Guardian feature: Heard it through the grapevine: can music really change the taste of wine?

“The woman behind the world’s first ‘oenesthetic’ wine and sound bar believes there’s more to ‘sonic seasoning’ than hype”

Jo’s work in sound and taste covered in The Guardian.

Oenosthesia: Australian premiere


Recording a fermentationOenosthesia: a wine and sound experience
Wednesday 1st March – 6pm

Black Box (D106, First floor, D Block), UNSW Art & Design, Greens Rd, Paddington, Sydney NSW 2021

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Experience the fascinating transformations that occur when wine and sound combine at the inaugural Australian presentation of Jo Burzynska’s Oenosthesia, sound and wine project. Created from blending a soundscape of recordings made from the winemaking process with wines tasted during the piece, the work will premiere in Sydney on 1st March 2017 as part of the launch of the Writing Around Sound journal that Jo co-edits.

In Oenosthesia, Jo explores the way in which sound influences the perception of a wine’s taste and texture through the changing timbres and frequencies of the sonic element in combination with different styles of wine tasted during the work. Oenosthesia brings together Jo’s two professional interests as a sound artist and wine writer to create a unique experience based on the science of sensory interaction. The work was initially created as an installation from a “Suoni dal confine” artist residency in Irpinia, Italy and premiered at the Interferenze New Art Festival’s Factory of Art Rurality and Media 2012 in Tufo, Italy. It has since been presented at Rome’s MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts, at Studio Sienko in London and at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Physics Room Gallery in New Zealand.


Jo is currently engaged in research into the interaction of sound and taste as part of a PhD at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). This presentation is being made as part of this research, with participants invited to provide feedback via a short questionnaire at the end of the work.


Jo Burzynska has a career spanning two decades in wine and sonic art. As a wine writer and wine judge she has contributed to wine magazines and competitions internationally and is the author of the book, Wine Class (Random House). She is also an active sound artist, whose work in recent years has increasingly drawn on her interest in taste and olfaction in projects that include multisensory installations and performances, as well as establishing of the world’s first “oenosthetic” bar at The Auricle in New Zealand where she matched wines with the exhibitions and the sounds in the space. She also writes on sound and has had articles published in magazines such as The Wire and is the co-editor of Writing Around Sound sonic arts journal, the third issue of which is launched at this event.

Wines kindly supplied by Pegasus Bay, Quartz Reef and The Boneline.
The exclusive glass sponsor for this event and Jo’s research is Riedel.






Wine and sound at the World Science Festival

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Jo will be presenting a wine and music masterclass at the World Science Festival in Brisbane on March 25th. As well as exploring the fascinating synergies between sound and taste, she will be exploring some of the cutting edge crossmodal science behind these sometimes surprising connections.

For more information and to purchase tickets, check the World Science Festival website.

Judging wine with food


Tasting medium bodied reds with veal rack

In a recent alcohol-free period, the toughest time by far was dinner. Duck breast bereft of a juicy pinot noir or roast chicken craving for a flinty chardonnay created a thirst that no water could quench. Just as a squeeze of lemon or a sprinkling of herbs can elevate the flavours of a dish; add an appropriate wine and the synergy between the two can transform even a modest meal into something more special.


As enjoying wine with food is the way many are consumed and best enjoyed, I value wine competitions that are prepared to tackle the tricky logistics and judge its entrants with food. This is the approach taken by the Sydney International Wine Competition (SIWC), which I was back to judge last year and is showing it’s latest Top 100 at a tasting in Sydney next weekend.


Michael Manners ensuring the wines were well matched and we were well fed

Michael Manners ensuring the wines were well matched and we were well fed

Cracking open a bottle to imbibe with your repast may be a piece of cake, but managing a wine show where food is part of the equation presents an extra set of challenges. However, as one of the first to make food part of the blind judging process, the SIWC felt like a well-oiled machine, with chef Michael Manners delivering delicious dish after dish to match categories in which wines are grouped by style rather than variety.


Assessing all the wines entered with the dishes would be a huge call for the judges despite the 2,000 cap. Instead, we whittled them back in an initial tasting to what we considered the top 20 percent to taste with the food – a task that still took several days at the judging table. In a process that at times felt like competitive eating and required considerable restraint not to polish of every morsel of Manners’ appetising plates, we assessed each of these wines again alone and then with food, with the option to raise or lower our marks based on the combination.



Full bodied reds tasted with venison casserole

Food is a great tool for ensuring that the more restrained wines that can be overlooked in a traditional wine competition are mot missed. Something that appears shy on its own can blossom with the right dish. Conversely, it drove home how dry extracted tannins are rarely tamed by food, but need to be in balance at the start and that table wines with dried fruit characters tend to see these come to the fore rather than recede when food enters the equation.


The “Best Wine of Competition” emerged as the Coolangatta Estate Wollstonecraft Semillon 2009, which will be available along with the rest of the Top 100 to taste at the competition’s consumer event on Saturday 11th February.

After all that eating a stroll with fellow judges very much the order of the day (L-R Meg Brodtmann MW, Andrew Pritzker MW, Robin Kick MW).

After all that eating a stroll with fellow judges in the beautiful Blue Mountains was very much the order of the day (L-R Meg Brodtmann MW, Andrea Pritzker MW, Robin Kick MW).



