Wine is Art

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On the Wilmshof in Selzen, deep in the wine county of Rheinhessen, Katrin and Tobias fuse the art of wine making with art itself. No wonder: When the wine maker was an artist in his first life and his wife an interior designer, something special is bound to happen.

By Gisela Kirschstein

The white lattice boxes used to cage industrial items, now they serve as shelves for wine bottles. "When you close the grills, they are a great background for paintings", says Katrin Mohr. "Homelandrug", a poster nearby flashes, fusing wine bottles with symbolic icons from Rheinhessen. We are standing in a wine shop, yet art is, what your eyes behold: small objects in frames decorate the walls, postcards and posters flash paintings, pulleys are holding chairs or decoration items. No doubt about it: This is where wine and art merge to become a unique piece of art in itself.

"Wine is Art" is the motto of the Wilmshof, a small winery in Selzen, a wine village south of Mainz. It describes exactly what Katrin and Tobias Mohr won the Great Wine Capital Art and Culture Award 2017 for: A unique fusion of the art of wine making with the arts itself, celebrating a "new aesthetics" and an holistic approach, as the jury enthused. No wonder when the winemaker is an artist and his wife an interior designer. "This is our second vocation", Katrin Mohr says with a smile.

The winery's art studio

She was a student of interior architecture in Mainz when she met her future husband – at the city's big carnival party, the Rosenmontag. Tobias Mohr was an artist at university, after some years of student life, the couple moved to Selzen, to live on the winery of Katrin's parents. "On weekends, we helped with the wine", Katrin remembers, "the winery, it crept somehow up into our lives."

Dagmar and Werner Binzel owned a typical Rheinhessen winery with 38 acres of farming on the side. The farm was supposed to end with their generation, neither of their daughters wanted to follow in their steps. "I always resisted a bit against the winery", Katrin says, "but then you discover, you can do things differently from your elders." The artists, drawn into the art of winemaking, turned winemaker: Tobias became master wine-grower, and Katrin fuelled her creative talent into decorations, posters and wine events.

A clear Riesling they make here and a wonderfully flowery Gewürztraminer. They planted St. Laurent and Chardonnay and set out to make the wines reflect terroir and their own taste. And yet, the art wasn't to be suppressed. In the wine storehouse, huge paintings feature the legs of soccer players. "We had an after-work wine tasting here during the European Championship last year", Katrin explains, her husband read texts from an art catalogue he once made  concerning soccer and art. The soccer legs are still in the storehouse, in the wine shop next door, a small art series named "soccer players in space" inhabits a shelf next to wine coolers.

"We do a different wine coaster each year", Katrin shows us, the little round plates are – of course – a piece of art: "We try to let the art flow into our daily life." Thus, the shopping bags are imprinted with little portraits of "the ugly drinkers" - the original paintings line the wall in the "Kuhkappelle", a former cowshed which Dagmar and Werner Binzel turned into the first wine tavern. The room's cealing is a cross vault, the sturdy pillars remind of a church – that's how the cow chapels got their name.

Katrin Mohr in the 'Kuhkappelle' (Cow Chapel)

"My parents were the first to start a wine tavern around here", Katrin remembers, "and they often sat all by themselves down here, waiting for someone to show up." In 1986, Rheinhessen wasn't the tourists' eldorado which it is now, the few guests were invited into the family's living room. Today, bikers and day tourists swarm the hills and vineyards, and many a passerby rings the bell in search of one or two bottles of wine.

The wine tavern has turned into a throbbing wine restaurant where Katrin serves local food. And three years ago, Katrin and Tobias turned the double garage at the street front into the art inspired wine shop. "The art was somehow always there", Katrin says thoughtfully, "but it was the shop which made us aware of it." They went in search of a name – and the new motto "Wine is Art" initiated a genuine tide of art in the winery. "To make wine isn't that different from making art", Katrin says, smiling: "Both talk to all senses."

Katrin Mohr in the studio