Thursday, May 15, 2008

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You've got your music in my alcohol! Well, you've got your alcohol in my music...

Music 'can enhance wine taste'

~ BBC News

Who knew? Listening to certain types of music might affect how you regard the taste of what you’re drinking. Wait, did I say “who knew?” I think I meant “duh.”

Now, I’m no wine aficionado. Oh, I like the stuff and have plenty of bottles around the house (heavy on Champagne, malbec from Argentina, and old vine California zinfandels), but those who know me know what’re really bending the shelves are bottles of spirits — whiskeys, rums, brandies, gins, and liqueurs from around the world.

So I was tickled to see a BBC News article about a study from Heriot Watt University that suggests that playing certain types of music for university students affects their appreciation of certain wines.

The marketing implications are interesting. Professor Adrian North said "Wine manufacturers could recommend that while drinking a certain wine, you should listen to a certain sort of music." Montes Wines (known in part for its eccentric playing of monastic chants to maturing wine) even provided music recommendations for the article:
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: All Along The Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix), Honky Tonk Woman (Rolling Stones), Live And Let Die (Paul McCartney and Wings), Won't Get Fooled Again (The Who)
  • Chardonnay: Atomic (Blondie), Rock DJ (Robbie Williams), What's Love Got To Do With It (Tina Turner), Spinning Around (Kylie Minogue)
  • Syrah: Nessun Dorma (Puccini), Orinoco Flow (Enya), Chariots Of Fire (Vangelis), Canon (Johann Pachelbel)
  • Merlot: Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (Otis Redding), Easy (Lionel Ritchie), Over The Rainbow (Eva Cassidy), Heartbeats (Jose Gonzalez)

Me? I’ve always found pairing music and drink to “enhance” appreciation is a bit of a no-brainer. Some music just fits with certain drinks and elevates the entire experience of drinking them (ethnopharmacologists, when considering the expectations and surroundings of consumers, might refer to this as the "set and setting"). With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I'd like you to consider some options:

  • Who are you going to listen to with that snifter of Armagnac when the lights go down low? Barry White’s Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe or Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law?
  • For that sidecar after work when your dogs are barkin' and you want to be left alone? Billie Holiday’s slow and sultry Stormy Weather or Fischerspooner’s frenetic Emerge?
  • An old fashioned? This one's a little harder, but take your pick: a montage of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, the Gypsy King’s Spanish version of Hotel California (from the Big Lebowski’s must-have soundtrack), or Lil John's Get Low?
  • What about straight bourbon? Tom Waits’ Chocolate Jesus is a nice complement, but so is the Editor’s cover of the Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere. Take your pick of those and compare them to the Hambone Kneeslap. It's not which one makes you want to drink more, but which one allows you to enjoy your drink more.
  • Vodka and Red Bull? Lemon Demon’s Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny or the opening salvo of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana? (it's Lemon Demon, preferably poolside with all the other college students).

Any party host can tell you that some music goes and some doesn’t. So, turn on some Cole Porter, stir up some martinis, and let the witty repartee flow. Or maybe Magnetic Fields. Hell, turn up the drum n bass, house, or ambient tunes if that’s your thing. Crack open a beer and turn up the Skynyrd. Spare me the showtunes, though: Ethel Merman I don’t need in my ear when I’m watching the sun set with a dose of rye in one hand and a Brazilian hottie cigar in the other…

And, because it's a fun video that makes any drink taste just fine: Morcheeba’s Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day:


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