In vino veritas, Gandy gallery
There is almost a form of oxymoron between your grace, your reserve, and the omnipresence of table things, and wine, in your life as in your practice. I think the source of this apparent paradox is in your peasant childhood.
Beyond the recurrence of vegetal patterns, roots, wood, in your production, the organization of your studio in a farm strikes me. The kitchen, where family meals are taken, also hosts those few who work by your side, and splits the space in two, although open. On the one hand the studio, on the other the bedrooms, the children. This studio-home is your “terroir” from which your projects spring and patiently grow.
The “terroir” is not just the soil. This tipically French idea of terroir means the interactions among the three fundamental elements of the wine: the soil, the climate, and human intervention generation after generation. So it can be used as a metaphor to the current state of the World – as cultural production directly tied to the work of the soil – wine has a privileged tie to History. This is why, while once admitting that it is possible to make great wines anywhere in the World, Aubert de Villaine, the biodynamic genius of Romanée Conti, said right away “as long as you’ve been doing it for five centuries.”
Delimited with extreme precision thanks to observation and tasting by monks, certain vinyards of great Burgundy vintages have, in effect, been worked continuously since the 12th century. Dispersed and divided up, do you know that these parcels are often extremely small? Clos de Vougeot, for example, includes no fewer than 134 parcels on 50 hectares, distributed among 85 owners.
A "vigneron" traditionally means the peasant who makes wine, in France. A vigneron can work up to a few hectares alone, in Burgundy. So it is the same individual who cares for the life of his soil all year long, surveys the proper development of his vineyard, and then make the juice of his grapes into wine. The analogy with the artist is obvious: all year, the vigneron must keep in mind the exact idea of the wine he wants to produce, while accepting the chance happenings and constant hazards. In the New World, on the other hand, in America or in Bordeaux as well, a multitude of players come into play in succession: the winegrower for the vine, winemaker to make the wine, without mentioning the oenologist consultants whose soil analysis determine the type of vine to be planted, and whose analyses give the date of the harvest! Elsewhere, the use of the palate is enough.
One of these emblematic vignerons, Mark Angeli, installed in the Loire valley in Thouarcé, is quietly claiming his “peasant” qualification on the labels of the wine from his Domain, which also proudly carries its title: Ferme de la Sansonnière. This is no vanity: the Sansonnière was already a farm long before he came to own it. And like a good peasant, he raises chickens and a Breton horse, Luigi, who assists him in working the hillside vines, along with several of the most moving Loire wines from Chenin. Instead of priding itself on being the homeland of one of these great vignerons that are the envy of the whole world, France of course refuse the approval of his wines. Brought out in his book La colère des raisins, Mark Angeli placed this phrase from Saint Augustine: "Hope has two beautiful daughters: anger against things as they are and the courage needed to change them.”
I can guess that the word anger creates a slight movement of recoil in you. Yet is not design more than a supplement of aesthetic soul developed in the industrial revolution to dress elegantly, isn’t it a reaction of anger facing the uniformization of the World? After the death of Ettore Sottsass, Enzo Mari wrote a brief text in La Repubblica, where he recognized notably: "Whether the term ‘design’ belongs or does not belong to industry will have been only a debate internal to a small avant-garde of the first part of the last century. The global market no longer needs it today." But he adds: "You have chosen artisan production. From an ideal viewpoint, it is the allegory of the quality of work in which draft and execution correspond.”
This artisan production, in design as in wine, doubtless amounts to no more than a drop of water, I daresay, in the global market. In quantity. But this infinitesimal part is infinitely precious because it paradoxically encompasses nearly all diversity, complexity and emotion.
For these reasons, I was by chance inspired to bring a bottle of wine that no longer exists to accompany this soirée where you showed us the images of imaginary bottles that you designed for this show. This bottle, a 1992 Chinon Clos de la Dioterie from old vines is in fact a disappearing work of a vigneron-artist in the proper sense: Charles Joguet. Kermit Lynch wrote that he was “one of the rare winegrowers whose wines inspire passion from the viewpoings of aesthetics, the spiritual, intellectual, as well as sensorial….”
Ten years ago, Charles Joguet retired from his life as peasant to live his life of painter to the full: "I’ve done both for all these years. Before, by trying to be the best painter of all the vignerons, I even almost managed to be the best vigneron of all painters. It’s bad for the wine. The vine is something else. You have to care for it a lot and especially do what has to be done when it needs to be done. Neither before nor after."
The most extraordinary thing in this bottle is not the infinite softness of the tanin, which is the mark of the great specialists of the Cabernet Franc, it’s not the incredible fineness of the aromatic palette, the delicacy, the lace, no, it is simply the life, the intact energy it still harbors. All the guests that evening, you remember, were thunderstruck: a 16-years-old Chinon! An adolescent, that is: each swallow flows along the esophagus in a warm, irradiant stream, and floods the plexus with a beneficial sensation of warm and friendly velour.
How much longer is this life going to be able to stay closed up in this flask? I think I still have three bottles of the Charles Joguet wine preciously aligned in my cellar. One day, though, if we do not drink them in time, if we resign ourselves to seeing Charles Joguet’s wines disappear, without anything appearing outwardly, this energy that seems inexhaustible today will suddenly vanish inside. On that day, it would be good if another Charles Joguet existed. It’s not sad at all. No, on the contrary, it is certainly because it is so fragile that art can be so lively.
- Patrick Gries, courtesy Gandy gallery