Taste the Bass: Low Frequencies Increase the Perception of Body and Aromatic Intensity in Red Wine

In: Auditory Contributions to Food Perception and Consumer Behaviour


Associations between heaviness and bass/low-pitched sounds reverberate throughout music, philosophy, literature, and language. Given that recent research into the field of cross-modal correspondences has revealed a number of robust relationships between sound and flavour, this exploratory study was designed to investigate the effects of lower frequency sound (10 Hz to 200 Hz) on the perception of the mouthfeel character of palate weight/body. This is supported by an overview of relevant cross-modal studies and cultural production. Wines were the tastants — a New Zealand Pinot Noir and a Spanish Garnacha — which were tasted in silence and with a 100 Hz (bass) and a higher 1000 Hz sine wave tone. Aromatic intensity was included as an additional character given suggestions that pitch may influence the perception of aromas, which might presumably affect the perception of wine body. Intensity of acidity and liking were also evaluated. The results revealed that the Pinot Noir wine was rated as significantly fuller-bodied when tasted with a bass frequency than in silence or with a higher frequency sound. The low frequency stimulus also resulted in the Garnacha wine being rated as significantly more aromatically intense than when tasted in the presence of the higher frequency auditory stimulus. Acidity was rated considerably higher with the higher frequency in both wines by those with high wine familiarity and the Pinot Noir significantly better liked than the Garnacha. Possible reasons as to why the tones used in this study affected perception of the two wines differently are discussed. Practical application of the findings are also proposed.