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Experiments with Wine and Color

Experiments with Wine and Color

Laurita Winery , Wine Science 🕔September 27, 2016 2 comments

We’ve talked about whether the color of wine has any significance as to taste (it does), and how simple things like the size of your wine glass can affect your enjoyment of the wine…

Now an experimental psychologist from Oxford University has conducted “the world’s largest multisensory experiment in the psychology of wine tasting”. Motherboard reports that Charles Spence wanted to know how the taste of wine might be seemingly affected  by environmental factors like music and color.


He explained that participants held the same glass throughout the experiment, so they knew they were always drinking the same wine, but were asked to rate it under white, green, and red light, sometimes combined with one of two specially composed snippets of music.

Participants were served wine in opaque black glasses, and asked to taste and rate it while the lighting and music cycled through changes.


First the lights changed to green, usually perceived as a “sour” color. Next they turned red, which is perceived as “sweet”, and were accompanied by higher pitched “sweet” music. Lastly, they cycled back to green, this time with a “sour” (lower) musical accompaniment.

So, how exactly does one determine whether a color or sound is sweet or sour in the first place? Spence has done his research.

“Most people, when they think of sweet, they think of red as the first colour to come to mind,” said Spence. This perhaps goes back to the colours of nature: when fruits are green, they’re unripe and sour, and when they’re red, they’re ripe and juicy. “Either we’ve learnt that or it’s innate—who knows which?”


That actually makes perfect sense, if you think about it. But what about the music? Spence suggests we take a close look at babies.

“We’re all born sticking our tongue out and up to sweetness, to goodness, to calories, to growth, to mother’s milk; we all stick our tongue out and down to bitterness,” he said. When you have your tongue up you make higher pitched sounds, and when it’s down they’re lower—like “eurgh.”


That might explain why we tend to enjoy wine (or any beverage, really) just a little more at a party or dance… or fireworks festival.

At the end of the four day experiment, the results will be aggregated and added to the body of Spence’s research. He and his team have already applied his findings to real world drinking and dining experiences in a consulting capacity.

We’ll be interested to read more.

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