Some wines are an exploration of what can be done with soil, weather, grapes, yeast, wood, and the human body, especially the body’s sensitivity toward taste and flavor. The exploration part is essential. If you’re not curious about what can be done with these materials, you likely won’t consistently make good wine or learn how to appreciate it.
20th Century German philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote that art is ‘‘the image of what is beyond exchange.” Unlike a replaceable commodity, a genuine work of art is meaningful because its creation (or performance) is a distinctive, singular act of discovery.
This provides us with a simple criterion for whether a particular wine is a work of art.
Ask one of these two questions:
If this winemaker were not around could someone else have made this wine?
If this plot of land did not exist could this wine have been made elsewhere?
If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the wine is not a work of art. It’s a commercial or industrial product.
If the answer is no, then it is.