I have always loved this R.L. Stevenson quote, because it so perfectly sums up the root of our fascination with wine. Every bottle has something to say- in essence each vintage is the winegrower’s proclamation about that particular year. Each bottle gives context to the time in which it was produced, and provides future generations a way to revisit the past (ever had a bottle of French wine from 1945? Just think about what was happening in that vintage). Wine gives us an opportunity for human connection- for symposium and celebration. What is more indicative of shared culture than a bottle of wine and a meal in good company?
The celebration of the connection between art and wine is a common theme, especially for Italians. In Italy there seems to be an inherent sentiment attaching the two concepts. Wine is something so humble, so basic and agricultural- and yet it says so much about the human experience. Wine is the result of an experiment in creating something more– in pushing to explore the future, rejoicing in the present.
Patrons of the Arts – Shepherds of Sagrantino
While it is hard ignore the basic industry- the calculated use of space and time and efficiency at the Ferrari winery in Trentino, you will also notice many expressions of joy. Alessandro Lunelli warms generously when he talks about Sagrantino, a difficult grape to grow and vinify. He gestures to a beautiful driftwood sculpture titled “Il Cavallo Perfetto” (The Perfect Horse). “Sagrantino,” he muses, “is much like a perfect horse. Powerful, beautiful, but you must know how to train it- to ride it in the right way.” I am completely charmed by the boyish, dreamy look that crosses his face when he talks about the family’s winery in Umbria- a piece of art in itself, conceived by Arnaldo Pomodoro.
The winery Pomodoro dreamt for the Lunelli family project Tenuta Castelbuono in Umbria, does exactly this. The “Carapace” (tortoise shell) Pomodoro designed reaches the next level in sculpture- in fact it blends the line between sculpture and architecture. A physical space designed to work with the landscape, that holds a fully-functioning winery inside. This piece of art is truly experiential, much like the wine itself. “Bottled poetry”, if you will. Arnaldo Pomodoro remarks, “For the first time in my life I felt the excitement of being able to walk, talk and drink inside one of my own works”.
Tenute Lunelli: Carapace & Sagrantino
Maybe I’ve done this backwards- many people, wiser than I, have concluded we should begin with the wine, and then the story. In this case the wine is part of the story. Sagrantino, the most prestigious authocthounous grape from Montefalco, is the King of Tenuta Castelbuono. Black and rich, well-structured form the extremely firm tannins, and punctuated with a beautiful acidity. I really enjoy this wine, especially with roasted red meats and sharp cheeses. It’s something of a local gem from this part of Italy, one that finds a well-deserved a place inside this treasure-chest of a winery.
What strikes me most about this project is the Lunelli family’s extreme commitment the Arts. This is something we say about a lot of art-and-culture-focused charities and events. “Patrons of the Arts” or “Support the Arts”. Sometimes these catch-phrases ring a little bit hollow to me, but when you see those words in action you must pause, and really absorb what they means.
Through these careful decisions, the Lunelli family has chosen to re-invest in Italy, and in humanity. They built a winery based on the vision of a brilliant artist. They plant esoteric, quasi-forgotten wine grapes. They make resolutions that have little to do with the bottom-line, but have everything to do with the expansion of the Human Experience.
These are the efforts we must stop and applaud- those that make the world safe for odd, quasi-extinct grape varietals, for the humble dreamers, and for the great artists among us.
Wine is truly bottled poetry, and wine is Art, too.