Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Wine Became Modern at SFMOMA

Last week I went to see “How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now” currently at SFMOMA. 1976 is of course the year of the Judgment of Paris, the legendary California vs. France tasting, which is showcased by a large floor-to-ceiling mural at the entrance of the exhibit.

Overall, the exhibit is more design than wine tasting, winemaking, and grape growing. One of the first galleries is about winery design, from traditional to ultra modern. The next room shows innovative glassware and decanter design, and an entire wall is covered with wine labels.

There are a few displays more dedicated to grapes and vines. At the “smell wall”, visitors can inhale from several flasks of wine and try to identify aromas like Riesling's petrol or Sauvignon Blanc's gooseberry. The terroir display introduces the concept of terroir with soil samples from famous vineyards around to the world. And there is a superb giant grapevine suspended in the air showing an extensive root system.

The popular media display shows how wine critics, magazines, and books have fashioned popular tastes. I even found my favorite manga there, Tadashi Agi's The Drops of God, the comic that has so drastically influenced wine sales in Japan and Korea.

The exhibit is fun to see but I also highly recommend the remarkable Henri Cartier-Bresson retrospective on the museum's third floor. It is showing until the end of January.

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