From downloadable vintage guides for your smart phone to wine-pegged investment funds, fermented grape juice has come a long way since it was first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent some 10,000 years ago. Its illustrious and intoxicating history is being celebrated in a new exhibition, How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now, on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, sfmoma.org, through April 17, 2011.
The show explores wine as a global cultural phenomenon. "I was inspired by the serious, almost fetish-like ways in which wine is now taken," says Henry Urbach, the museum's curator of architecture and design. Conventional exhibits are supplemented with conceptual displays, like pages of wine-themed Japanese manga and Norwegian "odor artist" Sissel Tolaas' installation, replicating the smell of a 1976 Penfolds Grange Hermitage not in the glass but on the breath. The importance of terroir is conveyed using vineyard maps developed using NASA charting techniques along with actual rootstock. Ultimately, of course, it is this connection to the land that helps wine retain its mystique. "Wine has come to stand for a sense of rootedness and authenticity," Urbach says. "It has this aura of realness in an increasingly virtualized world." We'll drink to that.