South African Vintner Plays Music To Wine, Differentiates Product

South African Vintner Plays Music To Wine, Differentiates Product

Some Stellenbosch winemakers are ignoring skeptical neighbors by playing music to the grapes growing in their vineyards as well as to the wine fermenting in their barrels, according to an AFP report in MalayMail.

Not just any music will do.

The vineyards at DeMorgenzon estate are bathed in baroque and early classical music 24/7/365. Once the grapes are harvested, the maturing wine gets the same treatment in the cellar.

“We have a lot of people that are very sceptical about what we are doing and why
we’re doing it, particularly neighbours” said general manager Carl van der Merwe.

If one accepts that a life form like a plant can respond to music, is it too much to expect the same of a liquid?

“Wine is alive with various bacteria, and the fermentation process itself is done by living organisms,” Van der Merwe said.

The estate is owned by businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum and her music-loving husband
Hylton, who founded Classic FM radio in South Africa.

They bought the estate in 2003 and introduced music in 2009, following in the footsteps of farmers who have serenaded everything from cows to pigs in an attempt to improve production and quality, AFP reports.

While there’s no scientific proof of music’s effects on wine, they thought there was enough evidence of its positive influence to try and combine their love of wine and music.

“We do things in life sometimes because we believe in them and often we find out
later that there was a very strong scientific reason why those things worked,”
van der Merwe said.

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So why baroque rather than hip hop?

“Well, we only use baroque and classical for the reason that those two have mathematical rhythm and those sound waves have been proven to have a positive effect on natural life,” he said.

The estate, which covers 55 hectares under vines, focuses on chardonnay and chenin blanc, but also produces classic reds pinot noir and syrah.

On a trial block of four hectares, Van der Merwe, 37, said he sees music making a difference. The vines that grow accompanied by music show slower and more regulated growth patterns.

“The syrah (a dark-skinned grape variety grown worldwide ) that comes from here is very different to anywhere else on the property and it’s much more pronounced in terms of flavor, has smoother tannins and tends to have slightly lower alcohol and really is just a much more balanced, much more approachable wine,” he says.

Ten loudspeakers carry the music of Bach and Mozart, among others, across the vineyards, producing a surreal effect in the quiet valley, AFP reports.

“It is not so much about the audible music that we can hear, its more about sound waves,” van der Merwe said.

Many of the farm workers prefer their own playlists on their mobile phones. One of the local women in a pruning team told AFP: “We like the music. It’s nice to work here because it lifts us up and sometimes you feel like dancing.”

In South Africa the award-winning wines retail from about 75-to-250 rand ($7 to $23 US) a bottle. DeMorgenzon exports to the U.S. and Europe, where they sell from about 10-to-18 pounds ($17 to $30 US.)

Between the vineyard and the retailer, wine matures in oak barrels while listening to the same music as it heard on the vine.