by Paige Donner
When it comes to pairings, much is written about wine & food; a fair bit about wine & music…
So, how about art & wine?
Art and wine seem to make the perfect complement. Whether you are enjoying a glass of Margaux or a golden drop of Sauternes in your crystal goblet before or after (or during) dinner, or merely sipping one of the Grand Cru Classés from the Médoc with a few friends, the complement of art work to the occasion would seem to be as fluid as the fermented grapejuice it is accompanying.
There are those who have dedicated their lives to this notion. Indeed the representation of wine in great art work dates back millennia, to the first representation of the God Bacchus (Dionysos, 570 BC) to more recent art works (relatively speaking). The foremost that comes to mind is da Vinci’s The Last Supper, where “Jesus also gestures toward a glass of wine and a piece of bread, suggesting the establishment of the Holy Communion rite.”
Bacchus and Ariadne by Antoine-Jean Gros
In Bordeaux, one of the world’s Great Wine Capitals, visiting the chateaux to taste wines plays a central part in attracting visitors to the region. Whether you are a wine expert or a wine enthusiast, tasting your way around Left and Right Banks Bordeaux is one of the thrills of realizing a bucket list of wine travels.
And in the past decade as Bordeaux’s tourism savoir-faire has become enhanced, many of the region’s famous chateaux have not only become more welcoming, but have become major art attractions, too.
Château Beychevelle in St. Julien comes to mind with its impressive exhibit by François Avril and Langoa Barton, just next door, features the acute eye, in the form of photography, on their walls by daughter/winemaker Mélanie Sartorius.
Making Art & Wine Your Main Focus While Visiting Bordeaux
The first stop would be at the Cité du Vin. This is a cultural center whose flowing architecture invites you in to experience the world of wine in a way you never have before. The permanent exhibits are interactively entertaining and the ongoing proramming, conferences and wine tastings, are equally a draw.
Up in the Margaux area of the Médoc and Haut-Médoc, Chateau d’Arsac is a standout in terms of what owner and world class art collector, Philippe Raoux has done with this property. A little train (daily departure at 14:30) shuttles you around the vast estate where installations of famous contemporary artists are on display. It won the ‘Best of Wine Tourism’ in the category of Art & Culture in 2017. Contemporary artists and sculptors whose works are prominently featured on the grounds and in the cellars and tank rooms, are Niki de Saint Phalle, Mark di Suvero, Susumu Shingu, Bernard Pagès and the Swiss artist, Simon Beer.
Just a few meters down the gravel roads, you will come to the classified growth estate of Chateau Kirwan. And while Kirwan put its foot forward with their prestige and coveted wines AOC Margaux, they have subtly and strategically integrated art work throughout their cellar and vineyard visit. They also offer an event space, as does d’Arsac, for large parties or corporate retreats.
Switching up terrains, but still staying in 1855 Grand Cru Classé territory, Sauternes offers a good number of visits and tastings, all featuring art collections and tasteful displays of Art de Vivre. Château Guiraud, a favorite for its welcoming roaring fireplace, a perfect setting in which to sip a Sauternes during the holiday season, also offers an outstanding on-site restaurant, La Chapelle. Their neighbors, Sigalas Rabaud, Rayne Vigneau and Yquem, all feature art displays in their cellar rooms, and Sigalas Rabaud even offers a bookable Wine Lifestyle and Art de Vivre experience in their Bed’n’Breakfast just next to the historical, 6-generations strong family estate.
Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte in Pessac-Leognan has long been renowned for their artistic touches throughout the estate. Art works grace your path as you wind your way from the vineyards inside to have a glimpse at the barrel rooms and vinification cellars. The Cathiards are also famous for their exceptional sense of Art de Vivre, embodied in their spa, Caudalie, just next to the Grand Cru Classé Chateau.
This – modest – tour itinerary of Art & Wine in Bordeaux, has not even touched on the Right Bank. But be assured, many cultural and enriching experiences of Art & Vine are to be found in the St. Emilion/ Pomerol/ Fronsac areas, too.
And as an honorable mention, the little town on Bourg, a bit off the beaten track of these superstar Bordeaux appellations, is a burgeoning artists colony. If art is genuinely at the forefront of your cultural explorations, a stop in at this little artist colony (think Carmel, California in its nascent years) is well worth your while. And their wine bar featuring dozens and dozens of the local growers, makes it doubly worth the detour.
Random scenes of the beautiful city of Bordeaux…
Find out more about Bordeaux and what it has to offer as a Great Wine Capital, HERE.
And check out Bordeaux Food And Wine (BordeauxFoodAndWine.com) for more insights into the local wine culture, restaurant tips, and to hear podcast episodes featuring Bordeaux artists and wine experts.