Why Wine is Artistry?
Updated: Feb 4, 2019
Everything is started with Noah’s discovery of a plant. According to the Bible (Genesis 9:18-20), Noah’s Ark settled on Mount Ararat, in Eastern Anatolia (today’s land known as Turkey), where he harvested that first crop- the grape. Genesis 9:20-21 (New International Version) suggests that “Noah, a man of the soil proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.”
According to Professor Patrick E. McGovern in University of Pennsylvania Museum, he suggests that today’s Turkey it might be the birthplace of wine and its culture. Due to archeological foundings and archeological sites. The researchers found the oldest temple has been found in Gobeklitepe which goes back to 10.000 B.C. and in the same place there are proofs that grape seeds found nearly back to 9000 B.C. Ancient Georgian traditional Quevri winemaking method has been found in 6000 BC, just before discovering the world oldest settlement in Catalhoyuk Neolitic City in Konya, Turkey. The world oldest winery is found in Armenia in 4000 B.C. After all those archeological sites Hittites appeared in Bronze Age in Anatolia that they do have first wine laws in the history. They had a word for the wine called “gestin” (ready as Wiyana) and wine ministers called Gal Gestin. The wine was holly drink for the Hittites. The big king of Hittites, Varpalavas says : ” I planted young vines when I was kid. God of Feast (Tarhu) protected them now they are fruitfull vines.”
Prof. Vouillamoz makes genetic studies for archeologically found plant residues and he suggests in his article Genetic characterization and relationships of traditional grape cultivars from Transcauasia and Anatolia (2006) Southern Eastern Anatolia is most likely primary domestication center of the grapevine according to grape genetics, biomolecular archaeology (Gobekli tepe) and linguistics by Hittites. Afterwards, it spread to world through Greeks and Egyptians. The English word oenology derives from the word oinos, “wine” and the suffix -logia “study of” from Ancient Greek Language.
Rachel Black is an anthropologist who specializes in food and wine. Black is currently a member of the Anthropology Department at Connecticut College. She presented a paper on “the artification of wine: words that transform grapes into art” in 2013.
Wine can be a product of creativity: it can be made to express a feeling, and to have its drinker feel something. Like when you look at Monet’s paintings in his gardens in Giverny, don’t you feel some kind of excitement or astonishing feeling, or perhaps a smile on your face as the same smile when you drink a glass of artistically-crafted Pinot? Crafting a wine can be a means of communicating an idea, a transaction from one state to another. As you look at any paints and feel an expression.
It does not have to be any of these things, and in fact it rare is. Blogger Blake Gray says "most of commercially made wine may not be artistry which is absolutely fine." Rachel Black adds “Some wines are art projects, but I would rather drink a wine that the maker considers craft, artistry.” When you think that way, there is a great example of Jolie-Laide winery in Sebastopol, CA. Many of their wines are not monotonous, in the contrary they have different artistic craftsmanship in their winemaking as well as their labels. They label their wines differently every year and every vintage have a unique artistic winemaking and artistic wine label is involved. Because every vintage has unique characteristic in it. One year can show more flamboyant, next year this can be very bold characteristic wine.
We can also show other may wineries to approach wine is an artistry, the simple example can be Chateau Mouton Rothschild (Premier Cru Classe) as well as other wineries in the world.
Black wrote, “Once you consume wine it is destroyed, gone. The only possible remain is a tasting note.” That’s also true of the shows of Christo or Laurie Anderson. Art in the 21st century can be fleeting, disposable, leaving nothing but memories, Instagrams and logo gear.
To be “art” is not synonymous with being “good,” and certainly does not mean “universally appreciated,” in its era or afterward. Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime. His era, impressionism, was immediately followed by cubist painting, which was important at the time, is still taught as important in art schools and exhibited around the globe and which I personally find ugly, smug and disdainful of the viewer.
Is art in the process or the results? It’s an important question for wine. As Black pointed out, “The immediacy of pleasure does not necessarily make something not art.” In other words, art in wine doesn’t have to taste bad.
Francis Ford Coppola said, “An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk, then how are you going to make something really beautiful, something that hasn’t been seen before?” Robert Mondavi also once said “Making a good wine is a skill, making fine wine is an art”.
There is also another element to add this craftsmanship phenomena, which is terroir. Terroir most of time translates to English as “sense of the place.” Terroir is still big discussion in the wine industry, for some just where the grapes are grown and the climate, or it includes rock soil formation for some. For an American point of view, let me put it this way. For instance, when you say wine, you think of Napa. When you say cheese, you think of Wisconsin. The entire place makes the product special such as where the grapes are grown, which soil coming from, what are the microelements in that soil, how the soil structure, which kind of climate in the vineyard, how the vineyard located in that particular plot and why? What are the varieties that grown in that vineyard? and many other things that may affect terroir.
A bottle of wine, therefore, is not just an expression of a place: it is thought to be the expression of a place in time. Like an object of art, a wine is thought to be unique and impossible to reproduce.
Once one can understand, terroir and craftsmanship that help you to be a vigneron; true winemaking artistry. Once you are vigneron you can understand about environment, rocks, soils, what are the effects of making wine in certain conditions, which barrels need to be used to get that certain flavors as you can get many hues of blue when you paint as a famous painter. The techniques that you use makes your craftsmanship shine and make it more artistic for people to appreciate. For instance, cultured yeast in wine is more likely to produce art than native yeast. Native yeast is like pouring paint on the canvas, come what may. Cultured yeast is choosing a brush and painting your canvas that you really want to achieve. Certificated Sommellier and creator of the NYT bestseller book Wine Folly author Madeline Puckette expresses that “There’s this undefinable x-factor to great wine that’s hard to quantify in a scientific manner. Art is also a very personal choice that really comes down to the eye of the beholder. Of course, the more educated you are at understanding the craft of art, the more sophisticated/nuanced your taste will become. Winemakers, like artists, follow different ideologies and these core competencies are indeed reflected in the wine.”
As summary, wine is artistry when one internalizes the terroir and wine characterization is a concept as art project and behave that way, and use their canvas to accomplish their artistic form with merge with their scientific knowledge. That winemaker is oenoartist.
For me, coming from Turkey which scientifically proved that where wine is originated, and being understand and practice the many art form with merging my scientific knowledge, I consider myself as oenoartist, an artistic winemaker.