I have for years recognized the parallelisms between wines/the winemaker and art/the artist. Winemakers and artists are more similar than you might first consider. It is more than left brain verses right brain and more the core personality and values held by each. Each typically strives to express the essence of an object/idea or grape varietal, in a dynamic form to showcase the expansive breath of their subject.
Wine reflects in the time & space continuum that which society deems “permissible and provides a solid ROI” for the endeavor at hand. History repeats itself but always with a new nuance or twist making both winemaker and artist with their works truly an existential endeavor. So while the winemaker harvests the grapes from the same vineyard year after year, each is unique and reflects it unique “terroir”. Artists have painted for centuries if not millenniums, mirroring the values and norms of society or revolting against them. Both the artists and winemakers are trying to provide a completeness and wholeness of the varietal or subject without blemish and bring satisfaction to their admiring public.
Five of the core schools of art can better be understood and their association with the winemakers’ perspective or presuppositions. They are Realism, Expressionism, Modern Art, Baroque and Romanticism.
Sometimes also referred to as Naturalism. This discipline tries to represent without artificial encumbrances or supernatural elements. More it depicts the ordinary and harsh environment of everyday and ordinary people from middle and lower class society. Manual labor is a hallmark of realism. This art is accurate and of unadorned, simple subjects of the 19th century. The Realistic often tackled social issues.
A winemaker who associates with this artistic discipline lets the “terrior” of the vineyards speak to and develop the wine without outside intervention. So in a good year the winemaker is hands off in the production scheme, but in a bad year financial consideration like ROI and profitability may leave him/her no choice to abandon this position.
The artists of this group paint people, places and objects with exaggerated proportions. Their perspective is highly subjective and personal. Negative even sinister feeling and aggressive behavior is recognized by amplified brush strokes and colors. These ideas can be seen in Starry Nights by Van Gough or Scream by Edward Munch. Much of this discipline was brought about from the reaction of Europe to the quickening industrialization and intended as well as unintended social consequences in society. Alienation and anxiety are parents which begat expressionism.
An expressionism winemaker who has a dispensation toward a varietal or final product, while often good, his or her perspective is extremely subjective and personal. If your tastes align with one, that is great, but odds are only a few will be simpatico.
This discipline is rejection of history and conservative values. The USA is more familiar with this art as it is more prevalent here but Europe obviously had a strong hand in Modern Art. The works here include abstract, surrealism, pop art, art deco, etc. Pollack and Salvador Dali are two key figures of this movement.
A winemaker related to this artistic discipline may interpret and reject standard practices in lieu of new technologies or processes. Perhaps this may apply to the can wine movement, Seltzer craze or even unconventional methods of winemaking.
A few of the key characteristics of Baroque painters include rich colors, grandeur, big round human subjects, serene or tranquil setting and pensive self-portraits. Ruben, Caravaggio and Rembrandt are some that come to mind.
A “baroque style” winemaker here may incorporate grandeur or drama combining two or more varietals. Perhaps even adding Mega Purple or other ingredients (egg whites, milk products, fish bladders, bovine pancreas, water, cultured yeasts, acidification, powered tannins, oak chips, etc.) to extreme measures or simply always making a “manufactured wine” for the consumers altering what nature has provided in the natural state of the varietal.
This represents a return to nature, organic in nature, green and bio friendly. This too was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and highlighted emotion and individualism. It also held tightly and glorified all the past and nature. Moods and feelings depict and can be seen in the art. Subjects of romanticism were religion, revolution and landscapes. Artists in this group include William Black, Thomas Jones, Eugene Delacroix, Francisco Goya and many others.
The winemaker here may return to the tried and true processes like hand harvesting and biological/environmental friendly vineyards. Many winemakers and wineries are getting certified green/organic and even going solar/turbine to be off the grid. The bottom line here is all of this producing a “better wine” or mirroring social norms to sell more wine or being better stewards of the land?
So with the basic outline of various schools or disciplines of the art world, do you see the concepts/ideals that a winemaker or winery emulate? While not wanting to “pigeonhole” anyone in particular, perhaps a winemaker cross pollenates various artistic disciplines.
While these concepts and ideas/ideals between winemakers and artists are not mutually isolated or strictly adhered to, it provides a perspective as to the presuppositions which may direct a winemaker either consciously or subconsciously in his/her winemaking direction and abilities. Perhaps a blending of many of these disciplines come into play reflecting both societal norms as well as individual creativity and thought.
Two of my favorite quotes on art are:
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”- Edgar Degas French Impressionist, 1834-1917. The winemakers’ corollary is “Wine is not what you see, but what you make others taste”.
“A picture is a poem without words” – Horace 65 BC to 8 BC. The winemakers’ corollary is “a bottle is simply a bottle with liquid, but a winemaker makes it come to life and sing as wine”.
Perhaps a bottle of wine is for a remembrance of a specific time with energy and creativity sprinkled by the winemaker.