Australian Wine Meets Contemporary Art

Art, wine. Wine, art. Where does one end and the other start?

Fine art has been on my mind since the holidays when I read the Steve Martin novel, An Object of Beauty, and the day after finishing it, I attended the giant Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.

The experience of viewing Picasso’s own favorite pieces after immersing myself in the life of an art dealer left me feeling intensely sensitive to form, perspective and color.  So when I heard about Australia Unveiled wine tasting at the Buschlen Mowatt Art Gallery, I thought, get me there!

This is the gallery on West Georgia with the giant L-O-V-E sculpture out front that we’d passed a million times. The wines came from a variety of Australia’s growing regions and were as varied as the sculptures on display.

At the Adelaide Hills table, we got a special tasting of some Tasmanian devils as we considered the religious symbolism of a Javiar Marin sculpture overhead.

In the northern cool climate of Tamar Valley – Tasmania’s oldest wine region – Josef Chromy makes a 2010 Tasmanian Reisling with the slightest hint of petrol in the nose, full of bright white fruit, mouthwatering acidity, and great minerality.

The Josef Chromy 2009 Pinot Noir is delightfully racy with vibrant red fruit and warm notes of earth and spice.

In the southern region, near the capital city of Hobart, Frogmore Creek makes a chardonnay that tastes more “French-style” than French wines. Beyond it’s somewhat vegetal nose, beautiful tropical fruit is buoyed by some bracing minerality that makes it feel more like a riesling. A thing of beauty, in its way.

Still at the Adelaide Hills table, I got my first shiraz of the night, a Shaw + Smith 2007. It was a big, full-throttle shiraz with massive, yet restrained, black and purple fruit. Heavy and strong as bronze. ($44)

At the Hunter Valley, NSW table we tried the Brokenwood 2008 Semillon, a tart, vivaciously fruity wine with a juicy finish. ($24)

At Margaret River, WA, the Next of Kin wines tasted like excellent values. The 2008 Shiraz was smooth and well balanced with mild fruit and a pleasant note of road tar. The 08 Cabernet had smoke and tobacco and tasted very drinkable now. Not bad for $15 and $16.

At the Barossa Valley table, we considered the Peter Lehman 2004 Eight Songs Shiraz while drinking in the sculpture, Heavy Dog Kiss by Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011). It was juicy, round, supremely balanced and velvety smooth. The wine was good too. ($45)

At McLaren Vale, I ribbed the fellow from Icon wines for not bringing the Zinfandel from Kangarilla Road. He conceded the mistake and then poured me their 2008 Cabernet to shut me up. It had sweet oak on the nose and a jammy rich, syrupy palate that made me crave chocolate. ($25)

The biggest surprise of the night was the Nugan Estate 2008 Manuka Grove Durif. Durif – the half cousin of petite sirah, the inkiest wine on the planet! But this durif was not inky like a petite; it seemed more cab frankish, with lovely floral-tobacco notes, an elegant body, and delicate acidity. A work of art if I ever tasted one. ($27)

I gotta’ say, there’s nothing like contemplating the boundaries of personal risk, transformation and communication while comparing cool climate wines with those from warmer regions.

Art is so much like wine. Both are objects of beauty to drink in, swirl around and become drunk enough on to start collecting.

More Aussie wine events are planned. The next one, Down Under Mix Up, is scheduled for Friday, April 29th ,and will again be at the Buschlen Mowatt gallery. Buy tickets from House Wine.

Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.