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June 24, 2017

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South African wine shows notes of Bach and Mozart

STELLENBOSCH, South Africa--Everybody knows that wine should have a good nose, but one South African vintner wants the world to believe it also needs a good ear.

In a gentle valley near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, the vineyards at DeMorgenzon estate are serenaded by baroque and early classical music day and night, all year round.

And once the grapes are harvested, the maturing wine gets the same treatment in the cellar.

Winemaker and general manager Carl van der Merwe smiles when asked whether he is seen in the same light as Britain's Prince Charles, who was scorned for admitting that he talks to his plants to encourage their growth.

"We have a lot of people that are very skeptical about what we are doing and why we're doing it, particularly neighbors," he says.

But he is a firm supporter of the musical approach adopted by the owners of the estate, prominent businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum and her music-loving husband Hylton, who founded Classic FM radio in South Africa.

The Appelbaums bought the estate in 2003 and introduced music in 2009, following in the footsteps of farmers who have serenaded everything from cows to pigs in an attempt to improve production and quality.

While there was no scientific proof of music's effects on wine, they thought there was enough evidence of the positive influence of dulcet sound to try to combine their love of both.

"We do things in life sometimes because we believe in them and often we find out later that there was a very strong scientific reason why those things worked," Van der Merwe says.

So if wine and song go together in more ways than one, why does it have to be baroque rather than rock?

"Well, we only use baroque and classical for the reason that those two have mathematical rhythm and those sound waves have been proven to have a positive effect on natural life," he says.

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