TRAVEL

Collision wine and art: Ornellaia's breaks the tension with a very special limited edition La Tensione

Ornellaia Vineyards, courtesy of Ornellaia.

End of August and we are thinking about wine…..

I love it when worlds collide - when art becomes wearable fashion, fashion becomes functional experience, habitation becomes installation and culinary becomes performance. It happens in any media, in any art and every day, and it can even happen on the table. One of the best collisions, or what I like to call and overlap, is art and wine. Products of intense creativity, hardworking and community, there is a lot of commonality in both industries. There are the makers, the artists and artisans who move material to create one-of-a-kind visual and palatable experiences. There are the fans - whether FOMO or long-term invested - who go to every opening, taste every bottle, peruse every Instagram. And then there are mecenati - the patrons and ollectors who drop dollars to make these creations immortal - whether liquid, canvas, video or experience. And I love them all, even more so when one of the main ingredients to the overlap is Italy.

Olga Fusari, Ornellaia’s enologist and Axel Heinz, estate director. Courtesy of Ornellaia.

Enter Ornellaia

One of the heavy hitters on the wine scene, Ornellaia is a DOC Bolghieri that came almost out of nowhere with its first bottles from 1985. Decades of articles, awards, success and drinking followed. Ornellaia became a dream, a bucket list item, and even a hashtag #winegoals. Sometime in 2008, Ornellaia - CEO Giovanni Geddes da Filicaia and president Fernando Frescobaldi - decided to put their love for contemporary art on the very bottles that they were producing, bringing in curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi to help choose artists who would imbibe the terroir as well as the wines to create Vendemmia dell’Artista, a limited artist edition of bottles- 100 double magnums, 10 Imperials (6L) and a single Salamanazar (9L). But there’s a catch: the artist would be inspired by a single word.

Every year, estate director Axel Heinz walks through the vineyards and reflects on the year’s winemaking, paring down an incredible, year-long experience from bud-break to barrel into a single word which then becomes inspiration and (dare I write) theme for a contemporary artist to create limited edition bottle labels (and eventually larger scale artwork) for the selected vedemmia. Past editions include Charisma (William Kentridge), Essence (Ernesto Neto), Equilibrium (Zhang Huan) and Energy (Rebecca Horn). Select bottles are available for purchase, but 111 bottles are chosen specifically for auction (with proceeds donated to a non-profit arts organization). To me, this is the most low profile and natural interactive art experience you’ll find.

Shirin Neshat, Courtesy of Ornellaia.

La Tensione (2016) by Shirin Neshat.- the ten Imperials (6L). Courtesy of Ornellaia.

La Tensione (Tension) is eleventh word in a decade of experiences bottled into Ornellaia’s Vendemmia dell’Artista. For the 2016 vintage, the Super Tuscan asked super artist Shirin Neshat to create tension, a perfect pairing as Neshat has long been known for her evocative photography and video installations that play on tension and fragility. Her response was photo series of gesturing hands calligraphed with words from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (lines which refer to how wine elevates the human spirit) on the Double Magnums, Methuselahs (Imperials) and Salamanazar, while there are limited edition 1 liters calligraphed with Khayyam’s poem and signed by the artist.

“The entire Ornellaia team contributed throughout the year with extreme tension. The word can seem suggestive. It has so many meanings- attention, apprehension, that relate to the different phases of the process. Great wines can be of two kinds of equilibrium- harmony or an almost static balance,'“ says Heinz. And the wine is great. I should know, I tasted it in a pre-auction debut.

La Tension’s 111 bottles (100 double magnums, 10 Methuselahs (6L) and a single Salamanazar (9L)) are being auctioned at Sotheby’s online with all proceeds donated Minds Eye project ( Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation) which helps blind and visually impaired people to experience art with all their senses.

Neshat signs every bottle. Photo by Erica Firpo.

In some cases…. you’ll find a Vendemmia dell’Artista bottle. Photo by Erica Firpo.

In some cases…. you’ll find a Vendemmia dell’Artista bottle. Photo by Erica Firpo.

The one and only Salmanazar. The 2015 edition sold for £45,000. Let’s hope 2016 is record breaking. Photo by Erica Firpo.