Music Changes Wine’s Taste + Restaurant Table Shape & How Much We Eat with Nell McShane Wulfhart



How does the shape of a restaurant table impact how much you eat? How can you use your music playlist to complement your menu? Which types of songs can make your wine taste more acidic?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with journalist Nell McShane Wulfhart.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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  • How can you help guests to feel more comfortable at a gathering?
  • What simple tips can you use to avoid lingering guests at your next dinner party?
  • How can you use lighting throughout a party to influence guests’ experiences?
  • Which types of songs can make your Pinot Noir or other wines tastes more acidic?
  • What fun activity can you try with wine tasting and different types of music?
  • Why does music have a bigger impact on complex beverages like coffee and wine?
  • How can you use your music playlist to complement your menu?
  • Why do our palate and preferences change when we’re on a plane?
  • Can we hear the difference between various types of beverages just from the sound of the pour?
  • Why are white wine glasses better than flutes for drinking bubbly?
  • How does the shape of the table in a restaurant affect our dining experience?
  • What should you consider when selecting a glass for a particular beverage?
  • How do the shape and texture of food affect how satisfied you feel?
  • What’s the relationship between weight and perception of quality?
  • Which wine bottle characteristics make the most impact on wine buyers?
  • How does the choice of bottle and packaging affect the environmental footprint of wine?
  • How do health claims on food and wine packaging influence our perception?
  • How is scent marketing being used outside of the food and beverage industry?


Key Takeaways

  • I loved finding out how the shape of a restaurant table impacts how much we eat and how long we stay in a restaurant. Some interesting similarities with the shape of our plates.
  • I also found it interesting how I can use my music playlist to complement my menu.
  • I like knowing which types of songs can make my wine taste more acidic.


Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips


About Nell McShane Wulfhart

Nell McShane Wulfhart is a decision coach and author. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall St. Journal, The Guardian, and many other outlets. Her most recent book, The Great Stewardess Rebellion – about how flight attendants in the 1960s and 70s staged a revolution for working women everywhere. The Wall Street Journal described it as exhilarating and wrote that “Wulfhart is a vivid storyteller who writes with energy and style.” Nell’s audiobook, Off Menu, is about the secret science of food, drinks, and the dining experience.




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Nell McShane Wulfhart 0:00
Music itself is pretty complex. And these different tones and pitches in the kind of music you can hear, whether it’s fast or slow, whether it’s like a brass band that highlights umami taste, it’s just impossible to do that with something that only has one note. Wine is like such a good way to play around with this other sense because it’s so complex and has so much going on. You really can identify multiple different components of a glass of wine by changing the music that’s playing in the background.

Natalie MacLean 0:34
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started.

Welcome to Episode 218. How does the shape of a restaurant table impact how much you eat? How can you use your music playlist to complement your menu? And which type of songs can make your wine taste more acidic? You’ll hear those tips and stories in Part Two of our chat with Nell McShane Wulfhart. You don’t need to have listened to Part One from last week first, but I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finish this one.

Three of you are going to win an audiobook of Off Menu about the secret science of food drinks and the dining experience. Nell’s written a fascinating book. Just email me to tell me you want to win at [email protected].

Now a quick update on my upcoming memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much. So one of the things that I learned while writing this book is that it’s not a work of investigative journalism. Even though I delve into some hard hitting issues from online bullying to sexism in the workplace. The job of a memoirist is not to report on an issue or to keep updating it. This is especially true because most memoirs only look at one slice of time like a year or two. The memoirist is not a reporter trying to inject some sense of equivalency by interviewing others mentioned in the book for their current status.

Although I did get friends and family members to read the book, a memoirist’s job is simply to tell their story. And through that story and the subsequent reflections and realisations, the author hopes to connect with the reader on a very personal level. By the end, the reader feels as though we’ve had a rich and satisfying conversation over a glass of wine at the kitchen table. Here’s a review from Nina Babbage, a beta reader from Kansas City, Kansas. “This memoir is excellent on two levels. One the personal level going through divorce dealing with scandalous accusations, facing alcoholism, and to the industry level sexism and gender bias in wine tasting, women everywhere will identify with one or many aspects of the author’s story. I really felt for her when her professionalism was under a public attack. I think I would have just sunken into a depression. She wrote a book instead. Glad she did. The story needed to be told. Five stars”. Thank you, Nina.

I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at This is also where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know that you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at this manuscript. Email me at [email protected]. Okay, on with the show.

Natalie MacLean 4:28
At a dinner party or gathering, people like to be busy so they could be comparing the two wines talking about them. But you also talk about giving people something to do. Why is that?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 4:40
It’s all about comfort, right. It’s about making people comfortable and welcome in your home or at your event. And if you ever have an event and, like maybe you’re a little late getting the drinks out or there’s nothing to eat, like people are just standing around like wondering what to do. This is scientifically proven that people are more comfortable when they have something to hold. Like it’s not just about the alcohol. It doesn’t have to be an alcoholic drink, but that holding on to something makes people feel happier and more comfortable. And this effect is even amped up if that thing is warm. Like truly the ideal thing to hold to make somebody feel comfortable is a warm bowl of something. Which might not be practical but to give guests something to hold in their hands or something to do.

