Wine as Art


What is  art ? For me,  art  is any stimulation of the five senses whose unique and complex arrangement and interplay incite an emotion in the observer. Miraculously, and thankfully, certain combinations of these stimuli are able to arouse feelings within us.

How is it that we can be brought to tears by a certain melancholy melody or our passion fueled by a particular combination of colors painted on a canvas? Yet, not all that stimulates the senses is  art . Inexplicably, only certain combinations of stimuli performed in just the right way become greater than the sum of its parts.

No one is moved by a single note, yet, in the context of a greater work and played just so, a string of simple notes turns into an otherworldly tapestry that seems impossible to be the creation of a single man or woman.

That being said, not every piece of  art  is  art  to all observers. Depending on their particular situation and perspective, what one-person views as a beautiful and emotional moment may be lost on the next. This can be the result of a variety of factors. That person’s emotional state, their history, their relationships, their experiences up to that moment in life, all help to shape the perspective from which they view this stimuli.

Additionally, subtlety plays a crucial part in shaping emotions and responses to  art . The experienced viewer who has analyzed and studied thousands of paintings may understand the subtle crafting that goes into a particular piece and can “see” its nuances and feel the statement it is trying to make, whether consciously or unconsciously. The naïve will miss these subtleties and thus the  art  will fail to inflict its full emotional impact.

Underlying all of these types and means of  art , there is a common thread. All true  art  has a soul, an intangible vibration of life and individuality that holds all its components together and gives them presence. If the sounds, the colors, the words and/or the tastes make up the rim of a wheel, then the soul of  art  is the hub and spokes holding it all together. It is not something that can be described or pointed at. It is not a color or a taste or a sound. It is an ethereal shimmering personality that shines through and one cannot help but notice it lurking in the background. It may take experience to appreciate.

It is not difficult to create physical stimuli that are pleasing and these may be misinterpreted by the uninitiated as true living  art . Salt and sweet taste good. A major cord sounds good. A happy ending makes us feel good. Yet simple sensory satisfaction does not true  art  make. The stimuli must be tempered with a unique personality and life in order to transcend to that elusive realm of  art . Behind this soul is always something real and familiar that makes the emotion poignant and genuine.

Whether it is the fond memory of an experience, the familiar pain of love lost, or even the recognition of natural beauty, something in true  art  touches us and will not let us look away. It is so natural and innate that it is as if it is an eternal truth that will endure for all time. Who has not felt that Mozart’s Requiem Mass must have always existed, that it was not created by a mortal man, that it is a part of this earth and universe that we discovered and have cherished? The religiously inclined may describe it as god speaking through that man. For no mortal man could possibly create such a pure expression of emotion and truth. Such is  art .

Yet,  art  can come from such diverse sources. From the learned and the self taught, from the rich and the poor, from the happy and the sad, from those who struggle at it and those for whom it is second nature.  Art  can even be from a natural source as filtered through man’s manipulations.

So how does all of this apply to wine? Wine, unlike most generally accepted forms of  art , is not entirely man-made. It is an expression of the Earth (not soil, but Mother Earth herself). Is it not therefore that much closer to being a true and unadulterated expression of a natural truth? Yes, it certainly is.

However, just as it is infinitely difficult to create from nothing a true work of beauty, so is it a daunting task to let that natural beauty shine through in a wine unadulterated and pure. At so many steps in its evolution there is the risk of meddling with that natural expression and marring it with artificial and wholly un-artistic (un-soulful) taint. Therein lies the true  art  of the winemaker, to allow the wine to fully express itself without hiding its true personality and life behind the masks of manipulation.

The great winemaker recognizes that life and uniqueness in his wine and struggles from vine to bottle to preserve and protect that natural beauty. For, to strip a wine of its ability to express itself is a crime.

Just as all sound or color is not  art , not all wine is  art . Only the perfect combination of grape varietal, site, climate, upbringing and storage allow the true soul of a wine to shine through. How often does this happen? Rarely. It is easy to make a wine that tastes good. Make a wine taste like fruit or butter and you will have people singing its praises. For who is not pleased by fruit or butter? But when one is searching for a wine experience that transcends the rest and that evolves into something more than a simply tasty beverage, we look for something more than these easy wines. Tasting good is no longer the goal.

Not to say that simple, tasty wines don’t have their place, they do. But making a wine that is soulful and shimmering with life is not easy. Nor is it easy to appreciate. We must have tasted a thousand non-artistic wines before we can recognize the thrilling burst of energy and presence that hits your palate when it is presented with a truly artistic wine. It is something deep at the wine’s core, apart from its flavors and structure and balance (yet all great wines will certainly have that, for what defines balance if not nature) that you feel, not taste.

This brings us to the notion of terroir. As most describe it, terroiris the unique profile with which a wine is blessed when it truly expresses those things that influenced the growing of the grapes, the soil type, the exposure, the elevation, the microclimate, the surrounding wildlife, etc. However I see it slightly differently. To me, terroir is the absolute and ultimate necessity of a great wine.

Only when a wine truly and fully expresses its terroir (be it in Burgundy or California, the Mosel or Australia) do we see a wine with passion, soul and grace. Manipulation can make a wine from Burgundy taste like a Bordeaux. Yet it will be bland, one-dimensional and without depth and interest. When a wine is accurately expressing its place, only then, the natural beauty of that site can shine through and speak to the observer. A Chevalier-Montrachet has nothing to tell you about Hermitage and visa-versa. Would you ask an African bushman to teach you about life in the Australian outback? We cannot force a wine to make a statement it is not prepared to make without obliterating its soul. We would strip it of its spirit, personality and individuality.

Some tasters simplify the idea of terroirby saying that it lends an earth or dirt flavor to wines but I disagree. The terroir of different sites will have profoundly different flavor profiles. Yes, some of these will include earthy aromas and flavors but not necessarily so. The presence of earthiness in a wine does not necessarily imply it has more terroir than another, they are just different. Terroir implies a particular personality and flavor profile unique to a specific vineyard, not any one exact smell or flavor that is universal for all wines.

Some say that this grape varietal or that lends itself to expressing terroir

Source by Josh Dusick

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