The effect of music on wine tasting

by | Oct 18, 2019 | South Africa Wine Scan

Italian researchers did a study on the effect of music on the taste of wine. The motivation for such a study is valid since it is well documented and researched that taste can be a multi-sensory phenomenon. However, how these scientists went about researching this phenomenon is rather entertaining.


  • Eleven women and 19 men with a mean age of 29.8 years were used as tasters of two different wines while two different types of music (or no music) played.
  • These participants were unaware of the purpose of the experiment.
  • The one wine was a Chardonnay and the second wine was a homemade Merlot (made apparently by using a crusher).
  • The wines were served to the participants in plastic cups (Eish!)
  • BOTH white and red wine (40 ml per tasting) was served at 5°C.
  • Three music variables were used: “peppy and lively, polished and no music.” (peppy adjective = lively and high-spirited)
  • To represent the “peppy” song, Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t stop the feeling” was used.
  • To represent “polished” music “Turkish March” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was used.
  • The speaker volume of the computer where the music originated from was set to 28 (for what it’s worth).
  • Participants listened to the music through headphones.
  • The music played for three minutes and the participants had to taste their 40 ml during the middle minute.
  • Participants had to evaluate the wine on the following attributes on a 1-10 scale: sparkling, refreshing, delicate, refined, sweet, sour, alcoholic and pleasant.
  • Complicated statistical analysis were performed on the results.


  • When listening to Justin Timberlake as opposed to no music or Mozart, the Merlot tasted less alcoholic.
  • The researchers observed the wines to be “quite straight” at 5°C (not sure what to make of this observation…)
  • Mozart increased the delicate and sweet attributes in Chardonnay.
  • Music did not necessarily increase the liking of the wines much, but there seemed to have been a tad more appreciation for the homemade Merlot with the peppy music.


The researchers proceeded to make some recommendations based on these findings. First they did acknowledge some of the (numerous) limitations of the study such as the plastic cups and the 5°C for serving the red wine (resulting in it being “very straight”). The researchers suggest that traders of wine can increase their sales by “broadcasting high-volume pop music” during consumption. (Clubs and bars choosing pop instead of classical music seem to be on the right track, so to speak…).  The researchers also concluded that further research is needed where it is probably better to play the music through a “stereo” instead of headphones to be more representative of reality.


Despite the many limitations of this study there is merit in paying attention to the type of music one selects to pair with wine consumption, for instance in restaurants and winery tasting rooms. The consumer wants an experience. I have often sat in restaurants where I thought to myself that the turnover of the restaurant will probably double if the owner paid more attention to the music. If you enjoy what you are seeing (a decent shape wine glass and not El-Cheapo from the nearest Checkers) and what you are hearing (whether it is Wolfgang or Justin), chances are better that your tasting experience and willingness to pay for wine will be enhanced.

To protect the researchers from my opinion the reference is only available upon request.


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