Like I interviewed Alison Roman, the chef and food columnist, for the book. And she says, when people come to her house, she will either give them a drink or point them to the cocktail making station. Let them mix their own which also gives them something to do. Or give them like a tiny task, like sorting out herbs you know. Picking the good leaves off some stems or something like that just to help people ease into the evening. And I think it’s really nice, because you want people to feel comfortable especially like in your home. You want people to feel good. And either giving them something warm to hold or drink or something to do like it helps make helps them feel better immediately.

Natalie MacLean 6:01
I love that. Oh my goodness. My dinner parties are never going to be the same again after this conversation. Thank you. And so here’s a vital tip. Gow do we get rid of people at the end of the night if they’re staying too long?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 6:15
One of the funniest things I learned in the course of this book was that the way to have a good party is to have fewer chairs than there are people. So some people have to stand and move around and mingle and people don’t just like sit into the chair. Like sit drinking and not make any effort. I thought that was a great party tip.

Natalie MacLean 6:32
Yeah. So no chairs at the end of the night?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 6:35
I was just gonna say that’s like one of the things I could do is like get rid of all the chairs. It’s not enough so that would be very weird. I mean, I’m often a fan of just saying like that’s it for me go home, right. I understand most people don’t want to do that. But a lot of it comes down to the music. You know, to the playlist. Like what kind of music you play. At the beginning of a party, you can play songs that make people feel comfortable. Songs they recognize. Songs in C major make people feel good and feel happy.

Natalie MacLean 7:03
Why C major? Is that a low tone or a high tone? Is that happy or sad?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 7:09
I don’t know why C major. Like a lot of stuff in this book about music and how it can affect everything from pulling out a certain flavour in a glass of wine to making people feel more energized or making people feel ready to leave a party. And I don’t think anyone actually really knows why. There’s a lot of associations that we have with music and with sounds that things that sound sweet or sound warm or sound cold. I don’t think we actually have an explanation for why those things are true. But you can definitely develop a playlist that makes people feel more comfortable in the beginning of the night. And like ready to go home at the end of the night.

Natalie MacLean 7:49
Oh I love that. Heavy metal at the end of the night. On that might make them energized.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 7:53
Turning up the volume. Also, you can do this with lighting to0 you know to make people feel comfortable at a dinner party or at a regular party. You have like a lot of candles, you have the lighting turned to exactly the right dimness to make people you know feel comfortable and look good or whatever. And at the end of the night, you could like turn it up a lot and then people are like okay time to go.

Natalie MacLean 8:16
Time to go. Yeah, so you mentioned restaurants do that subtly like Jen Agg, a Toronto restaurant. She might adjust the lights seven or eight times over the course of an evening so that diners don’t even recognixe what’s happening or that the light is shifting.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 8:30
Exactly. Like she is like a lighting expert. And I asked her like do you think candles are important? And she said it’s not that I think candles are important. Candles are important. A good restaurant must have candles because it creates this lovely, warm, welcoming cosy atmosphere. People look good. People feel good like they are essential. And actually, after I talked to her, I started using candles a lot more in my own house. Even for just myself.

Natalie MacLean 8:56
I always feel they’re tribal. But the candles remind me of sort of gathering around almost the tribal campfire. But also they seem to almost come closest to holding a warm bowl of something, that comforting thing that you mentioned earlier. So I don’t know just has resonances for me.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 9:13
I haven’t thought about that connection, but they do actually give off heat. Like they’re literally warm in a way that you know, recessed lighting or something isn’t. So yeah, I think that’s a great point actually.

Natalie MacLean 9:23
Cool. Okay. So how would a high pitch song tune change our perception of say Pinot Noir, which is already you know, fairly racy, acidic wine? How would that change?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 9:35
Okay, so first of all, I should say that these things, they can change person to person and they can change you know depending on the kind of music exactly that you’re listening to, the kind of wine you’re drinking. And it is so much fun to play around with this stuff. Like to really drink a glass of wine of Pinot Noir for a lot of people playing like a high pitched musical will pull out more acid. It’ll taste more acidic to them, and like playing something lower notes will make it to feel more full bodied.

But this is also something great to do at a party. Is to give people a glass of wine and then change the music, change different kinds of songs. You can even just play like musical tones. It doesn’t have to be an entire song or a real piece of music and just ask people to taste the wine again in accordance with each noise, and see how the wine actually tastes different. Like how the flavours are different. Does it feel more acidic or more fruity or more oaky, because the music playing really can change that flavour in your mouth. And I think there’s just like it’s a fun thing to do to educate yourself. And it’s a great thing to do and dinner party, too.

Natalie MacLean 10:37
All kinds of dinner party activities.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 10:40
You would think I host a lot of dinner parties, but I really don’t. I have a lot of great tips for them.

Natalie MacLean 10:44
Yeah, well whenever you do, your guests are going to be extremely busy.

Nell McShane Wulfhart

That’s true.

Natalie MacLean

And you say that music has more of an impact on complex drinks than simple ones like coffee or wine, for example, being more complex. Why is that?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 11:00
You know, you’re drinking something simple, just like sugar water or something, there’s just like not that many different threads. There’s nothing really to pull out except sweet like sweet taste you know. There’s no complexity. And music itself is pretty complex. And these different tones and pitches. If the kind of music you can hear – whether it’s fast or slow, whether it’s like a brass band that highlights umami taste or whatever –  it’s just impossible to do that with something that only has one note. And wine is like such a good way to play around with the other senses because it’s so complex, and it has so much going on. Like you really can identify the multiple different components of a glass of wine by changing the music that’s playing in the background.

