It’s all about the bass

by | Dec 18, 2019 | South Africa Wine Scan

The aim of the study was to determine if low frequency sounds can influence wine tasters’ perception of body (mouthfeel), aromatic intensity and acidity.


  • 50 people took part in the main study, 25 in Oxford in the UK and 25 in Sydney Australia. Participants comprised 18 males and 32 females. Their ages were between 22 and 73 years. They had different levels of wine tasting expertise.
  • Both groups of participants tasted identical wines under identical circumstances.
  • Two wines were tasted: the 2015 Torres Sangre de Toro (Garnacha from Spain) and the 2015 Brancott Estate Letter Series “T” Marlborough Pinot noir from New Zealand. Both wines were described, though professional sensory assessment, to be medium bodied and medium in aromatic intensity.
  • 20 mL measurements were given to participants in dark glasses in randomised order in a quiet room. The participants went in one at a time. Participants were given basic training prior to the experiment on what was meant with higher and medium ratings on the 9 point scale they were expected to use.
  • Participants had to taste each wine during the two minutes that a high, low or no tone was played over headphones. The tones were presented as sine waves with a low base frequency of 100Hz and high frequency of 1000Hz.
  • Participants completed an electronic survey on a computer using a 9 point scale to rate each wine’s aroma, acidity, body and overall liking.


  • The Garnacha was rated higher in aromatic intensity at the 100 Hz low tone when compared to the high tone. This was not observed for the Pinot noir.
  • The Pinot noir was rated significantly more full-bodied at the low tone when compared to the high tone and silence. This was not observed for the Garnacha.
  • Acidity perception was enhanced in both wines at the higher frequency tone.
  • The Pinot noir was better liked than the Garnacha in general.


In order to avoid sonic influence, ISO 8598 (2007) guidelines advise that noise levels should be kept at a minimum in rooms designed for formal sensory analysis of products. Yet music is played during some wine competitions, which could end up influencing the wine scores. However in the case of more informal, entertainment-based consumer events, music can be used to enhance consumer moods and the overall ambience, leading to a more positive wine tasting / drinking experience. This is known as sonic seasoning.


Burzynska J, Wang QJ, Spence C, Bastian SEP. Taste the Bass: Low frequencies increase the perception of body and aromatic intensity in red wine. Multisensory Research. 2019 Jan; 32(4-5):429-454.

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