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Study Pairs Wine Type With Music

Music and wine go together, no? Maybe more than you think, a study suggests.

Psychologists say that by serenading supermarket shoppers with either French accordion music or German oom-pah-pah, they were able to influence whether the customers bought French or German wine.

On days when a wine display featured Gallic favorites such as “The Marseillaise” or cancan music, French wine sold much better than German. But when the display played songs appropriate for swinging a stein in a beer hall, German wine outsold French about 2-to-1.

The experiment, done in England, is reported in today’s issue of the journal Nature by Adrian C. North and colleagues at the University of Leicester. North said American shoppers would probably respond the same way if they recognized the music as being French or German.

The music made the British customers think of France or Germany, priming them to shop accordingly, North said.

Vladimir J. Konecni, who studies the psychology of music at the University of California, San Diego, said that’s a plausible explanation, but he suspects a different reason.

When shoppers hear French music, he suggested, “they simply hink there’s a French wine promotion going on, and that means low price, usually.”

North said that’s plausible, too.

The experiment was done over two weeks, with the kind of music alternated each day. Four French and four German wines were displayed. Each shelf held one wine from each country, marked with the nation’s flag. The two bottles on each shelf were the same price and degree of sweetness.

On French music days, shoppers bought a total of 40 French wines and only eight German wines. On German music days, they bought only 12 French wines but 22 bottles of German wine.

About half the buyers agreed to fill out questionnaires. Only six of these 44 shoppers said their choice was influenced by the kind of music playing, but Konecni said many people might not be aware of the music’s influence or might not want to admit it.

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