During the 'Tasting Notes: A Story of Sound and Wine' experience, guests were given the opportunity to enjoy a glass of cabernet sauvignon while listening to a song scientifically designed to enhance the wine's flavours.
During the 'Tasting Notes: A Story of Sound and Wine' experience, guests were given the opportunity to enjoy a glass of cabernet sauvignon while listening to a song scientifically designed to enhance the wine's flavours.
Image: Supplied/Nedbank

In an exciting world first, five Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégés collaborated with composers and neuroscientists to create a piece of music that pairs perfectly with any glass of cabernet sauvignon, scientifically using music notes to enhance the tasting notes in the wine.

The resulting track — listen to it below — was celebrated during a bespoke wine tasting experience, “Tasting Notes: A Story of Sound and Wine”, hosted earlier this year.

One of the aims of this initiative was to help shine a spotlight on the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégé programme, which supports skills development and transformation in the SA wine industry. It gives aspiring winemakers and viticulturists the opportunity to be mentored by, and work alongside, the country's top winemakers during a three-year internship.

We spoke to Khensani Nobanda, group executive for marketing and corporate affairs at Nedbank, and winemaker Andrea Mullineux, a Cape Winemakers Guild member and co-founder of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, to find out more about the concept behind the “Tasting Notes” initiative, and why the collaboration between one of Africa's leading banks and the Cape Winemakers Guild is important for the local wine industry.

Tell us the story of where this initiative came from? It's something different for a bank to get involved in. 

Nobanda: Nedbank is the title sponsor of the annual Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild auction, and we have partnered with the guild as they remain at the forefront of advancements in the wine industry.

Due to the pandemic, the local wine industry went through significant challenges. So, Nedbank, as a long-term supporter of this industry, looked for ways that the brand could positively support it during its hardships, while creating long-standing change that would continuously bring awareness to the industry. 

Musician J Something, composer Nicolaas van Reenen, Nedbank's Khensani Nobanda, Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégé Thabile Cele, winemaker Andrea Mullineux and Mark Drummond of the neuromarketing company Neural Sense at the 'Tasting Notes' event.
Musician J Something, composer Nicolaas van Reenen, Nedbank's Khensani Nobanda, Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégé Thabile Cele, winemaker Andrea Mullineux and Mark Drummond of the neuromarketing company Neural Sense at the 'Tasting Notes' event.
Image: Supplied/Nedbank

[We wanted to do more] than just hosting a wine tasting experience that brought awareness to the wine industry, [we wanted to] transform the way people experienced wine, that’s how we landed on “Tasting Notes” — it's a journey of sound and music that completely elevates your tasting experience and democratises wine, making the experience appealing to everyone, whether you’re new to wine or not. 

Attempting to pair wine with music is an interesting concept. How did you experience this process?

Mullineux: There are so many ways to experience wine, which itself is a product that combines science and art. Some people like written tasting notes that give them clues as to what to taste for. Other people like wine and food pairings to see what flavours complement each other. Those are both subjective and can be interpreted in different ways. 

Music is a universal language, and the right wine can make any experience more pleasurable. We all know wine pairs with food, but we were able tap into our collective love of music and create a literal wine and music pairing to achieve our goal of introducing wine to new audiences.

WATCH | How science was used to compose a piece of music that enhances the flavours in a glass of cabernet sauvignon.

What I love about the “Tasting Notes” initiative is that  scientific recordings [of the brainwaves of the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégés, [which were taken while they were tasting cabernet sauvignon] were translated into music. As I said, wine is already a combination of science and art, but this takes it to another level and therefore makes the entire experience more enjoyable, because you are reaching more senses and enhancing and elevating the tasting experience.

This has been done using cabernet sauvignon. Why do you think this wine worked so well? 

Mullineux: cabernet sauvignon is by far the most famous [wine] variety in the world, against which all other wines are benchmarked. This is why it is called the “king of grapes”.

Cabernet sauvignon is also the most widely planted red variety in SA, and expresses beautiful perfume with spicy complexity, dark fruit and land-layered firm tannins.

With all those facets, it is perfect for pairing with the complex layers of music that were created using the web of brainwaves of the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégés.

Do you think there’s more to be explored in terms of innovative ideas such as this — pairing wine with something beyond food?

Mullineux: The Cape Winemakers Guild is a group of SA’s top winemakers who were invited in due to their track record for excellence. Everything we do is in the pursuit of making better wine, while maintaining balance in what we do and with whom we are involved.

In this time of climate change and pandemics, as well as social change, one must include innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to maintain excellence and balance. This is what these kinds of projects embody. They define the excellence that we strive for in the guild: always pushing forward and trying new things, while holding true to our winemaking ethos. As long as there is excellence to strive for, we want to be the first to try it. 

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.

Why is it important for Nedbank to be involved in something like this? 

Nobanda: We are a bank that goes beyond banking through meaningful partnerships such as the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégé programme, to create a lasting impact for individuals and society at large. 

By partnering with the guild, Nedbank can contribute to the growth and sustainability of the industry, while ensuring that SA wines continue to rank among the best in the world.

Nedbank also prides itself on its innovative, digital-first offerings and using a unique initiative such as “Tasting Notes” to create change for the wine industry is evidence of this.

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

Mullineux: The Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild protégé programme is a successful and meaningful transformation initiative: the protégés are the future of the SA wine industry, and everyone involved is contributing to their success.

Limited live events are used to raise awareness about this initiative  — and the “Tasting Notes” project takes that attention to a new and innovative level, helping to springboard the programme into the future. 

Wine appreciation and education are [also] vehicles for responsible [alcohol] consumption.

This article was paid for by Nedbank.


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