Here are some of my personal favourites from the flights that I judged at the show, along with details of the dishes with which they were tastes. The competition’s website handily provides all the food matches with Michael Manners’ recipes, so you can recreate the combinations at home.


Sparkling – Champagne Charles Orban Brut Blanc de Blancs NV (TROPHY)
Crab with Avocado and Lime Mayonnaise
A very stylish sparkling with great complexity to its notes of nut, apple and pastry, which are underpinned by a bright line of fresh citrus. It contains both the acidity that worked with the citrusy element of the dish with which it was judged, as well as a richness that enabled it to hold its own with the creamy elements.


Semi-sweet – Riverby Estate “Eliza” Marlborough Riesling 2014 (TROPHY)
Endive with Parmesan, thyme and prosciutto crumble
A golden hued medium sweet Riesling with a rich honeyed palate redolent of marmalade and spice, in which its sweetness is balanced by crisp grapefuity freshness.


Fuller bodied white – Seville Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnnay 2015 (TROPHY)
Veal Fillet with White Bean, Pea, Mushroom and Broad Bean Ragout
An elegant citrus driven Chardonnay with a linear palate with notes of almond paste over a savoury and almost briny mineral undercurrent. A top flight wine that really wine shone, despite the rather challenging food match.


Lighter bodied red – Carle Estate Upper Goulburn Nebbiolo 2010 (BLUE GOLD)
Lamb Tenderloin, Marinaded with Basil, Oregano on Pilaf Rice
Classic Nebbiolo notes abound on this intriguing and perfumed wine. Its dark fruits are infused with notes of liquorice spice, violet and cigar box aromatics over a lovely earthy, leathery, savoury undercurrent. It’s well structured with a great line of acidity and firm but ripe tannins that are starting to mellow.


Pinot Noir – Gladstone Vineyard 12,000 Miles Gladstone Pinot Noir 2014 (TOP 100)
Paired with Duck Breast with Pumpkin Mash
Bright, fresh and lifted berry fruit combine with notes of game, smoke and thyme in this silken Wairarapa Pinot. It worked well with the savoury duck flavours of the dish with which it was matched and acted as a fresh foil to its richness. An elegant style with good intensity, which when unveiled and revealed as available for under AU/NZ$30, also emerged as offering exceptional value for money.


Medium Bodied Red – Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 “Plateau” Hawke’s Bay Malbec 2014 (GOLD)
Veal Rack on Potato Gratin with Mixed Mushroom Ragout
An intense violet/floral thread weaves through a supple juicy palate of dark berry fruit and spice of this Malbec. An svelte cool climate style with good acidity and ripe tannins that worked well with the food.


Full bodied red – Bird in Hand “Marie Elizabeth” Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (TROPHY)
Venison Casserole
Dense cassis fruit is fused with fragrant notes of sandalwood, sweet spice and hint of minty herb in this concentrated wine. Although it’s a powerful wine, its structure makes it well suited to food, with which it shines even more.


Awards guide
From the SIWC website

HIGHLY COMMENDED AWARD WINNERS – Judged with Food. These are the finalists that fall in approximately the 10.1% to 15% percentile range of the total entry.

BLUE-GOLD AWARD WINNERS – Judged with Food. These are the finalists that fall in approximately the top 10 percentile range of the total entry.

TOP 1OO WINES AWARD WINNERS – Judged with Food. As the name implies, these are the 100 highest pointed of the Blue-Gold Award winners but with aggregate scores adjusted to ensure Consumers have a choice of TOP 1OO wines in each of the Style Categories.

TROPHY WINNERS – In their several specialised areas, the Competition’s 24 Trophy Winners, amongst our galaxy of vinous stars, represent the elite wines of the annual Competition.







Composing music for wine


New Zealand winery, Crown Range Cellar commissioned me to create a series of pieces of music specifically composed to complement its wines. The project employs both my own studies into the way perceptions of taste can be influenced by sound, and the current findings of scientific research into crossmodal correspondences. In the presentation on sound and wine that I am making at Pinot Noir NZ 2017 in Wellington, NZ, delegates will be able to experience the synergies between the music I composed for Crown Range Cellar Signature Pinot Noir and the wine itself.

The piece for the Crown Range Cellar Signature Pinot Noir was inspired by its rich and silky notes. A legato melody is played by a cello over a soundscape created from field recordings of the rich but bright tones of bells and the higher pitched sounds of birdsong. The deeper notes bring out the savoury character, while the treble of the birds enhance the aromatics and freshness, and the bell drone its smoothness.

For the Drowsy Fish Pinot Gris, I collaborated with electronic pop artist, Misfit Mod. The resulting music is an upbeat track with an ethereal pop sensibility that echoes the fresh and bright character of the wine.

The hulusiTo accompany the light and bright China Girl Central Otago Pinot Noir, I  collaboration on a piece of music with Malcolm Riddoch. This features the smooth timbre of the traditional Chinese Hulusi flute that suits the supple texture of the wine, while the wine’s freshness is accentuated by the high-pitched backing to the traditional Dizi flute. The choice of instruments are also linked to both the wine and the label’s Chinese roots.

You can listen to the music and obtain more information about the wines on the Crown Range Cellar website.