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Ever wondered how sound affects your taste? We ask Dr Jo Burzynska

By MiNDFOOD

Dr Jo Burzynska presents at Church Road's 'The Feast of Five' in Auckland
Dr Jo Burzynska presents at Church Road's 'The Feast of Five' in Auckland
Multi-sensory explorer, Dr. Jo Burzynska, is a well-known New Zealand artist, wine writer, researcher and curator, who is hosting a series of sensory wine experiences with Church Road.

She merges her passion for these fields to create multi-sensory immersive experiences, including the world’s first ‘wine and sound’ bar. Her interdisciplinary PhD explored the influence of sound and music on the perception of wine aroma and flavour across the fields of art, sensory science, and psychology.

To celebrate 125 years of wine-making excellence, Church Road has partnered with Dr. Burzynska on a series of multi-sensory event series, The Feast of Five, across Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown in July and August.

Together with Church Road Chief Winemaker and four-time Winestate Winemaker of the Year, Chris Scott, Dr. Burzynska will showcase how, by stimulating your senses in different ways, you can draw different notes and aromas from the same glass of Church Road. Perfectly matched with a five-course degustation menu, which has been carefully designed by New Zealand’s most acclaimed chefs, guests will discover how colour, shape, sound and texture can alter their experience of the wine.

MiNDFOOD spoke with Dr. Burzynska on how sound affects taste and the appeal of multi-sensory experiences.

How does sound and music affect the wine-drinking experience?

Well, wine drinking is inherently multi-sensory, with all our senses working together to shape our tasting experience. As we rarely drink wine in complete silence, the different sounds in our environment draw attention to different elements of a wine. In my research I’ve been mapping the different wine characters with sound characters. For example, high pitches emphasise a wine’s acidity, while low pitches can make a wine feel fuller bodied and more aromatic, and rough timbres can make a wine feel more astringent in the mouth. 

What is the appeal of multi-sensory experiences?

When multi-sensory experiences are created using knowledge and sensitivity, corresponding characters in different sensory modalities can be brought together to heighten the sensory and emotional experience. Multi-sensory experiences can therefore be more powerful than when the focus is just on one sense, and they’re more immersive. As we’ve all been spending so much time in front of screens of late, there seems to be more desire that ever to get out and experience things with all our senses, not just our tired eyes!

What can guests expect from Church Road’s ‘The Feast of Five’?

There will be something for all the senses, with different sensory experiences for all the wines featured over the five course meal. We explore how vision can change the taste of wine through tasting in different coloured environments, how sound enhances the appreciation of specific flavours and aromas, and even how what we touch can alter our perception of a wine’s texture.

What are some surprising insights from your PhD research?

All the formal studies involved groups of people, so it was good to gain empirical support for many of the sensory combinations that I’d personally noticed. Some of the sensory effects were surprising and strong, such as the rough timbered music not only making a wine feel rougher in the mouth, which is what I’d expected, but also emphasising spicy and peppery aromas. The strength of the emotional responses of the participants in my studies, when the sensory components of an experience aligned, was also a surprise.

What is your advice for people who want to get the most out of their wine drinking experience?

Certainly if you’re at home, you can tune your drinking environment to your wine. Lower lighting creates more focus on the wine experience, as does trying a wine blindfolded. The weight and shape of the glass you’re drinking from can enhance or detract from your experience – see what happens if you drink a light white wine out of a heavy whisky tumbler, compared with a slim tulip shaped crystal glass that better suits it.

You can also experiment with drinking a wine with quite different pieces of music and see what works best. Or try a couple of different wines with the same piece of music, say a soft full bodied red and a crisp white, and see how each changes for the better, or worse! Gut instinct can often lead you to the best wine and music matches, but it’s also good fun to experiment. 

For more information about The Feast of Five, visit the event page.

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