I am always very very wary when I hear people expanding the reach of wine to intellectual spheres (history, tradition, Art, philosophy): a part of me is quite cynical and looks suspiciously to this kind of processes, which are inextricably linked to marketing and commercial promotion. Furthermore detaching the essence of wine from its material nature and giving it further meanings risks making the wine professionals look snobbish and a parody of themselves.
My definition of Art is pretty narrow: a product of creative skill whose goal lies in its own aesthetical enjoyment. In other words, Art is made to be enjoyed for what it is and for the aesthetic pleasure that it gives us, be it a painting, a song or a book.
That is for example why I don’t agree with people calling Maradona or other skilled soccer players “Artists”: the aim of a soccer player in the field is not to create an aesthetic experience for the public, it is to score a goal. If one can do it gracefully that is all the better, but any soccer player will prefer to kick the ball in the back of the net in any way possible and have his team winning, rather than playing beautifully and losing.
On the other hand, ice skating can be considered an Art, like ballet, because the point of the competition really lies in the harmony of the movements and skill of execution.
In the modern World, where everything is sometimes considered “Art”, many will not agree with my definition, but that’s inevitable.
What about wine?
I think that the enjoyment of wine cannot be one of pure aesthetic appreciation because wine is not created to express an aesthetic value (though it may sometimes have this side as well), but primarily to feed the drinker.
This implies that when wine is consumed, the physical pleasure of the beverage gets into the way of the aesthetic pleasure, if present. Thus it is not possible to judge wine as a work of Art, because to do so the aesthetic judgement should prescind from the satisfaction of those basic needs of the human body which are drinking and eating. With wine that is not possible.
There may be a theoretical grey line where we are drinking a wine regardless of its nutritional value, and yet the alcohol, the feeling of warmth, the heartening sensation of putting a food in our stomach are all there, always. Can we really give a judgement independently from them? The risk is to misjudge a wine as “Art” only because it gives us physical pleasure. Even spitting during a tasting is an imperfect technique, and if you have ever been to a tasting event you know how the alcoholic numbness starts to set in, no matter what you do.
Finally, there are definitively wines that I will not consider Art, even if this kind of judgement could be possible, but I am not starting this discussion here. The definition of my parameters is reserved to another time.