You can thank Mozart for the taste of this wine

Editor's Note: This segment has been edited since its original broadcast to include updated visuals.

The Italian region of Tuscany is renowned for its world-class wine. From the vine to the vat, it is a time-honored practice in which little has changed over the centuries. But as Christopher Livesay explains, there’s one small vineyard here challenging tradition, and bringing its wine to life with the sound of music.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, the Italian region of Tuscany is renowned for its world-class wine, from the vine to the vat, making it a time-honored practice in which little has changed over the centuries.

    But, as Christopher Livesay explains, there's one small vineyard challenging tradition, and bringing its wine to life with the sound of music.

    This story was produced prior to the pandemic, and Livesay is now a correspondent for CBS.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    In the rolling hills of Montalcino, Tuscany, a harmonious combination of temperate climate and fertile soil has long helped create some of the finest wines in the world.

    But at this vineyard, the Paradiso di Frassina, there's another peculiar ingredient. For seven days a week and 24 hours a day, these Sangiovese grapes are fed a steady diet of Mozart.

    The man behind this unorthodox approach is owner Carlo Cignozzi, a former musician.

    Carlo Cignozzi, Owner, Paradiso di Frassina (through translator): I knew that music provides energy to the human soul. People need it to thrive. Plants are the same.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    But could Mozart's Divertimento in D really produce a bacchanalia?

    Cignozzi says the vines closest to the speakers produce the juiciest grapes and the greenest leaves. He doesn't have to use much fertilizer or any pesticides. Mozart, he says, drives away the pests.

  • Carlo Cignozzi (through translator):

    Crickets mate on the vine. That's why they make that sound, it's their mating call.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    Tell me about this. Why does the music scare away the crickets?

  • Carlo Cignozzi (through translator):

    Because the cricket sings a serenade: I'm here, my love.I'm coming.

    But if Mozart music is playing, the female can't hear it. So they leave, and go somewhere more quiet, to my neighbors' vineyards instead. The same thing happens with birds and wild boars that would otherwise eat my grapes.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    Mozart wine, sounds like a nice idea, but is it a gimmick?

    Well, now some researchers say there may be some veritas in that eccentric viticulture.

    Scientists at the CREA Research Laboratory in Tuscany are trying to verify some of those claims.

  • Paolo Storchi, Director, CREA Research Laboratory (through translator):

    Prior research shows that there is a positive impact on plant growth, as well as insects, when certain sound waves act as a deterrent for pests.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    He also speculates that Mozart music mimics the frequencies of running water, which might explain why the grapevines stretch and grow towards the speakers.

    Now Storchi and his team are trying to verify yet another potential benefit.

  • Alice Ciofini, Researcher, CREA Research Laboratory:

    Yes, now I'm going to cut a leaf.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    To see if music prevents the growth of fungus.

    So, you're looking for the right wavelength that is going to keep this plant from getting an infection?

  • Alice Ciofini:

    Yes.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    People have long considered plants to be lower life-forms than humans. It was Aristotle who said that plants are on the edge between living and nonliving. And in the Old Testament, Noah made room on the Ark for the animals, not the plants.

    But, today, there's a movement in science to recognize plants as sensitive and even sentient creatures.

    Stefano Mancuso, University of Florence: Because plants are not just able to live. They are able to sense. They are much more sophisticated in sensing than animals.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    Stefano Mancuso, from the University of Florence, seen here giving a TED Talk, is one more scientist studying Cignozzi's musical vineyard in depth.

  • Stefano Mancuso:

    And they are also able to show and to exhibit such a wonderful and complex behavior that can be described just with the term of intelligence.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    Of course, there are skeptics.

    Does anyone ever call you crazy?

  • Carlo Cignozzi (through translator):

    Sure. The Italians are the worst. It's like hitting a wall. They tell me: "Carlo, don't mess with wine."

  • Christopher Livesay:

    But among the believers, Cignozzi also counts Bose, the high-end speaker producer. The company has sponsored his 120-speaker sound system, stretching 25 acres, and even inside his cellar, where resident wine master Federico Ricci speculates the musical vibrations help with the fermentation process inside these barrels of prized Brunello, much in the way that swirling wine in the glass can unlock its most subtle flavors.

    Federico Ricci, Wine Master, Paradiso di Frassina (through translator): It's certainly very different. It has different chemical characteristics. It has many more polyphenols inside. Polyphenols give color to wine,as well as all those antioxidants that give it body. So this definitely makes a better wine.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    But does the music have to be Mozart? Scientists say it could be anything, from the Rolling Stones to Barry White.

    But Cignozzi disagrees. He can't get enough of Mozart.

  • Carlo Cignozzi (through translator):

    I have tried a variety, like Gregorian chants. But, for me, Mozart is the composer of nature. It's the most geometric, the most profound, the most cheerful, yet the most mysterious.

    Such is Mozart. Such is my wine as well.

  • Christopher Livesay:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Christopher Livesay in Montalcino, Tuscany.

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