When this beautiful trio meets, magic happens
— Shelley Boettcher
Winemaking, it has been said, is where science and art meet.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, to see how many winemakers — and winery owners — draw their inspiration from the arts. Science gets the work into the bottle, but art and music make it so much more beautiful.
Take Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux, for instance. The late Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the estate’s owner until his death in 1988, commissioned some of the 20th century’s most famous artists—including Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso—to create one-of-kind labels each vintage.
The tradition continues even now at Mouton-Rothschild. English painter David Hockney and American pop artist Jeff Koons have created labels for recent vintages. (You’ll pay for it, though. The wines, considered to be some of the world’s greatest, retail for upwards of $700 per bottle.)
Of course, since the dawn of wine, many artists and musicians have also found their inspiration in a fine vintage. Dali created The Wines of Gala, a book filled with his eccentric art and thoughts on wine. First published in 1977, it was rereleased by Taschen in 2018.
And then there’s Ludwig Van Beethoven who, on his deathbed, was awaiting a shipment of wine from Germany. Some accounts claim his last words were “Pity, pity, too late,” when the shipment showed up too late for him to enjoy it.
Still, that wine-song-art tradition continues today, as wineries team up with artists and musicians to create beautiful wines, both inside and out.
Here are just a few excellent examples to search out now:
Terralsole 2007 Pasticcio
Terralsole winemaker Mario Bollag spent time in art school when he was younger, but eventually became a pilot and, now, a winery owner. His wife and business partner Athena is a violinist and musician with the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Bollag, who spent several years flying cargo in Haiti, fell in love with that country. Several of his wines features labels by Haitian artists, including the Pasticcio.
As for the wine, the word Pasticcio translates as mess, but this wine is anything but. Rather, it’s an enticing, full-bodied organic Super-Tuscan blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese: peppery, spicy, mocha, balsamic and rosemary. It’s showing beautifully now or stick it in the cellar for a couple more years. Pair with lamb or venison, or a heap of Italian-style roasted sweet red peppers and mushrooms. About $76.
Dom Perignon 2008 Lenny Kravitz Edition
Grammy Award-winning American rock musician Lenny Kravitz was named Dom Perignon’s first-ever Global Creative Director in 2018. He took a series of star-studded photographs (Susan Sarandon, Harvey Keitel, Alexander Wang are just a few of the featured faces) for ad campaigns last fall.
Now, his limited-edition Dom Perignon Champagne has been released in Canada.
Long-time Dom fans will be happy to know the bubbles inside the bottle are still legendary vintage Champagne, with those toasty brioche notes, a fine mousse and long finish.
Kravitz, however, has recreated the wine’s famous medallion label in a hammered gold metal. It’s sexy. It’s rock and roll. And it works. About $250.
Ruinart non-vintage Rose
The world’s oldest Champagne house, Ruinart dates back to 1729. Each year, for the past few years, the Ruinart team has chosen an established artist to collaborate with; the artist then develops a project — perhaps a book or photographs or a limited-edition package that showcases the winery as well as the artist. This year’s collaboration involved Brazilian artist Vik Muniz; previous collabs have included photographer Erwin Olaf and Jaume Plensa.
Not that a wine this beautiful needs anything extra as embellishment. This Ruinart Rose has a beautiful complexity; rose petal aromas and flavours of raspberries and strawberries combine with aromas of rose petals and roasted almonds. Drink by itself, slightly chilled, with someone you love, for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary or Friday. About $85.
Hennessy VS Cognac, Pantone Limited Edition
In early 2019, Argentine-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone partnered with the iconic Cognac house, Hennessy. He “gleaned ideas from old labels and advertisements, antique bottles and packaging, and the three-star motif once used by Maurice Hennessy. Merging these with his own signatures, such as the lightning bolt, resulted in a dynamic piece of original artwork and an apt metaphor for Hennessy’s ability to capture momentum through the centuries,” according to the news release. That sort of says it all about this sleek, bright packaging.
Incidentally, Hennessy does this often with up-and-coming artists. Shepard Fairey—who created the Barack Obama “Hope” poster in 2009—created the art for the 2014 Henessy VS Limited Edition.
As the Cognac? Hennessy VS is apparently the most popular Cognac in the world. It’s smooth and spicy by itself, but it makes a great mixer, too. It’s a classic addition to your next Sidecar.
Cognac, by the way, is a type of brandy that can only made by distilling white wine in Cognac, France. About $50.
Greywacke 2015 Pinot Noir
(Marlborough, New Zealand)
Wine geeks will be curious to know that Kevin Judd was the winemaker for the first 25 vintages of Cloudy Bay, one of New Zealand’s best-known wineries. Now he leads his own project, Greywacke. Pronounced grey-wacky, it’s named for the type of rocky dark sandstone soil found in the region.
Judd isn’t just a winemaker, though. He’s a celebrated photographer and author of three books, and every one of his labels features his art—in this case, intensely coloured Pinot Noir grapes.
And the wine is classic NZ Pinot Noir, with complex layers of cherries, pomegranate, cola, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. A stunner. About $45.
Moon Curser Vineyards 2017 Syrah
(Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
This small, family-owned winery was started in 2004 and quickly gained the attention of wine critics for its varieties, grapes not commonly found in Canada such as Carmenere, Touriga Nacional and Arneis.
Syrah, however, needs no introduction to BC wine fans, and this one’s a beauty, with gorgeous intense savoury, peppery flavours and aromas, and a finish that just goes on forever.
Of course, there’s a story behind the label art, too. New York City-based artist Andrea Dezso’s work can be seen around the world—including NYC subway stations and the Moon Curser labels. Each label starts as a paper cutout, and the details are mysterious, whimsical, spooky—just what you’d expect from a winery named Moon Curser. About $26.