Wine blog and day job, Apollo and Dionysius, rhythm and melody?

Seeing the future from a bottle and the lines are increasingly blurred blurry

My experience wineblogging will occasionally assist my real job, but rarely has my day job ever directly helped out my wineblogging.

But then: this. This morning, a wine article called Music to drink wine by: Vintner insists music can change wine's flavors came right into my inbox at work.

It came to me not because of its stated relationship to wine -- not at all because of that, though in fact several of my colleagues now officially know I'm a wino. Rather, the news story came to me by virtue of it coincidentally mentioning my employer, which really has little to do with the actual story.

And thank goodness for that. Let's just sweep that association under the rug because this is either some whacked-out story about an eccentric winemaker named Clark Smith (pictured below) or the dawn of a new wine trend that's really going to make my head hurt.

Thinking about and taking tasting notes for the wine I drink usually hurts my head enough as it is. You try to keep wine appreciation honest by accurately deciphering aroma and flavour, length and weight and then food pairings come into the equation. All that is quite hard enough without factoring in and figuring out the various cerebral synapses firing that alter your perceptions when drinking. What this report suggests is that you've got to postulate whether a musical selection is going to hurt or hinder your ability to appreciate a particular wine. Well, can't my personal experience just be kept personal and leave it at that?

Not according to this. I won't even try to re-encapsulate it myself...

A McGill study is cited in this San Francisco Chronicle article about whether wine tasting requires the same logical processing areas of the brain as listening to music. Research by Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre of McGill in 2001 showed that when subjects listen to music they enjoy, they activate pleasure centers of the brain.

"Smith's premise is that different music makes some wines taste better and others taste worse, and the great majority of tasters will agree with the "right" and "wrong" pairings regardless of their taste in wine or music. Moreover, it's not possible to record a generic "music to drink wine by" CD because a song that might make Pinot Noir taste great can make Cabernet Sauvignon taste awful. You have to pay attention to individual music and wine pairings.

He's only getting started, but he already has made some surprising, counterintuitive discoveries in an area of wine taste-testing that didn't even exist until he created it.
[Hmmm... is this last line delivered with skepticism or celebration?]

(Blood and Zatorre did not respond to a request for comment on Smith's theories.)"
I wonder why the scientists aren't rushing to comment?

I was. I commented before I even could post this entry, which offers the unique opportunity to blockquote myself:
Although Smith makes some attractive ideas salable here (many people, including myself, have likened a wine's elements to musicality), I still felt strangely uncomfortable while reading this. Uncomfortable, until I realized there was a voice of reason at the end of this article that was easy to latch onto: Kermit Lynch's. I don't think I want my brain to know about my brain, especially when I drink wine to kick back and relax!
So the question is: Are the lines that Smith has drawn blurred because of the converging forces affecting the minutiae of our lives which he then tries to scientifically explain away or are those lines just blurry because the guy has drunk himself off his rocker? I ask you.


Anonymous said...

I actually thought of you when I posted this item Marcus. T'was a good read. -- LD

Marcus said...


I'll take that as a "he's off his rocker."