‘Synaesthesia’ is a neurological condition in which some people experience one of the senses, through another. For example, great American jazz man Duke Ellington and Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, both experienced musical notes as colours.
‘Oenesthesia’ is a term coined to describe the widespread belief that people unwittingly match music to the tastes, aromas and flavours of wine. So being the scientific-minded, tennis-playing community that we are, last Saturday 22nd July, Collaroy Tennis Club set out to prove or disprove the theory that music can change the flavour of wine. And we did!
Some 50 club members and their friends gathered at the Milestone Events function centre at North Head for The Great Mid-Winter Wine Experiment.
The format was relatively simple…
Participants tasted four different wines – a Trentham Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and a Killerman’s Run Riesling and Shiraz from the famous Kilikanoon Clare Valley Winery.
For each tasting, participants sipped the wines with no music playing, then with one song in the background and finally with a 2nd piece of music playing. People were asked to describe how the wine tasted under each condition and these descriptions were submitted online, analysed by Collaroy’s resident ‘Annalyst’, Anna C. from the bunker, then sent through to Manly to be instantly announced.
The results were amazing! What we proved was that the music we listen to while sipping wine can change the flavor and our enjoyment of the wine. And that the descriptions of the wine that people submitted, matched music that could be similarly described.
So for example, the majority of us enjoyed the Chardonnay more to the accompaniment of The Beach Boys’ ‘California Girls’, the wine tasting more “light and upbeat” than when no music was playing when it was described simply as “fresh and fruity” … or when we were listening to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, which made even a Chardonnay taste “heavy and powerful”.
Similarly, our tasting of the Riesling was enhanced with Pharrell Williams’ famous song playing in the background, participants describing the wine as “bright and happy” while we were listening to ‘Happy’. (Coincidence? I don’t think so.)
The Pinot Noir had an even split between people who thought it tasted “romantic and sexy” when Peggy Lee was singing ‘Fever’ as opposed to “complex and forceful” when The Doors sang ‘People Are Strange’. And finally, the Shiraz was thought by most of us to be “heavy and powerful” while Carmina Burana by Dorff was playing, while we found it more “romantic and sexy” when Marvin Gaye was singing about his favourite method of healing. (Go figure!)
Our hosts Miles and Jane Blackwell served canapes on arrival together with free Limoncello Spritz cocktails for those who booked early. A delectably decadent dinner followed that included platters of:
- Slow cooked lamb shoulder cooked in Mediterranean spices with lentil tabouli, roasted sweet potatoes served with tzatziki
- Whole baked sides of Atlantic salmon with a lime, coconut ginger and lemongrass sauce
- Caramel and five spice slow cooked Pork Shoulder served with an Asian style salad
This was followed by a selection of delicious desserts.
Music was provided throughout the night by a trio of wicked looking DJs seen here with, (who else?), Gareth. Belen and Delfina were from Argentina and Eva was from Spain. (No expense spared for Collaroy members!) There was a touch of Macbeth about the girls… ‘Double, double, toil and trouble, music helps us drink our bubbles’.
The dance floor was packed from the moment the experiment was completed until the last song was played some time after 11pm. Notable dance stars included Samantha in shocking pink, Justine and Tony, Anna and Gareth, Warren and Miyako, Glenn’s wife Robyn, Maria, Belinda and Cathy, Garry and Julie and Kim and Stephen.
And our own Chris added to the night’s entertainment, breaking out some quality karaoke vocals that had the crowd cheering. (A karaoke night just could be our next social event… ‘The Voice Collaroy’?)
Meantime, Mark kept the bar staff gainfully employed throughout the evening.
Wine + Music Recommendations
What a night! In general, here are some take-outs from the experiment that will improve your wine drinking experience at home:
- White Wines like happy music – Reds not so much
- Chardonnays become more fruity and brighter when listening to fun, up tempo music
- Pinots like slower, sexy music
- Heavier bodied reds like powerful, even ‘angry’ music with lots of bass.
Well done Team!
Special Thanks from the Club President
“I just wanted to thank everyone who came to The Great Mid-Winter Wine Experiment last Saturday evening. Everyone had a great time exploring how the taste of different wines can change when accompanied by different music.
“These events require a lot of work. I would like to express my deep appreciation to our dedicated members, Dave Keogh and Anna C., for running the event so well. Dave did a wonderful job as MC, organising the DJs, promoting the event, etc. And the ever-present Anna (if this time in spirit only), took the time to crunch the survey results at home in real time and send them back to Dave to report to the room.
“Our accolades must also go to another member, Miles Blackwell of Milestone Events and his wife Jane, who stylishly decorated the venue and our tables and orchestrated a delightful evening for us. Miles and Jane provided a sumptuous winter feast, with delectable wines, all served by very professional staff. I have used Milestone Catering at home and this was further proof of the excellent service they provide and the functions they run. I’d highly recommend the venue for any special occasions your family may have coming up. (Now where did I put the Pinot Noir?)”
– Vito, Collaroy Tennis Club President