The Vines are Alive with Music
Venture up in the hills of Montalcino in Tuscany, and chances are you’ll hear Mozart floating through the air. But it is not Opera in the Vines or A Day On The Green concert. The only audience is the grapevines and according to winemaker Giancarlo Cignozzi, not only do his Sangiovese vines love it, but they also produce better wine because of Mozart’s tunes. It may sounds crazy, but testing has shown the grapes closer to the music have higher sugar content. The result is not without scientific merit with scientists theorising that vines may grow toward the music from the speakers because frequencies resemble those of running water.
Over the hills in Austria, winemaker Markus Bachmann from Sonor Wines is also convinced playing music helps make for better wine. But instead of the vineyard, he plays music in the winery while the wines are fermenting. In fact, he’s developed his own special speaker that exposes fermenting grape juice to classical, jazz or electronic tunes. The sound waves, he claims, influence the maturing process and produce a better-tasting wine.
“There are strong connections between flavour and sound,” says Jo Burzynska, a sound artist and wine writer who is currently studying a PhD in Multisensory Research at the University of NSW. While she points out bio-acoustics have been used in the practical control of grapevine pests, it is the study and recording of sounds of vines in the vineyard and wine fermenting in the winery that intrigue her.
“I’m fascinated by the sound of fermenting wine, which I’ve recorded hours of and used in my wine sound compositions. To me, it is music,” she says.
The soundtrack of our lives
For many of us, music is a memory trigger, often related to pleasant associations. It is a fact Claymore Wines in the Clare Valley attributes to many of their wines striking the right chord with wine drinkers. Along with playing music in the winery while making the wine, Claymore has special musical-themed labels for each varietal in their range; the Bittersweet Symphony Cabernet, the Joshua Tree Riesling and the Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz.
“Music that possesses features that correspond with positive characters in a wine can certainly enhance people’s enjoyment as it means the music works in harmony with the flavour or textural characters,” explains Jo of the theory behind music and wine.
“This is something that I applied in the wine and sound bar I helped established at The Auricle Sonic Arts Gallery in New Zealand some years back where I curated the monthly wine list around the music playlist.”
However, the same theory works both ways.
“Get the music wrong and you can also make a good wine taste bad. I like to illustrate this using a piece of heavy rock music and Sauvignon Blanc: the rock subdues the perception of the wine’s vibrant aromatics and fruit and makes its fresh acidity taste harsh.”
Select your playlist
Jo’s current research investigates the link between sound, flavour and textural characters of wine, and how these findings can be applied in the creation of multisensory artworks and environments.
Many believe that wine is art, and it can be reasonably suggested that art forms work well with each other. We wonder what wine works best with our favourite tunes? Miles Davis and Pinot Noir? Iron Maiden and Hunter Shiraz? We’ll leave it to you to find out.