Unknown Speaker 11:43
And you even talk to a coffee expert because it has similar complexities, having more than 400 flavour compounds. So music can really tease out some more than others.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 11:57
Yeah and you can sort of use it to like fix the thing that you’re serving. You know, if you go into the book that will give you all this in lots of detail, but if you made something like a cake and it’s not quite sweet enough, like you can kind of music pulls out the sweetness and highlights.

Natalie MacLean

Like Mariah Carey?

Nell McShane Wulfhart

Like Mariah Carey. Yeah, exactly. Like and something will literally taste more sweet. Like you can almost compensate in certain ways by changing the playlist rather than throwing the cake away and having to begin again.

Natalie MacLean 12:23
Oh, yeah. Okay, cool. And so noise also has a special impact when we’re flying. So the engine, what happens then? And how should we change our food and drink choices in response?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 12:36
I love this because I also fly a lot. And I think it’s really interesting. Aeroplane food in general I think it’s pretty interesting.

Natalie MacLean

Do you?

Nell McShane Wulfhart

I mean as a concept, I guess, than from a gastronomic point of view. Any kind of mass produced food I think is like is kind of interesting in a certain way. So when you’re on a plane and you have this jet noise and you know there’s lots of engine noise around you, most of your modalities are suppressed. So the way that you taste things sweet, sour, bitter, your ability to recognize those things is suppressed because of the noise. But the one taste that is actually accentuated and emphasized is umami. So you can taste umami more when you are on a plane then you can when you’re on the ground.

Natalie MacLean 13:21
Do they know why that is? Just the engine noises doing that for some reason?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 13:24
I don’t think we know why. But it has come up again and again. And something else that is helpful is crunchiness. Also your like sense of crunchiness like also is accentuated on the plane. So I even know somebody who like gets a bag of pretzels and crumbles it up and puts it over their meal like their main meal just to add that thing because the crunchiness is like accentuated. That seems like a bridge too far. But you know a lot of people out there probably will order a tomato juice or a Bloody Mary on the plane and they would like never order that in a bar or make it at home.

Natalie MacLean 13:57
That’s what I do. Tomato juice all the time. Yeah.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 14:01
Right. But like you probably don’t drink tomato juice every morning in your house. Its bizarre. Tomato has so much mommy in it. And so you can taste it more on the plane more than a gin and tonic more than a beer more than a glass of wine. So we tend to order things like yeah like Bloody Marys on the plane because it tastes better. It tastes more. And the other things we ordered like our ability to taste those is diminished. So definitely just fascinating. And yeah, we don’t know why but it’s interesting.

Natalie MacLean 14:28
Yeah. And even you say you know order maybe pasta or cheese like with lots of umami. I don’t know. Again, just stretching the connections here, but maybe it’s the low engine growl and then the savoury meaty dark growl of umami. I don’t know. Somehow, thrown together.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 14:43
I don’t know. But I want something with like with cheese or tomato sauce. Yes, anything that is sort of with mushrooms. Anything that is sort of umami heavy is going to taste better on the plane than something that is low in umami. So yeah, that’s definitely recommendation.

Natalie MacLean 14:57
Now this really surprised me you say that we can tell the difference between hot and cold liquids by sound alone when they’re being poured. How on earth do we do that?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 15:08
Again, I do not know. Like it’s true. And if you do it yourself like you can actually hear the difference. Another fun dinner party trick. There are a lot of these in the book because I think people tend to enjoy this kind of thing.  So I don’t know exactly why. I’m sure somebody does. But there is like a way that our ear perceives whether something is hot or cold and the sound of it being poured into a vessel.

Natalie MacLean

Like the viscosity?

Nell McShane Wulfhart

Right. I think viscosity may have something to do with it, something with molecules. And people can even hear the difference sometimes between red wine and white wine being poured into a glass, which I thought also like amazing.

Natalie MacLean 15:46
I’ll try that and even say Champagne versus Prosecco, which I would understand more because you know there’s more pressure in Champagne. So the bubbles will be more urgent or louder or something and Prosecco has fewer bars of pressure. So I don’t know.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 16:02
That was more easily explained. Yeah. But people like people not everybody for sure, but like a lot of people can actually tell the difference when they hear it. So yeah.

Natalie MacLean 16:10
Wow. And now speaking of bubbly, you note that a flute glass  – those really slender, tall glasses that are traditional glassware for bubbly –  affects our perception of the bubbles. What happens in our headspace so to speak? What’s happening at the top of the glass?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 16:27
Actually, I will maybe read this out loud because I brought it up. It’s in the book, but it’s like it’s a lot of stuff. Like I want to make sure that I get it right. So with the flute, I’d like to see the bubbles rising to the surface and the small rim kind of retards the dissipation of the bubbles, which is a good thing. But that same narrow rim, when you’re bringing your nose down to it, it builds up CO2 like in the headspace. And CO2 enhances sourness and it suppresses sweetness. So if you think of something like a can of soda, which has a lot of CO2 in it, you can drink it when it’s cold. And it’s like fizzy. But then if it sits in it gets warm and kind of flat, like it becomes super sweet like unpalatably sweet, which just shows you that like that CO2 is suppressing the sweetness for you.

