Art in the conventional sense can be prominently displayed for appreciation. With wine, the appreciation is fleeting, and however good it may be, once consumed, the object of the adulation is no longer. Who wants a collection of empty bottles and mouldy corks cluttering up their living room to remind them of the Romanée Conti opened to celebrate.... (assuming of course it is not an assemblage of bottles and corks put together by Tracy Emin!).
So while the history of art is the subject of serious study and copious writings, does anybody give a fig about the history of wine?
And this is so, even if it be the case that wine has had a more profound, and lasting effect on the development of civilisation, than any artistic movement or individual artist or work. After all, notwithstanding its ephemerality, it was Burgundy wine which fuelled the expansion of Christianity in Europe after the demise of the Roman Empire. Wine and vines were an essential part of the monastery’s business of spreading the Word.
Which conveniently bring us to a bit of wine history with Algy.
The Duc d’Amalgaire was the first proprietor of Clos de Bèze in Gevrey Chambertin 1,381 years years ago.
If Algy was a contemporary 'strong man', he would doubtless feature prominently in Donald’s Hall of Fame . His military prowess and usefulness to the King, had made him powerful and wealthy. By 630AD he owned important parts of Burgundy. (‘Usefulness to the King’, usually involved dispatching his fellow nobles who for good reason or bad, had earned the King’s displeasure).
However he was also a pragmatic sort of noble, and appreciated that there was a measure of incompatibility between murder on the one hand, and adherence to the Gospel on the other. He grew concerned about the sort of welcome he might receive on High, in the unfortunate event his dispatching competences let him down. Or indeed, if he would receive any welcome at all? So Algy did the sensible thing, hedged his bets, and took out a policy of insurance.
Enter Clos de Bze
Algy and his wife decided to found an Abbey for the monks. The monks were good men, however they were also pragmatic, and realised that if they could not put a stop to the murderous deeds that were common place at the time, they might as well derive some benefit from them. They created a ‘conscience trade’, whereby in return for donations, they would offer forgiveness and absolution. In Algy’s case, there was a lot to forgive and absolve, but Algy and his wife had deep pockets, so they were well placed for favourable consideration. They donated land and provided funds for the construction of an Abbey at Bèze, some 45km to the north east of Gevrey Chambertin. The spot was chosen for its ample supply of water - the area is not far from the source of the rivers Seine and Saône. However as well as water, the monks needed vines to make wine, and for that the land was not suitable. So Algy endowed the Abbey with land he owned on the Côte in Gevrey Chambertin, which even in those early days, had earned a reputation for producing excellent wine. That was in 636AD. The monks of Bèze enclosed the land with a wall, and the plot became known from then on as Clos de Bèze. While the walls are long since gone, the vineyard remains a special place and name in the history of wine making, and if we have to grudgingly accept that it does not qualify in the conventional sense as a 'work of art', there can surely be no greater performance than one which produces magnificent wine for 1,381 years!
One artist who has found a way of turning wine into art is Joyce Delimata. Her extraordinary work capturing the evolution of different wines and vintages can be found at http://blog.theburgundyshop.com/artmasterclass