A painting by Vaidehi Kinkhabwala
A painting by Vaidehi Kinkhabwala

Art weds Wine!

Vadodara, July 23, 2022

The Bordeaux-based family of Baron Philippe de Rothschild and its premier and globally leading brand of fine wines, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, has nurtured a close link with contemporary world art. Since 1945, every year, a leading artist would be commissioned to create a painting or illustrate the Chateau Mouton Rothschild label on their premium wine bottles. These artists have included Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, and recently, Olafur Eliasson, the Icelandic artist.

The Rothschilds went on to design and create a private Museum of Wine in Art with a collection of rare and beautifully crafted wine-related objects from across the world.

Following in the Rothschild footsteps, several winemakers across the world began to create labels for their bottles that featured artworks, thus strengthening the bond between great art and equally great wine.

Why am I rambling like this about wine, especially given that I live in prohibition-implementing Gujarat? Well that’s because I just found out that a young Gujarati artist, Vaidehi Kinkhabwala, originally from Ahmedabad, having studied Art at Ahmedabad, Baroda and then the USA and now living and working as a painter in New York, was selected by a Portuguese and then a French winemaker, to create artworks for their exclusive and limited edition wine bottle labels.

The Portuguese winemaker Luis and Maria Joao Pato’s artisanal natural wine company, Joao Pato aka Duckman, is based in the wine region of Bairrada, Portugal.

Says Vaidehi, “Their Duckman ART-isanal wine project stresses the importance of crossing from the past to the future, what we have received from the past and will leave for future generations. This is so much in sync with my personal values as an individual! While working on this artwork I was reminded of the finely suited Duckman sitting and teaching future generations to care about the environment!”

Later on, Sons of Wine, based in Alsace, France, selected Vaidehi’s artworks to be featured on three of their exclusive natural wines -- a Chardonnay 19 for export to Japan, a limited edition Great Magnum Morgan, and a biodynamic Chardonnay.

One painting was specially created based on the poem Loreley by Guillaume Apollinaire and two others from Vaidehi’s existing paintings - one from the Portraits of Men Series (The Barkeep) and one from Poster Poems Furia Series (Out of Control). 

Vaidehi says, “This project was unique in the sense that my art hit some notes for the Vintners and they made it the star of the label. Both these collaborations have been thrilling for me, where I got to tell someone else's story, make it relatable and create an immersive human experience.”

However, while on the subject, I found that our local vintners are not too far behind in this area either. A few months back I was in Goa and looking for Madame Rosa mango and aniseed liquers. While the distillery unfortunately had stopped production of these liquers, it had introduced new products, one of whose bottle labels carried an iconic cartoon on Goan life by the inimitable Mario Miranda, a dear friend of the owner of Madame Rosa.

Another major player in India’s wine business, Grover Zampa Vineyards, has also featured the works of five contemporary Indian artists on their red and white wine bottle labels. The Grover interest in becoming vintners was triggered way back in the mid-1970s, when the Grovers were holidaying in London and the late Kanwal Grover, the family patriarch, wanted to bid for vintage wines in the Christie’s Auction at Paris. His son, the Baroda-based architect Karan Grover attended the auction and was able to pick up a Mouton Rothschild 1961, which had a Picasso artwork on the label. Karan, already an arts connoisseur, with many friends in the large Baroda art community and running an art gallery here, was thrilled to see the label. He would spend the next decade or so trying to convince his family (which had in the meanwhile established Grover Zampa Vineyards on the outskirts of Bangalore by the late-1980s) that they should also bring out a special edition that sported Indian contemporary art on the labels.

Finally, around 2008-09, Grover Zampa Vineyards decided to introduce the Art Collection range. It featured works by Paresh Maity, Jatin Das, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Rini Dhumal and Rekha Rodwittiya. These were existing works by the artists selected by Grover Zampa Vineyards and the colour tones in the works were matched with the deep red and golden white hues of the bottled wine and accordingly selected for the right labels. A special low-price and popular wine called Sante aimed at appealing to younger patrons was also introduced, labelled with an illustration by Mario Miranda!

Getting artists to create an artwork that responds meaningfully to the nature of the wine it will label or the ideology of the winemaker or the exotic foods that pair with the wine, is a challenge that is often taken proactively by the artist who decides to accept it. It creates a win-win situation, re-confirming a lifestyle choice that brings together the artist, the winemaker and the people who enjoy the wine!

(All photos courtesy of Vaidehi Kinkhabwala and Grover Zampa Vineyards.)

Sandhya Bordewekar writes on contemporary art, architecture, heritage, food and life in general.

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