And yeah, as you pointed out, like a sparkling wine like Champagne or Cava has five, six bars of pressure. Higher pressure means that you keep the CO2 in the glass for longer so it stays bubbly for longer. But Prosecco has three or four bars of pressure so it goes flat faster. So one of the scientists I interviewed about this she said basically flutes are for people who are drinking cheaper wines and they want the bubbles to stay around for longer. But you know then you can’t smell the wine. You can’t really get your nose into the flute and the pleasure of the wine comes from the smelling of it and not just looking at the bubbles. And most of the people I talk to actually said like Champagne glasses, the coup, bubbles disappear too fast. With the flute, you can’t smell it. Use a white wine glass but it’s something I’m sure that your listeners already know because I know they’re all wine experts. But they  in general like they everyone I talked to said throw away the Champagne flute. It’s a waste of money.

Natalie MacLean 17:59
Yeah, I’m a fan of white wine glass. I do love to you know swirl and smell because it’s still wine at its heart. Like it’s fizzy wine but its still wine.

Now you know even the shape of a table in a restaurant will change our dining experience. I found this fascinating. What happens say with square shaped tables versus round tables?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 18:22
What you’ll notice is especially if you wander into like a coffee shop. You know the way coffee shops do business is getting people in and getting people out. They do not want somebody sitting at the table with their laptop ordering like a single espresso and staying there for four hours. They you know they depend on like business right high turnover. So the tables in a coffee shop will often be square. They’ll have like sharp edges. While if you go to a cocktail bar, most of those tables you’ll notice are going to be round, which encourages people to stay longer because they want you to stay longer in a cocktail bar. They want you to order lots of expensive cocktails and spend all your money.

Shape is something I talk about a lot in the book because it really affects not just flavour but yes like our enjoyment and our comfort levels. In general, just as when you walk into a party and if somebody had to do a warm bowl to hold you would feel comfortable, round things make us feel better and more comfortable and more likely to linger. So the shapes of those tables in those two places like they’re really there on purpose. Like those sharp edges are to encourage you to move along and not linger while a round table in a cocktail bar is there to get you to stay all night long.

Natalie MacLean 19:30
Because you even say sharp things, whether it’s corners of tables or even something sharp on our plate, we’ll adjust it just off North so that it’s not pointing right at us or whatever. Like sharp means danger, usually knives and fangs and whatever else. Claws.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 19:48
Exactly. Yeah we’re always trying to be comfortable and we’re always trying to be safe. And so yes avoiding sharp pointy seems to seems to be good. Yeah, stay away. So we do I’d avoid those. But on the other hand, those sharp and pointy things  they’re also a signifier of flavour. Of like if you look at certain kinds of sweets, like a sour candy might be more likely to be like a square shape, like a Starburst or something that has a little punch has you know angularity to it. A little sharpness. While something sweet is much more likely to be round. Like the shapes really are sort of telling us what the flavour is going to be what the taste is going to be.

Natalie MacLean 20:27
Oh my goodness. And then square versus a round glass. How did that change the taste of whisky?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 20:32
Well roundedness is. For most of us, it calls out sweetness. So like a dessert served in a round plate, we’re going to proceed that is about 15% sweeter than a dessert served on a square plate. Roundness means sweet. It makes us think of sweet. It makes us taste sweet. And so that’s why so many of our glasses are round you know to make us taste the sweetness in juice or in soda or in all these different kinds of things. So if you are trying to accentuate the sweet flavours in something round glasses are great. Or if you are trying to  like avoid this sweetness like if you’re trying to have a whisky you’re trying to get to like the deep dark heart of it. If you serve it in an angled glass in a square glass, it’s going to have a different taste. Like you’re going to experience less of the sweetness and more of the other case more the other flavours.

Natalie MacLean 21:23
The more peaty, smoky, or as you say darker tastes perhaps.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 21:26
Exactly, yeah.

Natalie MacLean 21:29
Cool. And you said that we actually will reduce our intake by about 20%, or up to 20%, with harder textured foods and smaller bites of foods versus a bigger thing, serving a food

Nell McShane Wulfhart 21:44
Texture is so important. That’s something I really didn’t know much about before I started researching this book is like how important texture is when it comes to food and also drinks. But in the thing you’re referring to, basically the more you chew on something, the more satiety you get from it. The more it feels filling. The more it feels satisfying. And that one of the ways that people have experimented with reducing the amount somebody eats is by giving them food that is literally harder to chew.

I feel like one of the things about our modern life is that a lot of our food is like prepackaged. It’s almost pre-digested.

Natalie MacLean

Yeah, pre-digested.

Nell McShane WulfhartL

ike a smoothie is how you get your. Like I said you get your vegetables or your fruits like in a smoothie. Or like or even a little packet.

Natalie MacLean

Or even chicken nuggets.

