Recently you may have noticed a couple of groovy wine paintings on our homepage. Inky red wine swirling in a tapered glass and a colorful vineyard landscape have recently adorned the face of our website. These creations are a part of our partnership with Paint Nite, a fun bunch of art enthusiasts who bring people together to paint and tip a glass or two.
Wine and art go great together. Wine makes art more exhilarating whether you’re a crew of tuxedo clad tycoons in a 5th Ave penthouse debating the merits of pop art, or a café dweller gazing upon whimsical sketches of the Chalk Bomber of Ann Arbor. Furthermore, a fair amount of wine labels have been artistically rendered to make a bottle of wine more desirable. In 1924, Baron Philippe de Rothschild figured that his Grand Cru Bordeaux could be made more collectible if each vintage bore a unique label designed by a famous artist. Since then, works of art created by Salvatore Dali (1958), Joan Miro (1969) and Balthus (1993) have been displayed on bottles of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. More recently, the Swiss winery Cave Fin Bec invited a handful of graffiti artists to create unique artwork for their wine labels. You can even watch the artists at work on YouTube while you sip on a glass of Chasselas.
One might argue that wine itself can be art. After all, the price paid for collectible wines can rival the money spent on fine art. For example, one Jeroboam (i.e. Double Magnum) of the 1945 Chateaux Mouton Rothschild fetched $310,000 at a Sotheby’s wine auction in 2007. By comparison, Papillons, a painting by Salvador Dali recently sold for $206,500. If you think that’s an excessive price to pay for wine, don’t fret. One standard bottle of 2010 Mouton will only set you back $1,000.
Furthermore, the brush and bottle wielding participants at our last Paint Nite suggested that wine can certainly be art because of the creative effort and expertise required by the maker to produce something exceptional and even inspirational. If you define art by the creative process and not its final properties, perhaps they are right.
On the other hand, there is something about viewing wine as art that just doesn’t seem right. For starters, fine art is meant to be seen, not swallowed. The thought of eating an Eakins, guzzling an El Greco, or masticating a Matisse is absurd. But, drinking that $300,000 Jeroboam is to fulfill its destiny.
Moreover, museums and galleries around the world are filled with ancient works of art that are thousands of years old. There is something about great art that is timeless and enduring. By comparison, all wine eventually turns to vinegar. Just imagine that, if after a hundred years or so, a Pablo Picasso transformed into something that looked like it was painted by numbers. For sure, works of fine art are subject to decay if neglected, but they can be brought back to life through restoration. So far nobody has figured out how to restore a bottle of wine gone bad.
Even though wine and art go well together, they are distinct from one another. When it comes to wine, perhaps a line should be drawn between art and artisan. Like artists, the makers of fine wine pour their heart and soul into the creation of something unique and expressive. This creation brings us much happiness and we should be grateful for it. However, wine is mortal. The best wines only last as long as us humans. Its rightful place is in our bellies, and probably not on a pedestal in a gallery.