The background lighting provided in a room has an influence on how we taste wine. This is the result of a survey conducted by researchers at the Institute of Psychology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany. Several sub-surveys were conducted in which about 500 participants were asked how they liked a particular wine and how much they would pay for it.
It was found that the same wine was rated higher when exposed to red or blue ambient light rather than green or white light. The test persons were even willing to spend in excess of one Euro more on a specific bottle of Riesling when it was offered in red instead of green light.
"It is already known that the color of a drink can influence the way we taste it," says Dr Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel of the General Experimental Psychology division. "We wanted to know whether background lighting, for example in a restaurant, makes a difference as well." The survey showed, among other things, that the test wine was perceived as being nearly 1.5 times sweeter in red light than in white or green light. Its fruitiness was also most highly rated in red light.
Accordingly, one conclusion of the study is that the color of ambient lighting can influence how wine tastes, even when there is no direct effect on the color of the drink. "The extreme lighting conditions found in some bars can undoubtedly influence the way a wine tastes," concludes Oberfeld-Twistel. He also recommends that serious wine tasting should be conducted in a neutral light color environment.
Perhaps a partial explanation of why lighting influences the way we taste wine is that in what we perceive to be pleasant lighting conditions, we also regard the wine as being more pleasant too. Additional research is planned to provide further insight into this fascinating phenomenon.
- Daniel Oberfeld, Heiko Hecht, Ulrich Allendorf and Florian Wickelmaier. Ambient lighting modifies the flavor of wine. Journal of Sensory Studies, 2009; 24 (6): 797 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-459X.2009.00239.x
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