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Music and Wine: 4 Super-User Pairing Tips

Drinking wine is a thrilling journey of discovery, involving all the senses. You inspect the wine to assess the color, sniff the wine to catch the aromas and roll the wine around your mouth to determine how taste and texture blends. But do you ever listen to the wine?

Music influences us in more ways than we tend to be aware of, often way below the threshold of consciousness. For instance, when we recognize a song, the brain weirdly perceives that time accelerates. Now, if you're waiting in a long slow line, this can obviously be a good thing. Music also has surprising effects on what we buy. In a now-classic study, scientists set up a lab in a wine shop to test the relationship between music and wine sales. The store sold more French wines when it played French music, and when it switched to German music, customers bought more German rieslings.

What this all boils down to is that music can move the mind to new frames of reference. Also, it illustrates that we're far more easily swayed by the environment than we perhaps proudly would like to imagine. A single sound, a melody, or a particular kind of silence can remind us of a specific place, event or period of life. In the same way, music can immediately color how we experience wine. Mellow music makes wine actually taste more mellow, whereas a lively soundtrack makes the wine taste livelier.

Now that we know that music can play a big role in wine tasting, how can we cleverly use it to our advantage?

To pair music with wine, the best way is to first find common touch points in both the wine and the music.

music and wine

Practical music and wine tips.

1. Match origin

Choose wine and music from the same continent, country or region. This choice reinforces the feeling of the place. Begin with obvious matchings, such as playing tango when you serve red wine from Argentina or playing fado to a robust wine from Portugal. As you learn more about this, you can progress to even more local genres.

2. Match character and personality traits

Listen to the music carefully, and try to identify any of the following characteristics: light, powerful, elegant, robust, hot, cold, fresh, mature, youthful, sweet, halftone, inviting, restrained, easy-minded, moderate, expressive, tight. The more attributes you find to match to your wine, the better.

3. Match time and vintage

A ripe wine can fit perfectly with older music. Most preferably from the same decade, or why not the same vintage? Test playing a legendary album while serving an equally legendary wine from the same year. A classic is to listen to Michael Jackson's Thriller while sampling a high-quality Bordeaux from the magical year 1982.

4. Test contrasts

Make a bold move and play music that jars with the feeling in the wine. Contrasting background music can have a fascinating effect. A hard rock list will easily disarm a pricey vintage champagne, whereas an elegant Bach fugue will lend you everyday party bubbly a luxurious sheen.

Whatever your ambitions, there's a world out there to explore. Invite some friends over, customize a playlist that fits nicely with both the wine and your friends' musical preferences. And don’t forget to load up with plenty of wine.


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