Music Soothes the Savage Yeast

South Africa’s DeMorgenzon Winery turns to tunes for vine health.


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South Africa’s DeMorgenzon Winery turns to tunes for vine health. A growing group of scientists-cum-winemakers, including those at DeMorgenzon winery in South Africa’s Stellenbosch region, are studying the effects of music on the growth of vines and grapes. Mid-20th-century botanists were among the first to measure music’s effect on plant growth—studies at that time showed bigger crop yields and larger vegetables. In the late 1990’s, Japanese researchers measured the effects of music on both liquid and frozen water molecules. Their findings showed that classical music produced more uniformly sized, symmetrical crystals than hard rock or heavy metal, which had a deleterious effect on crystal formation.

At DeMorgenzon, a 225-acre wine estate with 135 acres of carefully tended vines, classical music—specifically Baroque—is being used to affect vine growth. Under the influence of the music, results have shown a delay in the grapes’ ripening by up to three weeks and a quickening in the fermentation process, leading, the winery claims, to more balance and structure in the Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Sauvignon Blanc bottlings, as well as their Shiraz/Mouvèdre/Viognier blend. For years, the wine farm has experimented with the concept of music and its effect on vines; the current month-long loop includes the works of Mozart, Haydn and Bach. According to owners Hylton and Wendy Applebaum, “both repetition and variation” are characteristics of the music they’ve found to be most successful.

The musical stimulation extends beyond the vineyard, too. DeMorgenzon’s DJ set is heard in the fermentation tanks and barrel cellar, as well. For non-plant species, an amphitheater for live public performances amidst their vines has just been built.

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