Nell McShane Wulfhart

Exactly, it really feels like that. You know white bread is soft like you know falls apart in your mouth. So if you’re looking to slow down how you eat or to get more satiety from the food on your plate, an easy way to do that is just to put more texture in the food. Like use a kind of rice that requires more chewing or a whole grain bread. These may seem obvious, but like literally the more you chew the less you eat.

Natalie MacLean 23:04
Wow. And is that because okay it slows us down. But it also takes time for the stomach to signal we’re full. You know we’re not wolfing it all down pre-digested food. We’re taking our time and therefore we get the signal with less food already in us.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 23:19
Totally. And you can think about this like a meal replacement shake, right. Like you chug it down and like four minutes, like your lunch is finished. And like it doesn’t do. Your brain has not yet registered that you’re full. It’s just like this weird sort of thing that is requires no effort on your part. No chewing. Hardly any digestion. Well, if you sat down to like a big salad or something that we’ve had like whole grains or even just chicken that has not been used the example of the nugget like torn apart and then packed back together, it will make you feel more full. It takes you longer to eat it. And I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s a nicer experience all around.

Natalie MacLean 23:57
Oh, sure. And even some of those meal replacement companies now have bars that you have to chew as opposed to the liquid drinks for that reason, right?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 24:05
I think so. Yeah. Like there’s just something that feels more satisfying about really chewing and eating something than just about like sucking it down and it’s gone. And then you’re like what do I do with the rest of my lunch hour?

Unknown Speaker 24:17
Okay, so texture again. When we’re shopping for wine, how can touch help or fool us like with say, heavier bottles or the punts, the little indents in the bottom of the bottle?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 24:29
Weight in general when it comes to serving vessels, like a wine bottle or even a bowl, that is correlated with quality in our brains. So there has been experiments done where people had like a sort of a banquet dinner and some people had sort of like lightweight, cheapest feeling cutlery and some people had sort of like three times as heavy cutlery. And the people who had the heavier cutlery enjoyed their meal so much more and they thought it was much more premium than the people who had the lightweight cutlery. So if you want to make something that kind of make something taste better and make the flavours better and make the person eating it think that it’s more expensive, put it in a heavy vessel. Like yoghurt in a heavier bowl will taste more creamy and better and more expensive than your like a plastic container. It’s just the way we think.

So when it comes to something like wine, the heaviness of the bottle is also an indicator of quality. A punt in the bottom is sort of a cheap way of figuring out if the bottle is expensive. Because you know it doesn’t. Maybe you know this better than me. As far as I could find, there was like no reason for the punt except as an indicator of like we have extra money. This is expensive. So we’re going to use more glass.  But people said oh maybe it’s good for dispersing sediment? Or maybe it’s good for storage? But I haven’t actually been able to confirm why the punt exists. Do you know?

Natalie MacLean 25:47
I don’t other than of course some servers use it. They put their thumb there in restaurants to serve the bottle so their hands aren’t all over the bottle. Because we want to show the label even as you’re pouring, hypothesis one. Hypothesis two is just I know punts are important sometimes for the pressure inside the bottle. But I think that’s more for bubbly. So I don’t know if they make the structure of the glass stronger. But that’s something I’d like to know as well. So little piece of homework there.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 26:15
Yes. If you find the answer, tell me. I would love to know because I talked to like lots of wine experts for this book. They had all different theories. No one had like a verifiable reason.

Natalie MacLean 26:24
Lots of theories. Yes.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 26:27
Yeah. But like, because it costs more money to create the punt that wine is probably going to cost more, which correlates to how much we enjoy it. Labels of course I’m sure all your listeners know this hugely important. And if you have a label that is embossed or raised in a certain way that there’s like some kind of texture to it, you’re more likely to pick up that bottle and to feel that label. And many studies have shown that from supermarkets to wine stores or pharmacies, once we pick something off the shelf we’re more likely to buy it.

Natalie MacLean 26:58
Because we’re involved with it. Yeah.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 27:01
We’re involved with it. Or like even if the way somebody’s wearing like a velvet shirt, you might go up and like stroke their arm. Like we’re just drawn to touching those kinds of things, I think. And so like I think that’s a great way to make to make people pick up more bottles of your wine, to make a label that like  it looks like it would feel good to touch it.

Natalie MacLean 27:19
Absolutely. There’s a California wine that I just had recently and it has sort of like a velvet label. And I couldn’t stop petting it. Like this is kind of I don’t know, this is weird. It felt beautiful, though.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 27:32
It feels beautiful. I tend to tell you wine and the whole bottle was having a very short velvet. The whole bottle. It was black. Like you couldn’t see what was inside the bottle but it tasted delicious. I don’t know maybe that’s why.

Natalie MacLean 27:45
Maybe it’s just setting your expectations. And before we leave heavier bottles, I should just say that it has been a trend in the wine industry to signal quality with these heavy bottles. But they have a tremendous downside impact on the environment. You know a case of wine 12 bottles can weigh 40 pounds on average. And only half of that is the liquid. It’s the biggest single footprint that wine has on the environment is the packaging and then shipping that glass. Plus, of course, there’s a shortage of the type of sand used to make glass. So really there are some reviewers who are starting to comment in tasting notes this isn’t a heavy bottle. Come on guys get with it. At least reduce the heaviness or find different packaging to that’s more environmentally friendly.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 28:32
That is so interesting to me. I think that’s fascinating. But right because we have the association of weight with quality. I mean that’s why like no matter how good the wine in the box is, people are not going to think it is as good as wine in the bottle.

