Does our mood change the taste of wine?

Does our mood change the taste of wine?

When we are emotionally tired, we are drawn to tastes that cheer us up. Though, don’t be surprised if that bottle you brought back from your last holiday doesn’t quite taste the same at home. Yes, emotions affect the taste of wine and choosing the right one can have an impact. Here are some tips for whether to pick Merlot or Moscato to match your mood.

Much research has been undertaken over the years trying to see how our mood, the music, the light, the place, even the air, can affect our taste buds. And the answer is simple: when we are in a good mood, everything tastes better. Even food we wouldn’t normally find tasty, we can tolerate. But when we are in a bad mood, everything tastes worse. That is why, when we are emotionally tired, we always choose something that we know it will make us feel better, like chocolate or a 10-kilo tub of ice cream.

food and wineThe same goes with the wine. And all us wine lovers around the globe have noticed it. If you have ever been on a wine tour in the magical vineyards of Tuscany, stopped at a traditional winery with the sun above your heads, the smell of the earth in your nose and the huge smile of the Italian winemaker, that wine was probably one of the most delicious wines you have ever tasted. And then, you bought a bottle or two to take with you so you could keep that taste, but mostly keep that moment when you are back home. Unfortunately, this is not how it goes – because not only your mood, but also the light, the sounds and the air of that winery, affected your taste buds.

Background music

Whether classical, rock, fast, slow, loud or quiet – research has proven that music sets the mood for how we describe the wines we drink.

music and wine• The perceived sweetness of wine is enhanced by music that has a consonant, smooth and flowing tempo with tinkling, high-pitched and cheerful piano notes. Listeners of this style of music state that fruit-forward flavours are accentuated more in the wine.

• The perceived smoothness of wine is enhanced by music that hits harmonious major chords. Listeners of this style of music will state that the wine has greater depth and robustness.

• The perceived acidity of the wine is enhanced by music that has a rough, sharp and staccato pace with dissonant and high-pitched notes. Listeners of this style will describe wine as having a fresher taste with the herbaceous flavours being more prominent.

• There’s also another effect between music and wine; if we perceive the music as being powerful and bold, we will describe the wine in the same way. When the music playing is mellow and soft, we again assign those same attributes to the wine.


wine signFor a 2009 study,1 researchers separated groups of wine drinkers, arranging them in rooms lit with red, blue, green or yellow fluorescent lights. The subjects were then asked to sip wine and report their impressions. Surprisingly, those bathed in red ambient light said the wine was sweeter, richer and generally more satisfying than the wine drank in the other rooms – and that they’d even be willing to pay more for it.

It turns out, all of the study participants were drinking the exact same wine – the light hadn’t changed a thing besides the appearance of the liquid in their glasses. Under red light, it’s possible that the wine appeared darker and richer, creating a corresponding expectation in the minds of the subjects.

Light can also have the opposite effect. Psychologists have noted that appetites under blue illumination appear to shrink, with blue-tinged foods becoming less appealing due to their appearance. In other studies focused on light and how we perceive taste, some people were shown to be attracted to stronger flavours under brighter lights, and more bland foods when the light is dim.

One theory is that our senses are trying to maintain a balance. If you don’t feel like having something sweet in a dimly-lit restaurant, that might be one reason why. And if you want to be serious about your wine tasting, there might be something more important than a bottle opener: a neutrally-lit room.

Wine to match the mood

Choosing the right wine can also have an important impact on your emotions and mood. Here are some suggestions.

Relaxing evening:
Perfect bottles to unwind your day: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Beau-jolais, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo.

Sexy and playful:
Musky notes for her: Cote du Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape
Floral notes for him: Pinot Noir, Barbaresco.

Wine that will cool you down: Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Champagne, Moscato, Meursault.

While most wines will taste better when you are in a happy mood, nothing beats a bottle of bubbly Champagne or sparkling wine (Prosecco, Cava, etc).

Go for a lighter-bodied red to lift your moods: Pinot Noir/Burgundy, Rioja, Valpolicella.

Deep in thought:
Wines that can match your layers of thinking: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Douro or a white Burgundy.

Energetic or restless:
Wines that are full of energy and vibes: Zinfandel, Valpolicella, Pinot Noir (Vosne Romanee, New Zealand Pinot).

Go for a wild Zin

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fandel or venture with an atypical local grape Greco di Tufo, Nero d’Avola.

Cheers! Skål! Yamas! Salute! Santé! Gan bay! Salud! Fi sihtik! Saúde! Geonbae! Proost! Kippis! Na zdrowie! Şerefe! Živeli!

If you are serious about your wine-tasting, there might be something more important than a bottle opener: a neutrally-lit room

Dutch wineClick on the icon for more wine tips & upcoming events (including wine lessons & tasting sessions) courtesy of yours truly: the editor & writer of Expats Haarlem, the former wine professor in Florence, and owner of sip wine school in Haarlem.

Christina Kambanella
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