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Is wine art?

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Evocative.
Evocative.

Is wine art? The global wine industry is divided into two broad sectors, roughly 85% of production amounting to “commodity wine” and the remaining 15% “fine wine” so let’s accept that the vast majority of wine – your generic white or red from three-litre bag-in-box – is not art. But what about the top-end stuff?

There are lots of ways in which fine wine is like art. For one thing, it is costly, which makes it a badge of membership of the higher classes and a vehicle for snobbery and one-upmanship (“I’ve got a 5000-bottle, temperature-controlled underground cellar. What’s yours like?”).

The expense associated with wine is unfortunate, but it’s also incidental. Why wine really is like art is in that it can both contain layers of meaning and have a transformative effect on the person interacting with it.

Any one bottle of fine wine highlights some the defining issues of our time: globalisation, climate change, the emergence of an international elite. Drinking a bottle of wine should lead to contemplation of these issues, not always but certainly now and again. The wine made with minimal intervention in a light-weight bottle as opposed to the wine made with state-of-the-art technology in the heavy-weight bottle may have attracted similar critical acclaim and may even cost the same but signify radically different things about the world we live in.

Finally, wine and art share an ability to evoke an emotion – happiness, sorrow, surprise or anger – in the individual consuming it. Take the wine made from a niche variety from an unfashionable district which over-delivers on quality relative to price. Now that’s the stuff of joy!

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