As you may know, Modernism was an intellectual movement that arose in the late XIX and early XX century as a result of the sweeping economical and technological changes during that period. Based on a utopian vision and belief in progress, the Modernists sought to break away from the classical tradition in the arts. The modern artist strived to produce art that reflected their reality rather than an idealized far away Greek and Roman classical past. In a similar manner, the modern wine drinker’s taste reflects its predilection for neogastronomy breaking away from the tradition of traditional wines challenging the apparatus of the wine industry.

Today’s wine drinker has a sensibility for artisanal natural wines because in their imagination they connect to a sense of place. This sense of place is fundamental to the concept of being and involves the embodiment of ecology, communal values and sound responsible gastronomical taste. In fact, it reminds me of the Pre-Raphaelites who sought to produce art that connected to nature while revolting against the genre painting of the time. In addition, the modern wine drinker approaches natural wine not as an object but as a relationship between himself/herself and the wine being drunk. It is a correspondence of stories between drinker and artisanal producer.

The modern wine drinker does not objectify wine and rejects the possessive gaze that the wine industry has imposed on the drinker. Traditional wine drinking does not escape consumerism and the idea that a bottle of wine is something to be possessed. This is a type of plantation capitalism in which the drinker presented with the illusion of no choice is blindly exploiting the material culture of wine to feed an illusion of being conspicuous. Like in art, the gaze does not escape wine. However, the drinker has a choice of refusing the normative and preserving the material culture of wine by drinking natural.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Pablo Picasso
Paris, June-July 1907. Source: MoMA.org

When I drink a natural wine, I think of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso. This landmark work by the fabled Spanish artist, precursor to Cubism departs away from the neoclassical tradition. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles is a blatant counterculture visual manifesto against the Classical Renaissance tradition of representing women as objects to be possessed. He archives this effect by the primitive Iberian depiction of the female models combined with the African masks covering their faces. Likewise, a natural wine breaks away from the tradition of making “perfect” wines, yet quite technical and soulless. The idea of perfection encompassing a particular set of flavor profiles and texture is not only an assault to the indigenous culture of grape growing but also to the ancestral collective practices of those wine artisans that make the ambrosian nectars that the modern wine drinker enjoy.