Perfect pairings: a new course explores the link between wine and music

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Apparently philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was onto something when he wrote, “Music and wine are one.”

The Aesthetics of Music and Wine, a course designed by UNLV faculty from the faculties of Fine Arts and Hospitality, will allow students to closely explore the relationship between these liquid and auditory minds.

What it is

This interdisciplinary course explores the bond that wine and music have shared for centuries. Students will learn the art of ‘matching’ by exploring questions such as: why a good Pinot Noir might become more vibrant when listening to Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’; why an oaky Chardonnay dances across the palette to “St. Louis Blues”; and how a grand Californian Cabernet Sauvignon is boldly complemented by Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

Why is it taught

Restaurants and bars are always looking for ways to stay at the forefront of the industry – to better understand and create elevated experiences for their customer base. As a global dining and entertainment hub, Las Vegas is the perfect place to explore the relationship between music and wine. Add to that the thousands of annual events held here and the opportunities to apply this highly specialized expertise are endless. Using innovative tools and technology, UNLV’s team of instructors will help students learn how to pair music and wine to enhance the senses and create a more satisfying overall experience.

who takes it

This course is primarily taken to complete upper division elective credits. It is intended to provide students of various disciplines – such as hospitality, music and psychology – with information that could be immediately useful in their careers.

who teaches it

  • Murray Mackenzie is an Adjunct Professor at Harrah College of Hospitality and holds his Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma and Bordeaux Wine Instructor. Mackenzie’s research focuses on food and beverage management, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and wine education and marketing. He teaches hotel event management and restaurant operational management courses.
  • Timothy Jones is an associate professor in the School of Music. He is the Coordinator of Percussion Studies and the Rock Music Studies Division. Related Bonus: Originally from South Australia, Jones grew up in the famed Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale wine regions.

How it works

Each week, students evaluate how specific wine and music selections work together to create the desired mood and ambiance. The course will use live musicians for class demonstrations. The first class of the semester will begin with a welcoming event deconstructed and analyzed by the students throughout the semester. As a final project, students will then reconstruct the event as a culminating experience.

The reading list

What students might be surprised to learn

Certain types of music can enhance or diminish the aromas and taste of wine. The ambiance, temperature, visual aspects and energy of a space will also greatly affect the overall experience.

What Instructors Are Most Excited About This Course

Collaborative and immersive teaching where learning takes place as Mackenzie and Jones discuss the results of various pairings. They are also excited about future research opportunities.

What even laymen should know about this course

Students will learn to better appreciate wine and music. They will also find suitable agreements for all types of events, ranging from a small gathering of friends to a large corporate event.

Where students go next

Students will be prepared to engage in consulting work, conduct research, or advance their studies in wine, music, or both.

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