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LISTEN | This song can enhance the taste of red wine, say scientists

Kelsey Shungking, a Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégé, fill us in on how this piece of music that pairs perfectly with cabernet sauvignon was composed

Did you know it’s scientifically proven that the right music makes wine taste better?
Did you know it’s scientifically proven that the right music makes wine taste better?
Image: Supplied/Nedbank

Cabernet sauvignon came alive with the sound of music at the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild’s (CWG) “Tasting Notes: A Story of Sound and Wine” experience.

In a world first, five Nedbank CWG protégés collaborated with composers and neuroscientists to create a piece of music — listen to it below — that pairs perfectly with any glass of cabernet sauvignon, scientifically using music notes to enhance the tasting notes in the wine.

Kelsey Shungking is one of the protégés who took part in this exciting initiative. We spoke to her to find out more about the Nedbank CWG Protégé Programme and finding the perfect match in a glass of wine and piece of music. 

You are now an oenology protégé at Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, as part of the Nedbank CWG Protégé Programme. Why did you want to be part of it?

The Nedbank CWG protégé programme is the leading development programme in the wine industry. It brings aspiring winemakers and viticulturists into the industry by allowing them to be mentored and work alongside SA’s top winemakers for three years.

The programme not only is about gaining experience in the workplace but also includes life skills and personal development to release well-rounded professionals into the industry. 

When I was first exposed to the programme as a university student, I found it to be a fantastic way to become well-versed in the wine industry and to build connections with SA’s top winemakers. Being a protégé is a fast-forward approach to gaining experience in the winery and learning from the best. 

What has your experience been like? 

I am thoroughly enjoying my time as a protégé. I have built strong connections with some of my role models in the industry and learnt what it takes to produce top-quality wine in SA. I definitely feel like doors have opened for me and I have been exposed to more networking opportunities than I would’ve been otherwise. 

Our industry is based on its people, and relationships are definitely one of the main things I’ve got out of the programme. I have also experienced a diverse range of winemaking methods and styles at the wineries I’ve worked at, and have worked with fruit from all over the wine lands, which has given me a good idea of which varieties I enjoy working with and where my niche lies in the industry. 

Winemaking has traditionally been the preserve of white males, and the Nedbank CWG protégé programme was created in recognition that transformation is needed in the industry. Do you think enough is being done on this front to promote people who were previously — and remain largely — excluded?

I think the wine industry has been doing well to become inclusive and diverse. It makes me happy to see all the black-owned businesses popping up, as well as the number of women coming into ownership and management in the industry.

That said, there’s always room for improvement, and I think something like the Nedbank CWG protégé programme has created space for this necessary growth. 

What was your role in this new initiative to pair wine with music? Did you find it challenging?

As a protégé, my role was largely in selecting the wine to be showcased in this initiative. We wanted to use a wine that shows the essence of South African wine, and what better way to do that than with the “king of grapes”, cabernet sauvignon, hailing from the place where it is grown best — in the Stellenbosch wine region. 

After carefully selecting the wine to be showcased, we were part of the research team to discover what tasting this wine does to our neurological senses, and to compose music that perfectly matches the emotions and sensations evoked when tasting the wine.

This ultimately led to a music and wine pairing that not only complemented each other but also elevated the experience as a whole, allowing wine lovers to experience wine in a new and exciting way. 

WATCH | Open a bottle of your favourite cabernet sauvignon and follow this instructional video to recreate the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild's 'Tasting Notes: A Story of Sound and Wine' experience at home.

I found the whole experience extremely fun. Being hooked up to an EEG {electroencephalogram] and having my brainwaves scanned was definitely a first for me, but I enjoyed the process and learnt a lot along the way too. It was awesome to see the project come to life when we finally got to taste the wine alongside the music.

The composed piece of music took me to a new world and made me feel as though nothing else existed except me and my glass of wine. It was really special to be part of this project. 

What do you hope this initiative — and the work you’ve put into it — will achieve?

I hope it will shed light on the Nedbank CWG protégé programme and what we as protégés are doing in the industry. I hope it will create awareness on how being inclusive and diverse brings a new dimension, creativity, and a fresh perspective to the wine industry.

There are some amazing projects coming from graduated protégés, and by having been given the platform to create a space for themselves in the industry through the Nedbank CWG protégé programme, they have achieved their dreams. 

How will initiatives like this support the wine industry?

In creating awareness of development projects such as the Nedbank CWG protégé programme, these kinds of initiatives will help steer the industry towards being more inclusive and diverse, and gaining a greater understanding of its responsibility to uplift and empower its skilled youth.  

This article was paid for by Nedbank.