• Lorelei Helmke

Art and Wine - Together Forever

They have been together since the beginning of time, art and wine. Archeologists have proven it, dating cave drawings with the same age as early wine vessels. I can just picture groups of early man in their fur clothing drinking fermented wild grape juice around the cave fire. Surely, they told stories of big bears and buffalo, the ones that got away, as the illustrated the stories on the cave walls.

Over the centuries man has elevated his spirit with wine and art. Ancient Egyptians had hieroglyphics created depicting wine making and wine consumption. The early Romans created statures of their Gods with Wine. They even had a wine God, Bacchus, who can be seen throughout any art collection from that time period. The theme of wine is certainly prevalent in the Renaissance works. From da Vinci’s Last Supper to Michelangelo’s interpretation of Bacchus, wine plays an interictal part of the art culture.

Impressionism, mid to late 1800’s, often portrayed the world as an ideal place, like looking through rose colored glasses. Many of the paintings were scenes of people seen enjoying their wine on lazy afternoons. A far different way to see the world that the pop art artist of the 20th century. Wine, however, is just as much a part of the culture in pop art as it is in Impressionism.

Indeed, drinking wine and creating art are a natural pairing, each inspiring the other.

Art also appears on our wine bottles. This began with the Baron Phillip Rothschild in 1945. To celebrate the Allied victory over Germany and the end of World War II, Baron Phillip Rothschild commissioned artist Phillipe Jullian (1921-1977) to create a label for that vintage. The “V” for victory which appears on the label received worldwide acclaim. Since then, every vintage of Mouton Rothschild has been graced with a label created by a contemporary artist.

The most noteworthy, of course is the label created by Balthus for the 1993 vintage. The art chosen for the label was a sketching of a young girl. Although it was meant to portray a wistful, fragile young girl, the fact that she was nude did not sit well with American authorities. The label was banned from distribution and another label created for the American market.

Walk down the wine aisle of any shop and you will see wonderful art on many of the bottles. Some wineries to look for include:

Bonnie Doon Vineyards

Bonnie Doon utilizes the talents af many artists to create labels for their wines. One of my favorites in Manhattan artist Bascove. Her work is brilliantly colored with vibrant outlines. You will see her work on Bonnis Doon’s Il Circo labels.

Bodega Norton

Bodega Norton has recently partnered with distinguished Pop Artist Romero Britto. Britto designed the label for Norton’s Limited Edition Barrell Select bottlings of Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. The art labels were revealed this past February at Britto’s Lincoln Road Gallery in Miami Beach. They have made beautiful art accessible as these limited editions will be available for purchase for around $16.

Orin Swift

The label for Orin Swift’s The Prisoner was designed by the famous artist Francisco de Goya (1746-1848). This is probably the most viewed piece of art next to the Mona Lisa and I wonder how many people realize what they are looking at when they uncork a bottle of Prisoner.

Orin Swift also uses work from edgy photographer Caitlin Mitchelle for his Machete wine. National Geographic photographer Vicent J. Musi is responsible for the photo that adorns Swift’s Palmero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Art and Wine Pairings

The relationship of wine and art has long endured. Today, we have the pleasure of being able to stroll through art galleries and around art festivals to behold, and sometimes purchase, beautiful works of art. I, myself have a few pieces collected from art shows and festivals usually purchased while drinking wine.

The best way to view art, in my opinion, is with a glass of wine in hand. It should be the right type of wine to match the art.

While taking in the enduring works of the Renaissance period, it is best to enjoy a wine of substance. The bold, ornate features need a bold, well-structured wine. Naturally, the wine should hail from Italy.

Suggestions include:

Brunello di Montalcino

Chianti Reserva Ducal

Ripasso – substantial red from Piedmont

If Impressionism is the style you seek, choose a wine much like the wine the people in the painting are enjoying.

Suggestions include:

Rose – preferably from Provence

If red is your love, go for Burgundy.

Provocative Pop Art screams to be savored with wine. The images are bright and clean, as your wine should be.

Suggestions include:

Sauvignon Blanc – preferably from New Zealand

Barbaresco – easy, light red from Piedmont

Mexican Art is very popular in San Antonio. There are may places to view artists like Frieda and Bustamante. These styles require a richer, deeper styled wine.

Suggestions include:

Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile

Malbec from Argentina (Perhaps Bodegas Norton)

Let us not forget, American Old West art. Artists like Fredric Remington paved the way for many western artists. We can find paintings of cowboys and statues of horses at just about every art show and festival in this area. These pieces call for something dusty and rugged.

Suggestions include:

Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Art and wine are our outlets for passion; they help us tell our stories. They elevate our existence and enrich our lives, but we must take the time to enjoy them. Art and wine have been together since the beginning of man and will remain together until the end of civilization. I just cannot imagine our world without Art and Wine.


Lorelei Helme, C.S.W

Wine Siren


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