When you talk about the cork versus screw top. When I talked earlier about the auditory cues that make us anticipate something. Like the sound report coming out of the bottle, you’re going to enjoy that wine more than if somebody unscrews the cap. Like because those sounds signal quality or lack of quality to us no matter how fair or unfair that is. So I totally understand that. Like, you know, people would be reluctant to stop packaging their wine and heavy bottles because there is a real association for the wine drinker with quality and heaviness.

Unknown Speaker 29:20
There is, And conversely, it’s been a hard road for premium wines to get into box formats, especially bag in box. Because they’re still that –  got one more for you –  CardBordeaux like that cheap image of the wine in the box. It’s just it’s really hard to signal that.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 29:38
Sorry, can I just ask you a question? You said especially bag in box. Is there a box wine that doesn’t have a bag inside?

Natalie MacLean 29:45
Yes. Now they’ve got what Tetra packs I’m thinking. And they’ve got inert inner packaging that doesn’t affect the taste of the wine. But yeah there’s also now bottles that are in the bottle shape but they’re made from paper or card board. They’re really freaky.

Nell McShane Wulfhart


Natalie MacLean

Yeah. And there’s even bottles now that are thin and they’re cardboard and you can fit them through traditional mail slots. So you can mail your wine. I don’t know if there are regulations on that. I’m sure there’s regulations on mailing alcohol. But package wise, they can fit through the thin mail slots of mailboxes and that sort of thing. A full bottle.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 30:24
That’s blowing my mind. I never imagined.

Natalie MacLean 30:28
I know, right, that’s the. Packaging innovation is, yeah. Aluminium cans I think are among the best environmentally because most aluminium that’s circulating in the world most of it has been around for 10 years. So it’s been recycled and recycled and recycled. Whereas Styrofoam isn’t and  lasts 1000 years, you can’t even destroy it. So you know a lot of wine is shipped with styrofoam inserts. So yeah, welcome to the packaging show, folks.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 30:59
I think packaging is also really interesting. Yeah  there’s a lot of stuff in the book. But you’re right about like aluminium being the most easily recycled thing and therefore the best thing to buy. And I even thought I’ve always been an adherent of drinking beer out of a bottle rather than can. Like I don’t like drinking things out of cans but for quality association reasons. Because it feels to be more you know expensive or quality to drink something out of glass and it does drink it out of aluminium. But I have started buying more cans and bottles now because of that recycling reason. And then I just pour it into a glass so.

Natalie MacLean 31:34
Absolutely. And of course cans are lighter to ship. They don’t expend as much fuel fossil fuels to ship them. But also I’ve heard that 90% of wine bottles are not recycled. That glass is actually not getting recycled. I don’t know if we don’t have the capacity for it or it’s too expensive to recycle it in those molten furnaces where they create glass. But yeah glass is not a good thing when it comes to wine bottles so or wine.

So you also said that food and drink labelled organic or Fairtrade is, it gives us a perception that there’s actually fewer calories or it’s better for us. In wine, the craze is for low sugar wines. But low sugar can still have just as many calories because calories come from two sources: sugar and alcohol. So what’s happening here. It’s just the health claims or better for you claims are just changing our perception of the entire product.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 32:28
They absolutely are. One of the scientists I talked to who studies it said that the way to get people not to buy something is to put a label on it that says healthy. Because people will just avoid anything that says good for you or healthy. Like it just turns people off because they don’t think it’s going to taste good. But for some reason we associate the words yeah like organic or all natural with healthier not just for reasons of you know pesticides or things like that. But we think it’s you know lowering calories when it gets lower in sugar. There was one study where people thought that a pack of Oreos labelled organic were like lower calorie than regular Oreos. Or they think food that is low salt has fewer calories. But salt doesn’t have any calories right. Just perceptions created by these words. And you can totally see that. To even to go back to packaging for a second. Like there’s a real trend in food packaging now to make the packaging clear whether it’s like a protein bar or a box of granola with a clear panel on the front. Like there’s this idea that transparency means healthy. And all the various ways we can interpret that word.

Natalie MacLean 33:34
Right Just like green used to or maybe still does feels fresh and healthy.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 33:39
Exactly. Exactly like that. Yeah so those like associations are again they’re all in our brain. And if you read you really have to train yourself to read the label if you’re looking for food to fit a specific profile, because the words of the front of it are meaningless. In terms of like things like you know calories or sweetness really. Organic definitely has a meaning but I also think it’s like pretty fluid meaning and people use that word a lot when comes to wine in a way that does not feel consistent, I guess.

