How About Some Zep With That Zin?

We know that the aroma of food influences our perception of its flavor. We also know that certain foods taste better with certain wines.

But can sound influence the way we perceive food… and, by extension, wine?

That’s what an ongoing study by Unilever seeks to determine. The study deals with multisensory perception and whether “input” from outside sources can make food taste sweeter, saltier, crunchier and so on.

Early findings were published in the journal Food Quality and Preference, and they’re pretty interesting. A blind tasting of various sweet and savory foods was conducted, with the level of the background noise adjusted at various intervals.

Note that the term “noise” was used, but the assumption would be that in a restaurant setting, “noise” would equate with “music.” Which opens up an entirely separate study possibility since there are so many styles of music.

But back to the initial study: Not surprisingly, those participating (39 women and nine men) liked whatever food they were being served more when they also liked the sound. Also, as the noise level increased, items being eaten were perceived to be less salty or less sugary. Likewise, when the noise level was dropped, those same foods were perceived to be more salty or more sugary.

Which leads us to the obvious question: Could the same methodology be applied to wine? Might we one day see menus that include not only a wine recommendation for a specific dish, but also a music recommendation? Or might wine bars install jukeboxes featuring tunes that pair with their wines?

We could definitely see (or hear) a nice lyrical tune by smooth jazz guitarist Peter White accompanying a glass of silky-smooth Pinot Noir. Or a rockin’ tune by Led Zeppelin being played when a glass of spicy Zinfandel is poured. Or an old ballad by Ol’ Blue Eyes playing while a couple shares of bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Of course, the ultimate challenge would be finding the right wine to pour with a Lady Gaga song. This is why science is so important.

Posted in Editor's Journal
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