The weaving together of art and wine in Bordeaux

Share this page

Wine making is considered by many to be an art, but many wineries take the theme of art and wine a step further through architecture, art collections, exhibitions, and partnerships with artists in residence. Then there is the wine label and packaging design; so many ways to bring wine and art together.

This summer is the perfect time to experience the many artistic collaborations in Bordeaux as château prepare for summer visitors with shows and exhibitions.

Some properties are a permanent art show. The most striking example in the Medoc is Chateau d'Arsac. When wine merchant Philippe Raoux purchased Chateau d'Arsac the whole property was in ruins, the chateau, the cellars and the vineyard, with only 3ha in production. Very different from its illustrious past, in the 19th century it was the largest of all the Medoc estates, with 250ha of vines. Everything needed re building; an art collection wasn't first on the to-do list.

The inspiration to create a link between wine, vines and art came in 1988 with a visit from The Peter Stuyvesant Foundation. Together they organised a summer art festival and the 1989 harvest was brought in under the watchful eye of works from such renowned artists as Indiana, Vasarely, Appel, Viallat, Morellet and de St Phalle. When the harvest finished, the works of art left too, leaving the place feeling empty, so they continued to organise art festivals from 1990 until 1996.

By 1994, investment in the vineyard started to pay off and the chateau could now curate its own collection. Since then, each vintage sees a new work installed in the park, amongst the vines, in the cellar or the chateau. Works are chosen with a link to the property. For example, the enormous flower pot 'Le Pot Rouge' by Raynaud, is inspired by the vineyard as a vine garden, the Merci Jean painting on the walls of cellar followed the visit of the artist Bernar Venet to the property and 'la Diagonale', a large metal girder resting on the chateau illustrates the continual 'work in progress' to constantly improve the vineyard and the wines

Thanks to this now important contemporary collection, in 2017 Chateau d'Arsac won the Best Of Art and Culture award. Art and wine tours of the property and the collection are available every afternoon during the week.

Chateau La Dominique in Saint Emilion is another property poised between the past and the future. Dating back to the 16th century, Clément Fayat brought the property into the 21st century by commissioning the architect Jean Nouvel to create a new cellar. The shiny red building was finished in 2014 winning a Best Of Wine Tourism Gold for architecture.

The exterior walls are covered in mirrored, red stainless steel blades in different shades representing the evolution of the wine. Slightly curved, they give an inverted and fragmented vision of the vines and sky. The roof of the cellar offers a unique view across the vineyards and the floor is strewn with red glass pebbles representing the grapes fermenting in the vats below.

Red is the colour of Saint Emilion wine and until late August red will also be the theme of an art exhibition in the cellars. It's the second summer exhibition, expanding last year's theme of the role red plays in art and political commitment. This year, an eclectic collection of paintings, drawings, ceramics, photography, video and installation will be on show from artists as diverse as Danielle Arbid, Mike Bouchet, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Orianne Castel, Judy Chicago, Robert Combas, Mounir Fatmi, Jérémy Gobé, Thierry Jadot, Daido Moriyama, Jean-Pierre Raynaud, Andres Serrano and Heimo Zobernig.

Chateau Kirwan in Margaux is a pioneer of wine tourism in Bordeaux; in 2018 they won the Best of for Discovery and innovation thanks to the new cellars fronted by a monumental stainless steel vine. This summer art will enter in the cellars when Azama Effilochée, a young artist from Zaire, will be showing her works there.

You don't always have to look very far for artistic inspiration. This summer Marie Laure Lurton, owner of Château La Tour de Bessan in Margaux, is keeping things in the family. Her avant-garde cellar in Margaux will showcase the works of her daughter, Joséphine Roux. These include logos, portraits and illustrations, which you can view from the tasting room above the cellar while you sip on the wine from the property.

Chateau de Ferrand won the Best of Wine Tourism for Architecture and Landscapes in 2016 and lot has changed since I reported back just two years ago. The property's long history stretches back over 300 years to 1702, but the Chateau and also the park around the property is perfectly preserved.

The recent renovation of the chateau is a work of art. Designed to offer a warm welcome to visitors it has also been inspired by the wonderful natural environment surrounding the Château. Visiting Château de Ferrand you enter into the heart of a work of art. Skilled craftsmen have worked in stone, wood, leather and metal to create some surprising features. The two tasting rooms, for example,  are both extra ordinary.

The walls of the smaller 'Salon Bic’ are a nod towards the owners, the family of the Baron Bich, who bought the property in 1978. The walls are covered, from floor to ceiling, with a fresco by Alexandre Doucin, drawn uniquely in Bic biro. It brings the beautiful park surrounding the chateau into the tasting room. It is simply breath taking; when the door is closed you are sitting inside a virtual landscape, reproducing the 360° views from this high point of the appellation.

The reception room is also unique, organised as a relaxing lounge the unique ceiling also brings the outside in. Long aluminium blades painted a pale blue cross each other, creating an undulating surface that reflects the daylight; it is like sitting in a beautiful cloud.

At the end of the salon the oak circular tasting 'bar' is a nod to the barrel cellar. It's far from rustic, with a little bit of James Bond technology it rotates on its axis to face inwards or outwards to suit number of guests joining the tasting.

Neighbouring Château Faugères also won a Best Of gold medal in “Architecture and Landscapes” thanks to the creation of the architect Mario Botta. The monumental winery, sitting on the slopes of the UNESCO Heritage site, was built to celebrate Château Faugères Grand Cru Classé status in the 2012 Saint Emilion classification. It has a very specific signature shape; a tall tower with a tasting room at the top offering spectacular views across the vineyard.

The owner, Sylvio Denz, is also the owner of Lalique Crystal House and they have created a unique bottle inspired by this tower that is also a work of art. The joy of this piece of art is that it can be taken home!