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Bacchus and Ariadne, Wine and Art

In some ways how we choose wine and art is similar. The other day a friend of mine mentioned to me that while he understands that there are differences in flavours and profiles between Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo Garnacha, Pinot Noir etc., when it comes to choosing a wine he cannot remember what those differences are. He is not alone as most people do not recall the last wine they drank never mind what it tasted like.

I was reminded of this conversation as I walked through the National Gallery on a recent visit to London. It occurred to me that wine and art are linked because finding and remembering a wine is similar to choosing a painting. Each of us reacts to a painting in our own personal way, as we do with wine.

When we look at a Monet or a Sorolla we don’t stop to think, ‘is this good?’, we stop because something in the painting has made an impression and we want to see more. It could be the use of colour, the complexity of the textures, the scene that is depicted; whatever it is, something has caught your imagination and you don’t have to be an art critic to find the art that you like.

So it is with wine. Taste different wines without prejudging them, as if you were looking at paintings. If a particular wine stands out to you because it has distinctive fruit flavour or range of flavours, its elegance, body, or the added complexity a wine gets for spending time in oak barrels, I recommend that you jot down the name. In this way, you will recall the wines you like by their styles or as of they were schools of artists.

It may happen regularly or infrequently but the point is not to judge but to explore and find what works best for you.

Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, is a painting that I have seen many times, it is the one where Bacchus, the God of wine, another connection between wine and art, is captivated by the beauty of Ariadane, who is longingly gazing towards the horizon looking for her lost love, he leaps from his chariot and offers her the sky if she will marry him. Over the years, each time I look at this painting it always has an impact on me, I learn something new or am reminded of something else that I had forgotten.

Sometimes I like to look at the old masters, other times abstract modern art, it depends on the moment. This is similar to how I approach wine. I like to choose wines that I have tasted before but haven’t tasted in some time. It is a joy to be reminded of all the things that I liked the first time, the aromas, the elegance, complexity of flavours and the finish.

So as I said to my friend, when you are choosing a wine you don’t have to remember the differences between the grapes or the regions, try and recall the impact a similar wine had on you before or just keep trying new wines until you find the styles that work best for you.

Written by

I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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