A red thread, or better yet, burgundy colored, binds Italians to a thing as sophisticated and prized like art, but much more accessible: wine.
For us Italians, wine symbolizes vitality. It represents being alive, drinking wisely, enjoying life, but also living mindfully and savoring what one imbibes. Above all, as our elders have taught us, the true art is in appreciating it regardless of age. In contrast, we find hard alcohol predictable and too sweet, a drink for clubs and lacking in history. While beer has its place and time, it doesn’t require the same lasting commitment.
Wine, instead, is a quintessential part of the Italian table. Always present, synonymous with joy, happiness, the pleasure of sharing, it’s almost a status symbol, a concealed identity that reveals interesting personal details. There’s wine for dining, smooth and not too demanding, to accompany daily meals. There’s wine for appetizers with friends, with the good chance of it being a bubbly, pairing perfectly with food sometimes too salty, and if you’re more traditional, you order a prosecco; otherwise, if your palate is more refined you would more than likely go the way of a Franciacorta.
Meanwhile, the Champagne can still wait. Then there’s the belief that rosé is a more feminine wine, and that the best reds are Tuscans. There’s white wine to accompany seafood dishes, red for meat (especially a good Florentine steak), and finally there’s Champagne for special occasions, perfect for “sabering”.
In short, wine is what unites us when we toast someone or to something, becoming tightly bound to that moment. Valued by most, but surely preferred by those with a fine and polished palate, it’s delicate, and it often gains value, thanks to the stories and the origins of each bottle.
Going back as far as time, wine and art have walked a similar pace, creating an harmonious and explosive meeting, a perfect union. A tango between what life is and what it should be. Since ancient times, artists depicted scenes from daily life, mostly banquets, with tables overflowing with food and carafes brimming with dark wine.
Not just visual arts, but also writings and prose, have given homage to wine. Homer wrote “Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile.” Euripides added, “Where there is no wine, there is no love.” Dalì defined it as nectar for connoisseurs, and Leopardi, in his collection of essays, Zibaldone, wrote “Wine is the best soother without compare. Therefore, the vigor, therefore, nature.” Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, in his book In Vino Veritas, portrayed wine as a defender of truth, for who drinks it, after all, has no secrets to hide.
And so, in time, as man refined his ability to transform grapes in an elixir of pleasure, wineries morphed, slowly transforming into open air museums in the shade of marvelous estates.
Slowly, works of art increase just like the support of the wineries for the artists, particularly contemporary ones.
Following is an exclusive selection of wineries and art for the readers of Italy Segreta.
Castello di Ama
Ama Castle located in the heart of Chianti, in Gaiole, province of Siena, is a small refuge propped on a hill, immersed in the surrounding mystical and enchanting landscape. It produced great wines for many years, in line with the terroir where the vineyards are located. That small heavenly breadcrumb has always had the power to speak to and inspire artists, stimulating their sensibilities and creative genius.
From there, in the now distant 1999, the idea to start a creative project with Lorenzo Fiaschi and Galleria Continua, was to add a piece of art to the collection every year, following the yearly cycle of the grape harvest. All the artists who have participated the past 22 years, starting with Pistoletto and Kapoor, Louis Bourgeois and Chen Zen, have joined in a shared view of art for the community, inspired by the land and the wine, respecting the natural rhythms of the harvest.
Today, walking the land of Castle Ama, cradled by the hills, means breathing in fresh air and enjoying wine, but also to be inspired by the surrounding art and being at peace with oneself.
Villa Sandi is surely the cornerstone of that special bond that exists between art and agriculture, that characterized the territory of wine and food. Located where Prosecco Valdobbiadene DOCG and Montello DOC are produced, the winery found a home in a magnificent Palladian villa, a work of art dating back to 1622.
The love of art materializes also inside the villa. Inside the enchanting splendor of these rooms, lives the combination of pastel colors, stucco and bas reliefs and the glimmer of original Murano chandeliers. In these rooms stayed the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Antonio Canove, the painter Schiavoni, the writers, Caccianiga and Corso, a testimony to the memories of a Venetian past, glorious and aristocratic. Wine and culture merged to become the cultural heritage of Treviso.
Similarly to the Antinori family, Frescobaldi launched a project supporting artist through the Artists for Frescobaldi prize, a new chapter that connects the family’s artistic patronage from Renaissance times to the present. The initiative of Tiziana Frescobaldi, the prize takes place every other year for contemporary artists only. Each edition hosts three artists competing for the prize.
The jury is composed of high ranking judges, mainly directors of contemporary art museums. To mark the occasion, participating artists are given the opportunity to redesign a limited edition numbered label for CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino. A portion of the proceeds goes towards supporting contemporary art.
Museo la Montina nel mezzo delle terre del Franciacorta
Besides all the wineries, there is a real and proper art museum in the area surrounding Franciacorta. La Montina and Villa Baiana, is not just a winery, restaurant and catering destination.
The estate is the first to have a contemporary art museum in Franciacorta, together with a permanent collection featuring the works of artist Remo Bianco (Milan, 1922-88). His paintings and sculptures are exhibited in various rooms of the winery and the villa, creating a cyclical representation of the different phases of the artist’s works. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum regularly hosts works from national and international artists in the unique and incomparable estate, filled with sumptuous rooms, some barely lit with enormous wine barrels, and elegant cellars filled with bottles.
Donnafugata is emblematic of the feminine in art, that which honors and reveres woman in all her characteristics. This dialogue with art is a continuum from the literary reference from the novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Tomasi di Lampedusa, evolving into the uniqueness of the labels, the extraordinary works of artist Stefano Vitale.
In 2018, Donnafugata decided to pay homage to the history and the beauty of its land; a desire to show an innovative Sicily and the excellence of Made in Italy. It all came together in an exhibition at Villa Necchi in Milan, featuring the artwork of the labels, each a short visual tale starring the fugitive woman protagonist, inspired by Gabriella Rallo, a pioneering figure in Sicilian viticulture and co-founder of Donnafugata winery.
Feudi di San Gregorio
One of the cornerstones of the Feudi di San Gregorio winery is the belief that a bottle of wine and a work of art share the same creative process. The love and passion infused in the cultivation of the vines, the toil and the care in the harvesting of the grapes and the patience to age the wine, impart in each bottle a unique and unrepeatable personality, transforming it into a proper work of art.
The winery believes these are the identical feelings an artist experiences during the long creative process necessary to make art, be it a painting, a statue, an installation, or a photograph.
In light of this approach, Feudi put in place important collaborations with established artists and young talent, to celebrate and give voice to this ongoing passionate exchange between the art world and wine. The union of the two elements is embodied in the design of the bottles and the labels, but also in the actual physical structure of the winery. So far as establishing an in-house collection of contemporary works, to include the duo Vedovamazzei, Mariella Senatore, Mimmo Jodice and other peers in support of the local terroir.