Colour and sound proven to affect wine taste

A multisensory wine tasting experiment has shed new light on how our environment affects the way we taste. The results now show that a change in both colour and sound while we’re drinking can immediately affect the taste of wine by nearly 10%.


Almost 3,000 people took part in the experiment, the biggest test of its kind to date, at last month’s Streets of Spain Festival, organised by Campo Viejo on London’s South Bank, with the results now being released for the first time.

The experiment was carried out by cognitive neuroscientist Professor Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. Participants walked through the Campo Viejo Colour Lab to experience the influence of colour and sound on taste. On entering the Lab, each person was given a single glass of wine to taste, served in a neutral black-coloured glass, and as they moved through, were exposed to a selection of scientifically-chosen sounds and colours.

The results, just published, show that a change in colour and sound can affect the taste of wine by a scientifically significant 10%. The main conclusions are that:

  • Red light and sweet music is the ideal combination, increasing enjoyment by as much as 9%
  • Green light and sour music increased freshness and reduced intensity by 14%
  • Red lighting on its own brought out the fruitier notes of the wine
  • Green light on its own brought out the wine’s freshness

Colour_Lab_redProfessor Charles Spence commented: “We were astonished to see that colour and sound have such a profound effect on the taste of wine. We knew an effect was likely, but the results went far beyond what we were hoping for. Conducting the world’s largest multisensory experiment meant that we were able to unequivocally show, for the first time, that colour and sound together have a far greater effect on people’s taste perceptions than light by itself.”

Lucy Bearman, Head of Marketing, Wine for Pernod Ricard UK, says the results of the experiment could have a real influence on how atmosphere is created in restaurants, bars and at home in the future. “It could have a real impact on business”, she says. “Red can be a bold colour choice for a room but smaller splashes of colour such as a red light bulb in a side lamp to create warmer lighting tones could have a real effect on the enjoyment of wine.”

You can try out the experiments yourself by listening to the tracks used in the Colour Lab experiment HERE.

One Response to “Colour and sound proven to affect wine taste”

  1. Clark Smith says:

    Charles Spence, Mario Bertuccioli at the University of Florence and myself (Florida International University) are the top people in the new field I have christened “cognitive enology,” especially as wine perception relates to the environment in which the wine is tasted. Music is a very powerful influence in the environment.

    The whole idea is not at all new; Don Blackburn showed these effects definitively back in the early 90s when he was winemaker at Bernardus in Carmel Valley, California. He showed that Cabernet Sauvignon likes dark, angry music like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or The Doors’ People Are Strange, whereas Pinot Noirs get very harsh in that environment and are better with romantic themes like Greensleeves and the Love Theme from Superman (“Can You Read My Mind”)

    Charles and I have slightly different slants on this phenomenon. As this study shows, he tends to work as if all wine were the same, and is studying a simple strategy to make all of it more pleasant. We have shown definitively that wines differ in their emotional modalities just as musical pieces do, and the real work is to match them up. Choosing the right music for a restaurant is a lot more complicated than red light and sweet music, though I do agree that red wines are improved by warm light tones, especially firelight.

    Much more on this topic is available at

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