Music and Wine Pairing: Cabernet in C Major

On CTV’s The Social yesterday, we had so much fun pairing wine and music.

This was also the topic on CTV News with Leanne further below.

Welcome back. Would you add heavy metal music to your playlist if someone told you it’d make your wine taste better? Well, our next guest says it’s something you should consider because a growing body of research suggests music may influence the way our brain interprets the flavour of wine.

Natalie MacLean is the editor of Canada’s largest wine review site and she’s here to put that theory to the test. Welcome back, Natalie.

Some people might think this idea is a bit of a stretch so tell us how music can influence the taste of wine.



· If food, glassware, ambient temperature, perfume, and the people sitting next to you, all influence the taste of wine, why wouldn’t music? It really comes down to ambiance and context.
· For example, (play accordion music) a British professor discovered through research that people were five times more likely to buy French than German wine if this music was playing in the background.
· On the contrary (play oompah music), if this music played in the grocery store, the German product outsold the French product by two to one.
· It’s part of an emerging field called neuromarketing where companies use technologies to measure changes in biometrics to learn which brain areas are responsible for the decisions consumers make.
· According to research by Prof. Charles Spence at Oxford, we have five senses but they’re not all siloed. The experiences overlap so some people “see” musical notes as colours.


Fascinating! Okay, we wanted to put this theory to the test so c’mon over here, Natalie. We’re going to do a little wine and music tasting. Each station represents a different genre of music and there are two different types of wine at each station. When the music starts playing, we’ll try each wine and then pick the one we think pairs best with that style of music. Keep in mind, we’re not necessarily picking the wine we like the best – we’re picking the wine we think pairs the best with each genre.

My station is hip hop but before I try the wine, tell me what you’ve put in front of me, Natalie.


· This first wine is a Moschofilero from Greece. You’re going to taste lots of melon with the white.
· The second wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Southern Australia. You’ll get aromas of cassis, black currant and wild blackberry.





Lindemans Gentleman’s Collection Cabernet Sauvignon
South Australia, Australia





Alright, play me some hip hop music and let’s see what happens.

You know what? I think the Cabernet pairs best with hip hop. Am I correct, Natalie?

· WINNER: Cabernet Sauvignon from Southern Australia
· The Cabernet is a full-bodied Australian red. It has firm tannins so it pairs really well with the narrative structure of the hip hop. Tannins is the backbone, it’s the thumping heart or beat of a wine.
· The Greek Boutari, on the other hand, is a very floral, fresh white wine. It’s delicate and light so it doesn’t pair well with the strong centre beat of hip hop. It gets clobbered.

My turn, Natalie. I’m so excited to try this out. My station is classical music so let’s start with the wines I have here.

· The first wine is a Gruner Veltliner from Austria. You’re going to get aromas of lime zest with this one.







Weingut Pfaffl Haidvertel Gruner Veltliner
Weinviertel D.A.C., Austria







· The second wine is a Malbec from Argentina. It has a lot of fruit character like fleshy, black plum.







Trapiche Pure Black Unoaked Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina






Okay, let’s hear some classical music.

I’m going to pick the Gruner with the classical music.


· WINNER: Gruner Veltliner from Austria
· This Old World Austrian white has angular good lines which match perfectly with classical music. It’s crisp, clean and fresh. It’s well designed with nice angles.
· The New World (and new style) Argentine malbec is lip-smacking and, although delicious, is better matched with full, rounded, smooth music notes. You don’t get a spring-like feeling with this wine. It pairs with paper cups from the gas station, it’s more accessible.




Make your way over here, Natalie. This is about to get interesting because my station is heavy metal. Before we give our ears an awakening, tell me what I’m about to try.






Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé
Languedoc, Midi A.P., France




· The first wine is a Cote des Rosé from Southern France. You’ll notice a dry taste with little field strawberries.
· The second wine is a California Zinfandel. You’re going to taste juicy black and purple plums with this one.




You guys ready for this? Okay, let’s see what my brain on heavy metal says to my tastebuds.

Hmm. I think I like the Zinfandel with heavy metal.

· WINNER: California Zinfandel

· The big, full-bodied California Zinfandel with supple aromas and flavours pairs perfectly with heavy metal music.






