Is wine art? For some, this is a silly question. No. Yet, this has been debated for hundreds of years.
Wine is a unique, complex creation. Cultural, historical, and environmental factors mark its production. A great wine is not an accident. Someone had to craft it, had to recognize its potential, had to work to evoke its beauty.
How is that different from a painter or a sculptor? How is that different from a musical composer or a writer? Sure wine is a piece of art that must be consumed to be enjoyed. But don’t we regard Christo’s installation art as art? It pleases us, then it is destroyed.
Don’t we regard someone singing or acting in a play as art? In the case of performance art, it is consumed while it is happening and can never exactly be repeated, even a recording or a video is not the same as the live event. On the other hand, a case of fine wine can be enjoyed for decades.
I think of art as something a human being created to bring beauty or pleasure or intellectual stimulation to another human being. Wine does that. So does food preparation, for that matter. In his book Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine, Barry Smith, a professor at the University of London wrote: “there are standards by which we can judge wine, or a musical score, or a painting to be better than another, and these reflect discernible properties of those objects, though it may take practice and experience to recognize them.”
How is a wine critic different from an art critic, a theatre critic, a music critic?
Wine critic Elin McCoy dealt with the question in The World of Fine Wine, Issue 64, 2019: “Is wine art? I’m still not sure. But does it really matter? The fact that there are so many connections and similarities to the way we regard both means, for many wine lovers, the question is answered. Wine may not be art, but it’s close enough.”
Something to ponder over your next glass of wine.
• Landmark Overlook Pinot Noir 2019: Elegant with softness and tasty fruit abetted by a hint of earthiness, cinnamon, camphor. $24-27 Link to my review
• Louis Roederer Champagne Collection 242 NV: Fresh, vibrant multi-vintage effort employs solera-style system and reserve wines aged in oak. $52 Link to my review
Last round: My dad tried to tell me a joke about boxing, but I missed the punch line. Wine time.