“What type of wine do you think Jackson Pollock drank?”
“Whisky. I bet he had simple tastes. A redneck…”
“Barnet Newman and Willem de Kooning drank good wine.”
The above was a snippet of a conversation from an experimental wine tasting event I organized last week. But more of these abstract musings later. The wine event was produced in collaboration with artist Emily Huurdeman and all round wine buff Chris Kranendonk from the Dutch Vino Vena wine company. The idea of the tasting was that all the wines would be very eccentric in their method of production and taste, high in quality, and low in production numbers. The wines mostly came from two regions of Italy, Marche and Emilia Romagna. None of the wines we tasted are created for a general audience; instead the producers make them ‘for personal use’. Yes, this is wine we’re talking about, not wacky baccy…
Apparently, it is tradition, and a ‘bonding experience’, to pass a splash of wine for each participant to taste, glass to glass, around the table as a way of cleaning the vessels. However, I was with a group of delicate, germ-sensitive artists, so the sharing of liquids was a no-no
The glass-cleaning rituals completed, we tried our first wine, a bubbly rosé spumante brut, from Veneto, made with the pelara grape. Chris pointed out the difference between sparkling wines, such as this, and Champagne, explaining that the latter is a reasonable example of the type, with a hundred years of brilliant marketing, but not necessarily the best sparkling wine you can drink.
Next on the list was the unlikely-seeming orange wine. This is made from white grapes that are treated like red grapes, i.e. with the skins left on in the fermentation process, thus producing this odd hybrid, (and distinctive colour). To quote our hosts: “Orange wine is definitely not popular, it’s definitely strange, and there is very little market for it.” Actually, it tasted very good, so I’m surprised it isn’t more widely known. I would describe it as tasting somewhere between beer and ice tea, with perhaps a note of cider.
Staying on the orange wine, we next tried a wine named Nur (meaning ‘light’ in Arabic) from the Marche – La Distesa, in the province of Ancona, to be exact – made by producer Corrado Dottori, a man described by our co-host Emily as ‘the Che Guevara of the Marche’. It tasted fresh and slightly bitter, like a Riesling – essentially sour, yet with a tiny hint of sweetness.
It was at about this stage in the proceedings that we started to speculate on the wines that various figures from art history might have preferred, and, as Chris also has a strong interest in military history, what the preferred tipples of the great generals might have been.
Sir Winston Churchill apparently drank two bottles of Pol Roger Champagne a day, Chris reveals, and he also suggested that Napoleon drank only Corsican wine. But I think that might have been a historian-victualler’s joke.
The last wine we tasted was a red called Macchiona. Produced only in batches of 1,200 bottles per year, it’s a wine that has apparently gained cult status among connoisseurs, as has the cellar master who makes it, Giulio Armani. Another highly unusual-tasting wine, it’s difficult to convey the sensation of the Macchiona as it sort of shot through my mouth. It was slightly sour and peppery, it may even have burned a bit, but in a very pleasant way. I’m sure, Barnet, Willem, and even Jackson, would have approved.
Rosé Spumante Brut (Charmat Method) Region: Veneto Name: Montecariano Year: 2008 Grapes: Corvina, Molinara
Orange Frizzante Brut Region: Emilia Romagna Name: Bonissima Year: 2008 Grapes: unknown
Orange wine Region: Marche House: La Distesa (Corrado Dottori) Year: 2011 Name: Nur Grapes: Malvasia, Verdicchio , Trebbiano Dorato,
Red wine Region: Emilia Romagna House: La Stoppa (Elena Pantaleoni) Year: 2005 Name: Macchiona Grapes: Barbera and Bonarda