Joel Gott Zinfandel
California, United States





· This rosé is just too delicate for this genre of music. It’s overpowered. It’s like slapping a peppery steak on this wine. Don’t be mean to the wine. Wine has feelings, too.


Last one, Natalie. We’re going to take a trip to the Appalachians because I’ve got bluegrass music. What are my wine choices?

· The first glass of wine is a Taittinger Champagne from France. This one will have flavours of green apple and Asian pear.






Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne
Champagne A.O.C., France





· The second glass is a Jackson-Triggs Chardonnay. This one is buttery like homemade baked bread.






Jackson-Triggs Reserve Chardonnay
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada





I’m ready to hear some bluegrass.

I think I’m going to say the Champagne pairs best with bluegrass. Am I right?


· WINNER: JT Chardonnay

· The JT is local and homegrown. It’s a comfortable, easy going wine like your favourite pair of jeans. It fits perfectly with bluegrass.

· Whereas, the champagne is special occasion wine. Again, it’s all about ambience with wine. If you want to put rhinestones on your jeans, then maybe it’ll pair a little better.

This was so much fun, Natalie. Thanks for joining us today. Alright, if you want to test out this theory yourself, why not grab some wine and tune in to the iHeart Radio MMVAs on Sunday, June 18th at 9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific right here on CTV. I have a feeling Iggy Azalea will pair perfectly with my Australian Cab Sauv.





Leanne and I chat about pairing wine and music.

Click on the arrow to play the video.

More information about the wine auction here.



“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.

Jim Cuddy, lead singer and guitarist of the band Blue Rodeo, agrees, and now even has his own winery Cuddy by Tawse, along with other musicians, including Sting, Madonna and Mike Hucknall (Simply Red, though his wine is named as such … lost branding opportunity).

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.








Ode to Joy, Beethoven

Featherstone Joy Premium Cuvée Sparkling Rosé
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada










Vivaldi’s Spring

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, New Zealand











Stravinsky Rites of Spring

Loimer Langenlois Gruner Veltliner
Kamptal DAC, Austria











Walking on Sunshine Katrina and the Waves

Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc Rosé
Pays d’Oc, Midi I.G.P., France










​Oscar Peterson Jazz

Georges Duboeuf Hob Nob Pinot Noir
Languedoc IGT, France










Islands in the Stream – Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

Folie à Deux Zinfandel 2013
California, United States










Red, Red Wine UB40

Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
Aconcagua Valley, Chile









Dr. Spence Presentation at Google

Professor Charles Spence, head of the Cross-modal Research Laboratory at Oxford University, joins me on the Supper Sipper Club tonight.

We’ll chat about about how different senses affect our taste and perception of wine, especially when it comes to music and wine pairing.

Dr. Charles Spence – excerpt from Oxford University website below

Dr. Spence is interested in how people perceive the world around them. In particular, how our brains manage to process the information from each of our different senses (such as smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch) to form the extraordinarily rich multi-sensory experiences that fill our daily lives.

His research focuses on how a better understanding of the human mind will lead to the better design of multisensory foods, products, interfaces, and environments in the future. His research calls for a radical new way of examining and understanding the senses that has major implications for the way in which we design everything from household products to mobile phones, and from the food we eat to the places in which we work and live.


Photo courtesy of Fine Dining Lovers


Over the years, Charles has consulted for a number of multinational companies advising on various aspects of multisensory design, packaging, and branding. He has also conducted research on human-computer interaction issues on the Crew Work Station on the European Space Shuttle.

Charles and his group are currently working on problems associated with the design of foods that maximally stimulate the senses (together with Heston Blumenthal, chef of The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray).


Dr. Charles Spence TedX Talk

His group also has a very active line of research on the design of auditory, tactile, and multisensory warning signals for drivers and other interface operators (together with Toyota). Charles is also interested in the effect of the indoor environment on mood, well-being, and performance (together with ICI).



Photo courtesy of Fine Dining Lovers


Charles has published over 500 articles in top-flight scientific journals over the last 15 years. Charles has been awarded the 10th Experimental Psychology Society Prize, the British Psychology Society: Cognitive Section Award, the Paul Bertelson Award, recognizing him as the young European Cognitive Psychologist of the Year, and, most recently, the prestigious Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, not to mention the 2008 IG Nobel prize for nutrition, for his groundbreaking work on the ‘sonic crisp’!





Posted with permission from CTV.






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