Il Paradiso di Frassina is also known as Mozart’s Winery, located on the foothills of Montalcino’s northern side. It was here that Carlo Cignozzi started to experiment, for the first time in the world, the beneficial effects of music on the vines. What initially was just a dream, quickly became reality: with research support from the Universities of Florence and Pisa and state-of-the-art custom-made speakers from Bose, the winery has been playing Mozart’s symphonies and monitoring its effects for 20 years now.
The musical vibrations together with the dictates of organic farming give rise to a healthy vineyard of premium grapes for a small but excellent range of wines.
We all know that behind every bottle of good wine there is good sunshine and terroir, the unique characteristics of the location where the grapes are grown, a combination of the soils, the climate and of course the human factor... but can a good tune be just as relevant in wine-making?
As you approach il Paradiso di Frassina, an organic winery located nearer the foot of the Montalcino hill just 5km north of the Montalcino town, you can hear the unmistakable sound of classical music. Even with no training or understanding for classical music, the joyful and harmonious symphonies immediately bring to mind Mozart, who we are all familiar with, even if his music is not part of our music playlists. By the time you have arrived and parked, you are thoroughly being serenaded by Mozart, even though the source of the music may not yet be evident.
Carlo Cignozzi has always loved music and was drawn to a series of studies on the beneficial influences of music on animals and vegetation that were carried out in the Far East, so he decided that music would be played to his vines. This was not just a romantic dream, since Carlo was convinced that music would help in the production of good wine, and after initially being considered a visionary, he’s now not the only one. Researchers from the Universities of Pisa and Florence have been assisting Carlo in monitoring the effect of the music on the vines, which indeed helps vines grow stronger and bear larger and healthier grapes!!
It is true that vines are not able to "hear" the music, since unlike most animals, they do not have organs for hearing. However, sound waves are a source of energy, which can be perceived by the vine on a cellular level, especially certain frequencies. Music influences the plants, aiding their metabolism, their production of chlorophyll and boosting their foliage. The vineyard has been divided into different parts, and these are monitored throughout the growing season: the vines closest to the music are the most robust, with the most vigorous foliage. At harvest, the quality of the grapes are tested and there are distinct differences between those that are intensely serenaded, and those too far to perceive the sound waves. The grapes closest to the speakers, for example, have the highest sugar content.
The network of speakers that delight Paradiso di Frassina’s vineyards 24 hours a day with the complex and lively harmonies of Mozart also allow the winery to reduce vineyard treatments, so no chemicals are used to protect the vines. Stefano Mancuso, a plant neurobiologist with the University of Florence who gave a talk on the roots of plant intelligence on Ted, has been studying the Mozart vineyard since 2003 and has found that sound dramatically reduces the number of attacks from insects and parasites who remain confused and unable to locate one another for mating. Birds and other animals who like to feed on the grapes also stay away, so there’s no need for the use of pesticides!
The company Bose heard about these studies, donated 72 speakers and financed more research. The project of laying down 3km of cable at a depth of about 4 feet was an ambitious one, but ecological cables that do not emit an electromagnetic field were used, in line with Carlo’s desire to create a setting that is in harmony with the surrounding environment. The efforts paid off when the sound system was turned on, and the growing wines and developing grapes have been serenaded all day and night since.