jamie goode's wine blog: Some questions for contemplation, with wine

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Some questions for contemplation, with wine

Just poured a glass of Bodega Tradicion's 30 year old Oloroso (from Fortnum & Mason, it's their own label offering). It is a profound wine and it has reminded me of some of the questions and thoughts I was thinking about when I was walking the dog this afternoon.

1. Is wine art?
2. Does art have the power to redeem? I guess, by this, I'm thinking about whether art has the power to enable us to step outside our daily struggles and busyness, and transport us to a different place: one from which we can see ourselves and our situations in a different light - a light that then empowers us to better deal with our lives.
3. I beauty transforming? Does beauty experienced somehow relfect back on us in a way that changes us, elevating us beyond our current state?
4. As an example, music seems to have a transforming or redeeming quality to it. We can be in a painful, difficult, or mundane place, but then listening to the right music for the time seems to be able to transport us in our minds, distancing us from our current situation, opening up for us a new vista. I also find that music has this ability to bypass my mind (with all its various processing issues) and reach to my 'heart'.
5. There is truth in wine, in as much that modest intoxication by means of wine seems to enable us to see things from a new - and often more generous - perspective. Other forms of intoxication promise to reveal another world, or a new 'reality'; wine keeps us grounded in this world, but helps us to see it differently. It is, in this sense, a virtuous intoxicant. [I think this is one of Roger Scruton's ideas.]
6. The meaning of art, or music, or wine depends on our previous experience. The significance of a particular piece of art is therefore different for each person. This is not to suggest that everything is relative; just that we shouldn't assume that what works for us will also work for others.
7. There is a difference between popular culture and high culture. But it's a shame where people try to erect a firm barrier between the two. Both are important.

Back to tonight: I think this 30 year old Oloroso is a totally profound, complex wine. I think it is 'wine as art'. It has a transforming quality to it that can, in some senses, be counted as redemptive. There's a beauty to it that allows me to step outside my particular circumstance and gain a renewed perspective, one that is tangible on a number of levels - the complexity of the wine, the context of its production (long ageing in barrels), the fact that is displays particular sensory characteristics that I can appreciate in the context of what I know about sherry, and also the sense of mild intoxication that it brings. This would, of course, all be enhanced if I could share this wine with others who also appreciated its qualities.

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At 2:11 AM, Blogger Edward said...


I like to think of good and great wine as a meditation, rather than art. Art seems to imply permanence and durability (though it is also possible to meditate and 'loose your self' in a painting).

While meditation points to an altered focus and concentration of thought, whatever the subject.

It's remarkable how strongly the memory of a great wine / meal / performance can be imprinted on the brain. Equally being in nature can create powerful memories, and emotions. Is a walk in the country considered art? It is certainly capable of transformation and inspiration.

At 3:05 AM, Anonymous Hank said...

Some musings on your musings...
1. Yes, it can be. Sometimes. rarely.
2. Yes, if you are ready for the transformation.
3. see 2
4 & 5. reminds me of Huxley's "Doors of Perception"
6. Actually, everything IS relative. We just choose our points of reference.
7. Culture is culture, high or low. I think we need both sides of the coin to be "complete". Not all wine can be art - not all wine will be plonk.

Wine is one of the few creations of mankind that can fill all these purposes in life - be it culture, art, philosophy or just plain simple enjoyment.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Fiona Beckett said...

My instinctive first reaction without having given the matter the thought you have, Jamie is that wine is craft rather than art. As is a fine cheese, a great olive oil or a beautifully cured ham.

Art in its broadest sense - art, writing, music - seems to me to have something to say about the world. Wine - fine or otherwise - may assist that appreciation but is not art itself.

At 11:32 PM, Anonymous An avid writer of your good texts said...

Oh no, Jamie, please...
Please stick to what you are good at.
Wine science, travel reports.
But when you turn to wine philosophy it is terribly clumsy.
"There is a difference between popular culture and high culture" - is it a thought worth sharing?

At 2:32 AM, Blogger jim kay said...

Hey Avid Writer Person - it's a blog, you know, like a journal. If he wants to let his mind wander, it's his blog, he can do it.

Fiona B. scooped my response. It's a craft.

At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avid writer - absolutely spot on.

Jamie, sorry mate, you know lots about wine, but I cringed when I read this!

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

Re. asking for money, it takes such sacrifice to get to the position to be able to issue invoices in exchange for a creative work.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

Sorry, Jamie, the comment was meant for the post above this.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous James Phillips said...

Jamie, I think wine can be art, but more in a classical sense, when art, more specifically painting, was a method to capture a time/place/event and depict it in great beauty. This, to me, is where the most similarities lie - terrior, vintage, etc.

With regards to beauty, I feel very stongly that beauty in art can be so powerful that one can be totally lost in the piece. Again, maybe more with classical work, but I've found this with contemporary pieces too. With contemporary work, I tend to feel more lost (in a good way) in the subject matter, themes, narratives of the work rather than the beauty, but these things are beauty in another form.

Parralells can certainly be drawn between the two areas, and it's something I find really interesting. As someone who's studying contemporary art at the moment, it really gets the mind going!

The idea of wine more as meditation is really interesting too.

Thanks Jamie, it's good to see some thoughts about the more philosophical aspects of wine!

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to smoke a bit when I was younger too.....

At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you should take up smoking again then.....

At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A load of pretentious bollocks.

"Is wine art?" indeed. Have a word with yourself.

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pretentios bollocks"? Hmmmm....really deep and thought provoking value-added there....presumably you're a lager drinker....maybe with a bit of lemonade? Perhaps you'd like an umbrella stuck in it too?

At 3:45 AM, Anonymous mslaas said...

Calling something "art" implies that wine would also have an artist, which isn't the case with wine. Sure, there's a winemaker, but the actual agent of transformation from grape juice to wine is yeast.

Since fermentation happens naturally as ripe fruit breaks down winemaking is more like controlled decomposition than an act of creation. A winemaker can alter what happens by choosing the right yeast or slowing down fermentation, but the act of actually creating wine is out of her grasp.

Indisputably wine can be beautiful and drinking it can be transporting. But as a catalyst to inspiration wine is more Proust's madeleine than Keats's Grecian urn. The cookie is craft, the urn is art. Wine, no matter how beautiful, is still a craft.

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pretentios bollocks"? Hmmmm....really deep and thought provoking value-added there....presumably you're a lager drinker....maybe with a bit of lemonade? Perhaps you'd like an umbrella stuck in it too?

Everything's a bit black and white with you, isn't it?



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