Natalie MacLean 34:12
Exactly. Because there’s organically grown grapes is different from organically made wine. In the winery, there still can be lots of chemicals and additives and all the rest of it. And the other thing you notice that when we get one of these products that we think is healthier for us sometimes we compensate by eating or drinking more of it. I know people do with the low alcohol wines. Oh I can have an extra glass or whatever. And I guess perhaps up to a certain extent you know you want to just have a certain amount of alcohol by volume units. But I think we often overcompensate when we perceive that the product is better for us.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 34:47
100% and you know people should eat or drink as much as they want. Like you know there’s no value attached to eating or drinking less or more. But yeah I think there absolutely is something that happens. And especially people who are you know things are like on a diet ate or on some kind of restriction where they’re like rewarding themselves with more of a thing. People don’t want to feel deprived is something that I learned when I was researching this book. And that’s sort of where the texture comes back into it. That like if you have something that you eat very quickly like because it’s smooth it does require a lot of chewing like you often feel sort of deprived, like where’s my meal, like, I don’t feel full. While if you’re chewing through something, even if that thing has like fewer calories or like you know lower fat or lower sugar. If it takes you a while to get through it and you’re doing a lot of chewing, you feel that sense of you don’t feel deprived. You feel satiated. And that’s like honestly the most important thing. Like people are not good at feeling deprived or sort of shortchanged, which I think is why they might have two packets of the low calorie thing or two glasses of the low alcohol wine. Like we don’t want to feel cheated in any way.

Natalie MacLean 35:50
No, that’s true. My mom was on and off Weight Watchers diet meal plan as I was growing up. And my favourite memories was she would buy the tray, large tray of Weight Watchers brownies and together we’d eat it all.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 36:05
Exactly. Right. Exactly. Yes.Yes. Precisely.

Natalie MacLean 36:10
Kind of defeats the purpose. But I was also fascinated. You said sensory or smell aroma marketing is increasingly important in fields outside of food and drink. So tell us what Lowe’s, the hardware store is doing, and Singapore Airlines.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 36:24
This to me is so amazing. Like if you walk into a Lowe’s probably Home Depot too like any of those sort of big box DIY stores, you’ll often smell like freshly sawn wood. But there’s nobody in the shop who is sawing wood. Like there’s no heap of freshly sawn wood. There’s no lumber. There’s nothing like that. It’s just gives you the impression of you know wholesomeness of DIY of like something fresh and people doing something that feels very service-y.

And Singapore Airlines was the same – actually, a lot of airlines I think do this now – scent marketing is a huge industry. But Singapore Airlines, they created a signature scent. They sprayed it in their planes, in their lounges, on the flight attendants, like on the face towels, like it was a light and not something overpowering. But definitely the sort of thing where once you smelled it, you would be like oh right Singapore Airlines. And you know there’s a lot of hotels like a Western hotel will smell like every other Western hotel in the world because they have developed like a particular signature scent and they use it and candles or you know essential oils or whatever. And just like triggers a certain impression. I don’t know.

Natalie MacLean 37:36
That’s fascinating. Yeah. And how did aroma marketing backfire when I think it was some bakeries tried to entice customers with pumping out the smell of freshly baked cookies?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 37:45
Yeah, I thought this was great because I always think of the example of like a Cinnabon. You walk into a mall, if those still exists. L ike you smell that cinnamon, you smell the Cinnabon. You’re like, for a second, you’re like oh my God I must have cinnamon roll. I mean you smell it for a while longer like (a) you stop noticing the smell. (b) and the craving kind of goes away. So it’s that same thing we talked about earlier about how your receptors get dulled. Like they get used to the smell to the aroma.

So some supermarkets did an experiment where they sort of pumped the smell from the bakery like of doughnuts or cakes into the air, thinking that customers would then go and like buy a lot more of these products. But what happened is that like some people did, but when you’re in the supermarket, you’re there for more than just like two minutes. You’re shopping. Uou’re doing all your things. And after two minutes, that’s sort of like smell that attraction, that aroma, it kind of wears off for you a little bit. And also you know you have more time to sort of think like do I really want a donut? You know, or do I want to just like, buy this bag of apples. So it’s like a very delicate thing to play with. I think scent you know everyone’s familiar with experience of going to a restaurant somebody’s wearing too much cologne or too much perfume and lik  you can’t eat your food anymore. Like it ruins the experience. So I think scent and aromas are so interesting and they’re really fun to play with. But like you’re on a knife’s edge if you’re doing too much and too little.

Natalie MacLean 39:06
They’re primal and another nasty smell you notice. Some company sent out their bills with man’s sweat. Why did they do that? What were they trying to achieve?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 39:17
Maybe a utility company. I can’t remember what kind of bills they were sending out. But they sent their bills in the mail to customers who owed them money. And there was some experiment where they sprayed them with sort of like an almost like a testosterone smell like essentially man sweat. And supposedly the people who receive those bills that had been sprayed with this man sweat paid the bills more promptly than people who received scentless bills, because maybe they were envisioning some like hulking, sweaty man coming to the door to collect the money. Either way, there’s something about that scent was like triggering them to take a certain kind of action. I mean, it would be manipulated really but wow. Apparently, it worked.

Natalie MacLean 39:56
I’m wondering if we could do that in the wine world. Like get the sense of an expensive French wine maker and spray your cheaper bottle of wine. No, it probably wouldn’t work anyway. That is all just so fascinating. Now I could go on and on asking you more. We’ll have to talk again. But as we wrap up now  is there something we haven’t covered that you wanted to mention?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 40:20
I think we covered a lot of this, there’s much more of all these things in the book, and people can check it out on Audible if they want. I guess I would just encourage people to think more about perception versus reality, and think about how the packaging on something or the heft of something influences the way they’re experiencing the flavour of it. Not to say it should be done in a certain way or not. But just for the sheer fun of it. Like these things are really fun to play with. The playlists, the shape of the bowl, or the shape of the bowl and the shape of the plate. Like all these things to mess around with them and realize how different the flavours are. Its fun to do. So I encourage people to go out and do that.

