Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Wine Became Modern @ SF MOMA

Learning can be fun! One of the great joys of getting older and no longer being trapped in an institution of higher education where you quickly forget things you have no interest in and are motivated solely by the promise that this is the only path to a fulfilling life, is that you can finally enjoy learning about things you find interesting! Always looking for something sophisticated to do up in San Francisco I was thrilled to see the Museum of Modern Art is featuring a new installation centered around one of my favorite interests, wine! "How Wine Became Modern" is a multi-sensory multi-media learning experience showcasing the world wide grasp of the wine industry.

Although it only takes up a small portion of one floor this exhibit had so much to offer. When initially entering you are greeted by a large scale painting of a tasting panel from one of the first international wine competitions (a depiction of the panel known as "The Judgement of Paris" that judged the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay- putting California wine on the map for France). This was huge turning point in the globalization of the wine industry which becomes an important theme throughout the exhibit. From here the exhibits starts exactly where it should when teaching about wine, it starts with the soil. 17 prime wine growing regions from around the world are featured with soil samples as well as intrinsic information about the terroir in which the various grapes were grown. Not only was this portion of the exhibit informative it was also visually interesting with dim ambient lighting punctuated by back lit wine bottles of different varietals from each region. Forming a wide hallway this portion of the exhibit was capped by a digital video presentation showing the chronological growth of wine world wide as it coincided with important historical events.

Entering the second portion of the exhibit viewers are greeted first by a full size vine and root suspended above a mirrored surface to show what is rarely seen by the eye. I was most fascinated by the fact that both the above and below ground portions were almost the same size. The room is filled out by a huge wall installation of a vast variety of wine bottle art, designated by style and theme. Some simple, others intricate works of art it was fun to browse all the bottles and see some that I was familiar with and others that I hope to try. Bottle art is frequently one of the primary selling points for the novice wine drinker. This piece was a true testament to the culture that has grown from that mind set. Along with bottle art this portion also featured many pieces of both usable and simply artistic glassware including some really intriguing and gorgeous decanters.

The third portion of the exhibit then began to delve in the growing interest in winery architecture. With both pictures and models of wineries from around the world it was fascinating to see what true pieces of grand scale artwork many of these properties are. No two were alike and spectrum ran the gamut from classical and rustic, to truly modern and flamboyant.

Though I was not particularly drawn to it there were a few video pieces available to watch, both for entertainment value and education.

Rounding out the multi sensory experience, the wine aroma portion was the perfect way to finish (and by far my favorite part). Along the last wall were decanted pours of a variety of wines sealed with a stem and squeeze ball to pump the aroma into a funnel letting the observers smell for themselves the different styles and learn how to recognize some of the descriptors such as petrol, black pepper, and flowers. Each sample was a distinct learning opportunity and in my opinion was a wonderful way to give novice tasters the information and experience of identifying these smells for themselves.

All in all this was a very fun and well put together exhibit. It will continue to be featured at the Museum of Modern Art till April 17 so if you have a chance go check it out!

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