David and Art - "Where Art and Wine Converge"
Learning more about what you’re looking at or what you’re tasting is the way to appreciate things more deeply.
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A dear friend of mine who’s one of the best painters I know, and who with his son operates his own gallery in Northern California, has found himself drifting into the wine business. He’s started his own label, contracted with vintners and vineyard owners, and is using his, and his son’s, paintings for the bottle labels, and is pouring from his gallery, The Harris Gallery in the little town of Healdsburg. I spent some time with him a couple of weeks ago and we talked about how wine and paintings are rather closely related.
Without trying to make a pun, which I’ve found to be a hazardous minefield in this regard, Both art and wine pivot on the idea of taste. With both things we’re guided by a blend of informed taste and intuitive taste. On one level, it’s completely legitimate to say I like this and I don’t like this, and let that be an end to it. I know people who like a particular kind of wine, just like I know people who like a particular style of painting and for them the choice is not a rational one, it’s just what they feel. And for both Picassos and Pinot Noirs that’s a legitimate expression. At the same time—and this is what draws my friend and me deeper into the conversations about these two things—it’s informed opinion that leads to a deeper appreciation of something, whether it’s music or painting or even wine.
The more you know about a kind of art, the more it lets you deeper into to the complexities and richness that lay just below the visual impact. The more you learn about wine, the more you know about what goes into it, the more of the complexities you’ll notice and the greater the joy of the experience becomes.
But in the same way that you can learn how rainfall or heat or fog can influence a wine’s taste, you can learn why Chagall includes a smiling goat on a roof or why Picasso’s violin looks like it’s broken into chunks.
In the Claremont Review of Books, Thomas Kaminski recently wrote that “These two principles—the autonomy of the individual taste and the existence of some broader principle of excellence—are perpetually at odds. Each of us navigates between them, sometimes vindicating our own preferences, other times yielding to (and perhaps learning from) the taste of others.”
I think that’s particularly well said. My encouragement to anybody with whom I talk, whether in a history class or art gallery, is to let yourself curious and let yourself learn a little more. Your experience will grow richer for it.