Natalie MacLean 41:02
It’s fun to do. And it’s a richer life, I think. You know I used to feel guilty writing about wine. It’s like not a doctor. I’m not saving anybody. I’m helping the helpless rich or whatever. But you know, we work hard for pleasure. And so do the people who read us. You want to heighten those experiences as much as you can to just simply enjoy life. That’s what makes it worth living, I think.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 41:28
100%. I like to maximize pleasure and the things we get pleasure out of. It’s always a goal of mine, you know.

Natalie MacLean 41:33
Exactly. And then we don’t end up seeking too much pleasure because we’re getting satisfaction from what we have and what we’re enjoying. And so that doesn’t lead us down another path of whatever abuse, over eating, over drinking that sort of thing.

Nell McShane Wulfhart

Yeah, totally.

Natalie MacLean

So where can people buy your books?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 41:49

Off Menu is available on Audible. It’s an audio original. So it’s only an audio book. There’s no print version. If you have an Audible subscription, it’s actually made it as part of a subscription package. So it’s free to download. If you have an audible subscription, it’s easy just to download Off Menu. If not, you can go to Audible and buy it from them. The Great Stewardess Rebellion is available wherever you buy books. There’s also an audio version and Kindle version or whatever. You know. Amazon, indie bookstore, Yeah.

Natalie MacLean 42:21
Awesome. And thank you again for offering three audiobooks of Off Menu to listeners who email me [email protected]. Just let me know you want to win. So you don’t have to have the Audible subscription. And how can we get in touch with you online? Where can we find you online, Nell?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 42:40
Easiest place is probably my website. I’m on Twitter NellMWulfhart. Instagram, NellMW. Although I’m very lazy about posting.

Natalie MacLean 42:53
That’s okay, you’re very busy person.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 42:55
Email is the easiest way to find me. And all those contact details are on my website.

Natalie MacLean 42:59
Great. And we’ll link to that in the show notes. And so as I mentioned at the top of the show, in addition to being an author, you’re also a decision coach. You help people make important choices, not just on food and drink but whether they should get married or get a new job. So can listeners also find out about working with you as a decision coach on your website?

Nell McShane Wulfhart 43:19
Sure, yeah. And as you can tell from the subject matter of the two books I’ve written, I’ve interested in a lot of different things. And one of the things that I’m doing for almost 10 years is literally decision coaching. Just I only offer one thing, which is like one session in which I help people make a difficult decision. Something that’s been fun

Natalie MacLean

I love that.

Nell McShane Wulfhart

Whether it’s a move, or a marriage or somebody contacted me recently to decide whether they should get a tattoo removed. I just helped a couple pick a baby name. It’s you know, people who are generally pretty decisive but they get hung up on one thing. So I just do that for a long time. And that website is is anyone needs help.

Natalie MacLean 43:58
Well, we’ll put that in the show notes as well now. Well, thank you so much. This is one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had about food and drink in a long time. I would love to have Part Two with you a date in the future. If you’re willing.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 44:11
Sounds great. I could talk about this stuff for hours. I think it is fascinating.

Natalie MacLean 44:15
We could just make like Part Two packaging. Part Three like

Nell McShane Wulfhart 44:21
Totally. There’s so much here. Yeah, I agree.

Natalie MacLean 44:25
There is. All right. Thanks, Nell. I’ll say goodbye for now.

Nell McShane Wulfhart 44:28
Thank you so much for having me.

Natalie MacLean

Take care. Bye bye.

Natalie MacLean 44:37
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Nell. Here are my takeaways. Number one, I love finding out how the shape of a restaurant table impacts how much we eat, and how long we stay at a restaurant, which generally those two are related. And there’s really some interesting similarities with the shape of our plates and how that changes our perception of the food we’re eating. Two, I also found it interesting that I can use my music playlist to complement my menu, even change the perceived taste of my food. And three, I like knowing which types of songs can make my wine taste more acidic.

In the show notes, you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with Nell, links to her website and books, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free Ultimate Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. That’s all in the show notes at Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or would like to win one of three copies of the audiobook Off Menu or would like to be a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected].

If you missed episode 57 go back and take a listen. I chat about the etiquette of BYOB, bringing your own bottle of wine, to a restaurant. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Natalie MacLean 46:06
What does BYOB, bring your own bottle, to a restaurant really mean? What special laws and etiquette do you need to know about it? Which provinces and states allow it? How does BYOB benefit you as a wine lover aside from reducing your restaurant bill? And how should you calculate the tip when you bring your own wine? That’s exactly what you’ll learn on today’s episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast.

Natalie MacLean 46:43
If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wines, tips, and stories we shared. You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Lawrence Francis, host of the Interpreting Wine podcast. Lawrence is actually interviewing me and I have lots of juicy stories and tips to share with you. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine that tastes even more zesty, lest I say acidic, because of the song you’re listening to.

Natalie MacLean 47:24
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Meet me here next week. Cheers.