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The Mystical Role of Music in Winemaking

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Do you hear that sound in the distance? It’s not the hills that are alive with the sound of music–it’s the vineyards! Always exploring the latest in the world of wine, our Coravin Correspondent Jacqueline Coleman of History and Wine speaks with winemaker Aurelio Montes Jr. of Montes Wines in Chile to learn how musical vibrations to achieve a better quality wine while it matures.

Winemaking is both art and science. The process of taking grapes and making them into a bottle of wine that so many people can enjoy around the world is one full of scientific formulas and reactions, but it is also one that requires creativity and an artist’s palette. Winemakers can be chemists, engineers, farmers, scientists, but also philosophers, creatives, and magicians. While each winemaker has his or her unique method in creating the perfect bottle of wine, there are parts of the process that require formula, and other times when the creator must rely on feeling and intuition.

Perhaps one of the more mystical methods of making wine involves the use of music in the process. Some claim that playing music enhances the wine as the sound vibrations can improve the exchange of oxygen in and out of the casks of wine as they rest. Others see the vines as living organisms that appreciate the soothing sounds of classical composers, which enhances their natural stability as they grow. Outside of the vineyard and cellars, consumers may have a different experience with a glass of wine while listening to various types of music. Either way, there is something to be said about the mystical role of music in winemaking and enjoyment.

One winery that utilizes music in their winemaking is Montes Wines in Chile. Winemaker, Aurelio Montes Jr. explains in more detail why and how Montes uses musical vibrations to enhance the quality of their wines.

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Are there certain wines that Montes uses music in the winemaking process?

AM: At Montes, we focus our efforts and attention on creating the best wines of Chile with the highest quality. The wines aged in our oak barrels in Apalta with the Gregorian chants are our icons. Montes Folly, Montes Alpha M, Purple Angel, and our super icon Montes Taita. Only these wines use music as part of their maturation process to pursue the best quality possible.

How does music affect the wines?

AM: The music helps the wine through vibrations to achieve a better quality while maturing in the barrel. Depending on the music used, the vibrations can affect the wine positively or negatively, so much depends on the person or vineyard that uses this method. At Montes, we use the Gregorian chants 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. With this method, it not only helps the maturation of the wines, but also creates a place of peace and harmony.

When did Montes first start using music in the cellars?

AM: Since 2004, when the cellars were built together with the winery in Apalta. We discovered that music can positively affect the quality of wines through a vibration process.

What type of music is used?

AM: The Gregorian chants of The Monks of Glenstal Abbey, full album of Calming the Storm 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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Was there an inspiration for using music?

AM: Our philosophy as a company is to always seek excellence and be pioneers in new techniques to improve the quality of our wines. We identify that through the philosophy of Feng Shui and music. You can get a better maturation in our wines to achieve a better quality through these methods.

Are there scientific articles/evidence that can be referenced for using music in the aging process?

AM: A study was conducted in conjunction with the Heriot-Watt University of England, “Wine and Music: The effect of background music on the taste of wine” to obtain scientifically proven results that music has a positive impact on the maturation of wine.

What type of music is best and why?

AM: The best music to obtain the best quality for any wine is the Gregorian chants music. This question is interesting because the music of different genres is perceived differently depending on the wine one is drinking. If you listen to rock while you drink cabernet sauvignon, you can get 60% more of the flavors than if you were not listening to music. This Results were obtained by the scientific study of Montes wines and the Heriot-Watt University (1).

What would you want consumers to know about the technique of using music in the cellars?

AM: That music not only serves as a melody that brightens our lives, but as an instrument that has an impact on what surrounds us. We want to highlight that these vibrations affect in a positive way how to perceive wine, and how music helps to obtain the best performance of each wine in the right conditions.

Any interesting anecdotes that you would want to mention about the music in the cellars?

AM: The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra went to visit the vineyard in Apalta, and once they entered the cellars, they felt so motivated by the Gregorian chants that they asked to play music there. They went to the bus to get their instruments and made a very incredible presentation. They commented that they were inspired by Montes’ angels.

Other wineries using music for winemaking

Fatalone Organic Wines

Of course, Montes is not the only winery that uses this technique of music in the cellar. Pasquale Petrera, owner and winemaker at Fatalone Wines in Puglia, Italy, also uses music in crafting the perfect Primitivo. His application of music-therapy is focused on the ageing of their Gioia del Colle DOC Primitivo Riserva in Slavonic oak casks, and it’s based on three main reasons.

Pasquale says they take advantage of the mechanic energy of the sound waves to produce micro-vibrations on the surface of the casks in order to improve the exchange of oxygen in and out of the cask. Primitivo is very sensitive to the micro-oxygenation process, and therefore can develop a wide range of complex tertiary notes, and music can assist in creating more complexity. Additionally, the vibrations can help the wine to refine itself through a kind of micro-raking process.

Finally, Pasquale admits that the music therapy also creates a harmonic work environment that is pleasant for everyone who works in the cellar area, which helps to keep employee satisfaction on the higher side.

Champagne Apollonis

In the region of Champagne, producer, Michel Loriot of Champagne Apollonis, plays classical music for his bottles as they rest on their lees and also plays music in the vineyards in order to enhance the natural resistance of the vines. Loriot developed his love of music from his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father who were members of a village band. The family business for many generations was winemaking instead of music, but that didn’t mean Loriot left music behind. Classical ensembles are very much still a part of his life and his profession, despite never having played an instrument.

Instead, Loriot discovered the process of using music in the cellars while in Switzerland. He found a producer there who was using classical music for ageing wines. After that experience, he researched more details about music and wine through Joël Sternheimer, a French physician who proved the effect of the vibrations on the environment. Music can affect the yeasts, especially on the proteins, amino acid, and autolysis during the fermentation in the bottles, which can bring about more expressions of the aromas. In addition to the music played for the bottles, Michel also listens to music when he is working in the winery. He brings a Bluetooth speaker with him and listens to Charles Aznavour, Julien Clerc, Gilbert Becaud, Michel Delpech, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Amy Mac Donald, Amy Winehouse, and Melody Gardot.

Apollonis bottles are classified by the different levels of musical vibration, and the labels not only identity one of the historical winemaking family members, but also the vibration level experienced by that particular cuvée.

Music can play a large role in the winemaking process, whether from a scientific or more emotional perspective, especially for producers like these from very different regions of the world. Do you know another winemaker who uses music in their process of making wine?

If you were a winemaker, which song would you choose to be the soundtrack of your winemaking? Share with us on social by tagging @HistoryandWine and @coravin on all channels.

References:

  1. North, A. C. (2008). Obtained from Wine & Song: The Effect of Background Music on the Taste of Wine: http://www.wineanorak.com/musicandwine.pdf