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SF MOMA: "How Wine Became Modern"

Wine has been around for a long time. There is evidence of winemaking dating back 6500 years ago, so it’s not exactly a new facet of civilization. Yet the role that wine plays in our modern culture is definitely enjoying a rapid expansion. That’s what the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is taking a look at in its new installation “How Wine Became Modern: Design and Wine, 1976 to Now”. It opened this weekend so I cruised down to the City to check it out,

 

The Exhibits:

 

If you’re not familiar with the historic “Judgement of Paris”, in which two California wines trumped the first growth French counterparts in a blind tasting on their home turf, you can watch the film Bottleshock to get up to speed (plus Bill Pullman hasn’t been this good since Independence Day). If you do remember that day that reshaped the notion that quality wine is exclusively synonymous with Bordeaux, than you may enjoy the large mural depicting the judges in a style reminiscent of The Last Supper. The actual bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena and 1973 Stag’s Leap, with the issue of Time chronicling the event might impress you even more.

 

Pantone 221 – Cabernet. A wall chronicling every wine-related paint color reveals how your local paint shop probably has a better wine selection than your local supermarket.

 

 

 

One of my personal favorites was a series of bottles of Chardonnay in which the artist added oak chips to each bottle according to the Fibonacci sequence, in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers, producing a perfect gradient of color.

 

Wine was even dripping from the ceiling into a case of eclectic stemware. Some of the pieces emphasized function while others emphasized…erm…well…the stem. Still I enjoyed the novelty and the decanters definitely belonged in a museum (although they were also available in the gift store).

 

The most educational exhibit was definitely the look at the concept of terroir. Their approach was to take soil samples from all over the world and display them along with live weather reports, a quote from the grower about their view on terroir, and the raw statistics of the vineyard such as annual rainfall and average root depth. I noticed that most of the Old World growers espoused the exemplary qualities of their vineyard’s location while growers from New World countries highlighted the impact of the human element on terroir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An entire wall was dedicated to label art, with overlapping categories separating themes like “Good Vs. Evil” and “Femme”. We see the label art whenever we go shopping but seeing it broken down like this really makes you think twice about the label and the message it tries to convey.

 

There was a display studying wine’s impact on literature. There’s a Japanese manga apparently that is all about wine and, in fact, it actually impacts Eastern Asian buying patterns. Who knew?!

 

 

 

Usually smell isn’t on display at MOMA but it was in “How Wine Became Modern”. A wall highlighting the more unusual smells wine critics identify such as Cat’s Pee and Hamster Cage were present for all to sniff.

 

 

 

 

On the way out was a screen rapidly flashing videos related to the consumption of wine taken from television and film over the decades. For me, this piece best illustrated how wine has stained the fabric of our lives.



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Reader Comments (1)

Hello Cellar Rat,

Great synopsis of MOMA's wine exhibit. The photos are excellent and appealing too. However, there is no mention of the interesting display of cutting edge winery architecture from around the world, including some pretty cool three dimentional models. As an Architect, you can imagine that I enjoyed this part of exhibit!

Keep up the good work!
Michael

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Rex

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