Music speaks to the emotions, affecting the mood by sparking excitement or conjuring memories with tonality, rhythm, harmony, tempo and timbre. Imagine, then, how it might influence the way we perceive drinks – can it make them taste better? To find out, we sought the help of three experts.
TASTE THE MELODY
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A growing number of studies and research indicate that what we hear can affect the way we taste food and drink. As a result, when simultaneously listening to music and drinking the things we enjoy, a powerfully positive and hedonic experience can occur. It can even go so far as to enhance the taste, highlighting or suppressing characteristics and influencing the perceived flavour.
One study in particular, by Oxford University, has shown that people can get 15 percent more pleasure from wine when they listen to the right kind of music while drinking. It also claims that sweet wines tend to pair better with a slow tempo and an even rhythm, such as soft piano music, while more acidic wines pair well with music that’s fast and high-pitch; salty wines, on the other hand, often go well with brass instruments.
According to Olivier Krug, director of the French champagne house Krug, “Music is a universal language that opens a gateway to the sensations. It’s proven that sound impacts taste perception, and music has the power to reveal a myriad of dimensions through the sensorial experience that comes with every sip of Krug champagne.”
The maison’s relationship with music runs deep, dating back more than a century. Krug, a sixth-generation member of the founding family, explains, “Since the House’s foundation in 1843, we’ve continuously sought new ways to enrich the tasting experience of our champagnes. In 1920, after World War I, Joseph Krug II inaugurated the first private music room at the Krug family house in Reims. Today, we keep this tradition alive by welcoming guests from around the world into the Krug Music Yurt, in the garden beside the family house.”
He tells us about the project that brings it all together. “Krug Echoes is an immersive world of music-pairing experiences. Each year the house invites composers, musicians, and immersive sound artists to an extended tasting of Krug champagnes. Inspired by the flavours on their palates, these artists select pieces of music or create original compositions – their Krug Echoes – which translate into sound the sensations they felt and how they connected to the experience.”
At Rosewood Hong Kong’s DarkSide bar, beverage manager Simone Rossi thinks the relationship between music and cocktails is clear – thus the live bands playing sultry jazz. He says, “Music and atmosphere definitely have an impact on our mood, which can also influence tasting and the overall experience.”
“Music can absolutely affect the way we taste wine – or anything in fact,” agrees Camille Glass, the restaurateur, head sommelier at Brut! and co-founder of Crushed Wines. “We’re always influenced by our environment. The profile of a wine is obviously not going to change depending on where you are or what you’re listening to, but the way that you interpret it will.”
At Brut!, a wide range of music is played that reflects the energy in the room. “We tend to start off real slow with some electro-jazz or alternative R&B like Banks. Towards the end of the night, when things get a little bit more energetic, we’ll move into funk or hip hop, even a bit of Harry Styles. Nas is also always a good idea.”
As to the kind of music that goes down well with drinks, it can be highly personal. “There’s no right or wrong way to connect with music … There’s no perfect pairing,” says Krug, whose Krug Echoes music project was created to match the tasting experience, not the other way around. “The artists translate their sensations of the tasting experience into music.”
Much like Krug, Rossi also believes there’s no perfect cocktail and music pairing; instead, it’s the overall vibe, including music, that matters. “All places have their own atmosphere, music and entertainment direction,” he says. “Once a great ambience is achieved and people are having fun, well, that’s the perfect match to pair with the cocktails.”
Glass, however, feels the taste of a particular wine can pair well with certain music and put you in the right mood. “If you’re drinking a funky, unfiltered orange wine, then listening to a tune by James Brown could be a whole lot of fun.”
Having said that, she adds that for her it can even set the scene. “When I drink wine, I’m transported to a memory, such as a barbecue in the summertime and the music that’s played at that type of occasion seems particularly appropriate. So when I’m curating the playlist at Brut!, I’m looking for tunes that match the type of occasion a wine takes me to.”
Whether or not you believe music can enhance your drinking experience, the best way to test it is to try. Below, we’ve prepared playlists for wine, cocktails and champagne, so you really can try to taste the music.
Wine: Saboteur, Luddite
Music: Lovesick by Banks
This deep red is a slow-to-open and moody wine with bags of black fruit, leather, tobacco and spice — it’s the bottled version of the song itself, which is all about good old-fashioned romantic pining.
Wine: I’m your Huckleberry, The Vineyard Party
Music: Easily by Red Hot Chilli Peppers
A bright orange wine with texture on the palate and a smack of lemon on the nose. You’ll also get a hint of salt, as if you’re driving along the California coast. It’s similar on the palate to John Frusciante’s guitar detail in this song.
Wine: Soufflé d’Étoiles Grand Cru Extra Brut, Champagne Lamiable
Music: Sunflower Vol 6 by Harry Styles
It’s a sunny, lovesick song with a ton of bouncy synthesiser in the background. The pour is fresh and citrussy with bags of fragrant yellow fruit. The perfect fit for this song.
Krug Grande Cuvée 170ème Édition by American artist Kris Bowers
It starts with an explosion that continues, unrelentingly, until the finish. To match the complexity of the champagne, the music winds through various key centres, twisting and turning, but at the same time is very natural and melodic.
Krug Rosé 26ème Édition by French music duo Grand Soleil
For Krug Rosé, Grand Soleil sought to express sweet madness that irremediably encourages dancing. Fully electronic, their composition is tailored for the party.
Krug 2008 by Belgian singer, composer and 3D music pioneer Ozark Henry
A story of harmonious intensity, complementarity and contrast, Ozark Henry takes on Krug 2008 and composes “The Persistence of Memory”. The music echoes the steady, balanced story of the year and the exquisite champagne born from it.
Discover the music at krug.com
Cocktail: Martini VS Vesper
Music: James Bond Theme by John Barry
Inspired by James Bond’s drink of choice, this cocktail is made with vodka or gin before it’s shaken, not stirred, with vermouth and peach bitters. Naturally, it’s paired with the highly dramatic James Bond theme song to get you in the mood for a slick and seductive evening.
Cocktail: The New Moon
Music: Fly Me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra
This cocktail, from DarkSide’s Moon menu, which draws inspiration from lunar phases, is best paired with one of the crooner’s best-known songs. Much like the song, the drink is mingled with whisky, Italian bitters and aromatic marsala wine for a crescendo that flies you, well, to the moon.
Cocktail: La Louisienne
Music: New Orleans by Gary US Bonds
Combining rye whisky with vermouth and a fresh kick of absinthe, Benedictine and Peychaud’s bitter, La Louisenne is a slightly sweet and spiced cocktail that evokes the fiery spirit of New Orleans to get you in the mood for dancing.
Top image from Krug Echoes