion so it makes sense that music could influence our emotional reaction to and perception of wine. However, are there right and wrong wine and music pairings? Or perhaps even, better or worse?

When I attend wine tasting for the media, there are no distractions, such as food or perfume, and the room is almost always silent except for the gurgling and sloshing noises of the tasters.

Clark Smith, founder of Vinovation, a Californian-based wine consultancy, believes that music. He was formerly the winemaker at R.H. Phillips winery in Napa Valley, but also has strong technology roots, having attended the Massachuetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He advocates the ancient Greek ideal of keeping the logical side of our nature, our thoughts (Apollonian) separate from our intuition, body and actions (Dionysian).


Smith spent months with various tasting panels sampling He tasted more than 150 wines while listening to 300 musical pieces to prove his point.

He believes that big red wines, such as a Napa Cabernet, taste better with bolder, darker, deeper pieces of music, especially those with a minor key.

The science may not be that far off. Synesthesia is a condition that allows some people to perceive one sense with another. For example, jazz musical Duke Ellington perceived musical notes as colours.

However, this isn’t so much as experiencing music as a wine type or even a particular flavour, but rather that music influences our perception of the wine’s flavour.

We do know that music we like activates the pleasure centre of the brain, according to research conducted at McGill University. As well, UC Davis study shows that our brain’s pre-frontal cortex is used both to identify music and aromas, as well as for making judgements.

Music is a vital part of dining out. My pinot noir has been ruined by Led Zeplin.

My next step is to take the same wine and sip it while listening to different pieces of music. Then try different wines to the same music. All in the name of science, my friends.

I would love to do this while inside a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine to see actual brain patterns, but I’m not sure I could swirl my Riedel glass in there.



By: Natalie Maclean

***Grabbed from: