Limited offer: join the members club for free and save 25% on every order
Features

Does playing classical music to vines make for better wine?

Interview: Giancarlo Cignozzi, Paradiso di Frassina
Ulisse and Giancarlo Cignozzi of Paradiso di Frassina

In the distance, the green hills of Montalcino loll under a Tuscan sky. In the foreground, twelve loudspeakers blast Mozart directly at the vineyard. All day. Every day.

Are these the world’s luckiest vines, or is this the world’s craziest idea?

The experiment is the brainchild of Giancarlo Cignozzi, a tall, thin man with short greying hair, elegant yet always in motion. He has a wild, restless energy about him, and although he’s probably told the story about how he came to play Mozart to his Sangiovese vines hundreds of times, there’s nothing canned about it.

I had come to visit him and his son on the recommendation of wine writer Monty Waldin. Cignozzi’s estate, Paradiso di Frassina, has a few guest rooms to rent, and I found it a convenient place to hang my hat for a few days while working in Montalcino. Although the accommodations are simple and the Wi-Fi is only available in the office, it’s one of the most majestic places I’ve ever visited.

Cignozzi himself fits the mold of a passionate artist more than a maker of high priced Brunello di Montalcino wines. And while it would be easy to see the Mozart experiment as a marketing gimmick, his enthusiasm is genuine and infectious.

In 1999, Cignozzi was working as a lawyer in Milan when he came across a crumbling estate for sale just south of the town of Montalcino. Beyond the ruined house and farm buildings were vines in disrepair, and while it was a humble place, it was situated next to some of the top Brunello wineries, with their impressive architecture and wines that grab high point scores. Cignozzi fell in love with it, and decided to make it his home and his life.

Cignozzi committed to farming the vineyards organically so that he could ensure the best, most natural conditions for making great wine. But Cignozzi is also a trained musician, and was inspired to combine his old passion with his new one: He’d play music to the plants, creating a sort of phono-biological vineyard.

“I was reading Chinese authors and scientists who studied the topic, as well as some amazing American publications from the sixties about the secret life of vegetation,” Cignozzi recalls. “I thought putting music alongside the vegetation would certainly not hurt and might bring some pleasure, and that we would eventually observe some positive scientific effect.”

It’s a singular romantic vision for producing better wine, yet for Cignozzi this is not only an aesthetic journey, but also an analytical one. The universities of Pisa and Florence have been conducting studies on his vines to assess how the vibrations from the music affect both the plants and the other organisms around them.

Professor Stefano Mancuso, a plant neurobiologist from the University of Florence, has studied the Mozart vineyard and seen an impact.

“It is not that the grapes are capable of understanding the music and appreciating Mozart,” says Professor Mancuso. “But they are capable of appreciating the sound vibrations and the frequencies.” The vines are affected by low frequencies between 100 and 400 Hz, he says. “The results are somewhat impressive with regard to the quality of the grapes. The most fundamental result is that the number of pathogenic attacks from insects have declined in a significant way.”

“The music is like a bomb to the little pests!” exclaims Cignozzi. “And they pretty quickly decide to inhabit the neighbors’ vineyards.”

Amar Bose, the late chairman of audio equipment manufacturer Bose Corporation, saw a segment about the winery on television and donated eighty loudspeakers, taking Cignozzi’s experiment to a grand scale.

Cignozzi isn’t the only winemaker serenading his vines. At DeMorgenzon in Stellenbosch, South Africa, co-owner Hylton Appelbaum plays Baroque music in his vineyard twenty-four hours a day.

Appelbaum is an authority on classical music and has studied its positive effects on natural life forms, including babies in utero and the production of vegetables and cow’s milk. “He decided to introduce the concept to the growing of grapes, as well as the vinification and wine maturation processes,” recounts DeMorgenzon’s winemaker, Carl van der Merwe. The winery has arrayed powerful outdoor speakers around the vineyard, whose landform creates a kind of natural amphitheater that helps the sound reach all of the vines.

“We have noticed more regulated growth patterns and a later budding date in the block exposed directly to the music,” says van der Merwe. Grapes there ripen two-and-a-half weeks later and produce wine at lower alcohol—12.8% versus 14%.

Carl DeMorgonzen winemaker

DeMorgenzon’s winemaker, Carl van der Merwe

Although the scientific investigation has been limited to date, Cignozzi and the team at DeMorgonzen can point to a handful of research papers about the effects of sound energy on plant growth; another side benefit appears to be the ability to significantly reduce the amount of sulfur used in the winemaking.

But to me the bottom line is—how does the wine taste?

Let me put it this way. You start the day waking to the transcendent sound of Mozart, then lounging on the deck overlooking the vineyards while drinking a morning coffee. You close the day in the serenity of the evening sitting on that same porch sipping a glass of Carlo’s enchanting wine. You feel you’re sharing in his special vision, literally tasting a little bit of Paradiso.

And the Brunello he makes? It sings.

Watch a video interview with Carlo Cignozzi (you’ll see him playing an accordion) on the Discovery Channel or see him featured on CNN.

A video telling the story on DeMorgonzen and its history with music.

For more music and wine, watch a video of a street performer playing Mozart on wine bottles in Copenhagen, or this video of Mozart played with wine glasses.

Visit Paradiso di Frassina, and book a stay in one of their guest rooms.

the wines  
DeMorgenzon Maestro Red 2012
DeMorgenzon Maestro Red 2012 This wine can be described as cassis with rich, red fruits on the nose, dried herbs, perfume and plum. The palate is soft, silky, with integrated flavor of cigar box and black fruit. The DeMorgenzon Maestro Red is a classic Bordeaux styled blend of 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc. Bottle Price: $25.99 Read more
The DeMorgenzon Maestro Red 2011 was naturally fermented for 12 days, and left on skins for 10-15 days. The varieties were kept separate. Full malolactic fermentation took place in the barrel and it was aged in small French oak for 12 months, with 25% new French oak. The various varietals were blended after eight months and aged for further a four months in French oak. Light stabilization was performed and the wine went through no fining before bottling. This wine can be described as cassis with rich, red fruits on the nose, dried herbs, perfume and plum. The palate is soft, silky, with integrated flavor of cigar box and black fruit. The DeMorgenzon Maestro Red is a classic Bordeaux styled blend of 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc.
Il Paradiso di Frassina Gea Sant'antimo Rosso 2010
Il Paradiso di Frassina Gea Sant'antimo Rosso 2010 Intense rubin red with light grenade nuances. Neat perfumes of fruit with cherry scents. Balanced and pleasant taste enhancing the olfactory scents in an easy and harmonious way. Bottle Price: $19.99 Read more
Intense rubin red with light grenade nuances. Neat perfumes of fruit with cherry scents. Balanced and pleasant taste enhancing the olfactory scents in an easy and harmonious way.
DeMorgenzon Chenin Blanc 2011
DeMorgenzon Chenin Blanc 2011 This show stopping white displays effusive aromas of white flower, stone fruit, honey and toast which erupt into opulent flavors of pear, orange blossom, caramel and spice. It's a world class offering that strikes a brilliant balance between lush fruit and crisp, mouth watering acidity. Bottle Price: $27.99 Read more
This show stopping white displays effusive aromas of white flower, stone fruit, honey and toast which erupt into opulent flavors of pear, orange blossom, caramel and spice. It's a world class offering that strikes a brilliant balance between lush fruit and crisp, mouth watering acidity. De Morgenzon's Chenin Blanc comes from low-yielding vines planted in 1971, which were originally planted as bush vines but recently lifted onto trellises. The vines are planted in decomposed granite soils, at altitudes of 250 to 300 meters above sea level. Close proximity to False Bay ensures cooling breezes in the warm summer months.
DeMorgenzon DMZ Chardonnay 2013
DeMorgenzon DMZ Chardonnay 2013 Deep straw hues. Sweet vanilla and hints of almonds on the nose with clean tropical fruit to follow. Delicate oak support. Rich and full in the mouth with layers of full fruit flavors including white peach, apricot, grapefruit, and always the vanilla backing. Bottle Price: $14.99 Read more
Deep straw hues. Sweet vanilla and hints of almonds on the nose with clean tropical fruit to follow. Delicate oak support. Rich and full in the mouth with layers of full fruit flavors including white peach, apricot, grapefruit, and always the vanilla backing.



open close

Search Site

Search For

Price

$7 $ 150

Country / Region

show more

Varietal

show more

Importer

show more

Rating

show more

Style

Wine Critic

show more

Advanced Search