Make mine Merlot
I don’t listen to enough TV or major radio to keep up on the secondary news so was grateful to a dear friend who alerted me to the story on grapes and Mozart.
Turns out that, for over a decade now, the owner of a vineyard in Italy has been piping Mozart into one of his vineyards. And, it further turns out, the vines seem to be music aficionados for they grow larger and actually turn in the direction of the speakers (obviously to better hear the classical music).
Naturally — obviously? — in our culture of instant communication, the studiers weren’t far behind once word got out. First, the University of Florence arrived to investigate and then many other erudite types showed up with pen and pencil (tablets anyone?). CBS News wasn’t far behind, sending correspondent Seth Doane.
The results weren’t as dramatic as one would have liked to think and, near as I could tell, Giancarlo Cignozzi, the owner of the Sangiovese grapevines where Brunello wine is made, has made no effort to expand his music lesson to his other 24 vineyards. Bose, however, seeing an opportunity for promotion, if not free wine, donated 72 speakers and paid for further research.
“What did you think when you heard about this guy growing grapes and playing music?” Doane asked Stefano Mancuso, a plant scientist from Florence. “That he was another, another crazy guy,” the professor replied.
Doane continued, asking if the vines really do like Mozart.
“It’s very difficult to say that plants like classical music — Wagner, Mozart, or whatever you want,” Mancuso explained. “What they are able to actually do is to perceive sounds and specific frequencies.” Mancuso, known for his work on plant intelligence has been studying the vineyard for thirteen years. “Plants are, in general, much more sensitive than animals.” (If you say so.)
When queried further, Cignozzi simply said he preferred Italian music. Why then, some of us must ask, Mozart? Young Wolfgang certainly did his share of traveling but, to the best of my knowledge, he never set foot in Italy. That country seemed reserved for traveling philosophers, painters, sculptors and, of course, other musicians.
“Imagine the world without music!” Cignozzi is quoted as saying. “I suppose that the music can improve the life of humanity, animals, too. But why not the plants?”
To try to answer his own question, he started pumping Mozart into a section of his vineyard, ‘Il Paradiso di Frassina.’ He found the vines closer to the music grew bigger and toward the source of the sound.
“‘We divide the property into 25 different areas and we monitor the grapes at the time of the harvest,” says Ulisse, Giancarlo’s son and another winemaker.
How different are the grapes with the music compared to those without? “The plants seem more robust. The grapes closer to the speaker have the higher sugar content, so we believe in this idea,” Ulisse continued.
Professor Mancuso isn’t quite so easily persuaded. He suspects the plants grow toward the speakers because the music’s frequency resembles that of running water. “The more impressive of the results were that sound is able to reduce dramatically the number of insect attack [sic],” he added.
“They figure the music confuses harmful bugs, making them unable to breed. As a result the vineyard uses no pesticides and very little fertilizer. The music also scares away birds and other creatures who feed on grapes.
“As for the idea that these vines are reacting simply to sound vibrations — not specifically Mozart — well, this is Italy, and Giancarlo said, ‘I prefer the music. Sorry, but I’m very romantic!’
“Giancarlo, who’s been serenading his grapes for over a decade, stands by his decision to play Mozart. But Mancuso said they could play many other types of music, even heavy metal if it had enough bass — with consideration of the neighbors.”
Heavy metal! Have these wines no discernment at all? (Or must we be reduced to those days of Thunderbird?) Must Mozart then be considered only for having “enough bass”? I think not. I definitely hope that isn’t the case. I shiver at the thought.
Actually, I imagine various types of music encouraging different kinds of grapes. But please, folks, let’s stick with the classics.
Merlot for Mozart if you must, but how about experimenting with Puccini for Pinor Noir and Corelli for Cabernet? Cesar Cui for Chardonnay or Berlioz perhaps for their Brunello which, the ads tell me now, is far beyond my price range. I’m sure we can squeeze Herr Wagner in there too.
I’m game. Are you?
Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.