Lorette C. Luzajic gets heavy in her latest Wine & Art column.

Nocturne: Blue and Silver – Cremorne Lights 1872 James Abbott McNeill Whistler 1834-1903 Bequeathed by Arthur Studd 1919 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03420

The delight of opening new wine is not entirely fleeting; it begins with the act of selection.

Choosing a bottle might be a careful procedure, or it might be impulsive. But whether choice or chance,  the anticipation throughout the afternoon is its own kind of pleasure.

I love to share red wine with my neighbour, the filmmaker. Not only do we get to while away the hours waxing poetic on paintings and cinema and song, but we have a shared penchant for analyzing those first few sips in great detail.

We love using sommelier words. It’s fun to match them  to the experience in our glass, and it’s poetry, too:  astringent, claret, jammy, cur, plonk.

Beaujolais, Pinot Gris, Carménère.

In this case, it was the latter, San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard 2014. Uncorking her , we murmured the appropriate accolades. We closed our eyes for a few seconds to focus intently on the cascading layers of perfume and tannin. It was good stuff.

Of course, the inaugural tasting is just the start of the story. Shortly thereafter, a labyrinthine mess of neurons and receptors and endorphins begin to respond in the affirmative. The edges of the day soften, the demands of the world dissipate a little, a pink flush blushes the cheeks, the heart gets a bit soupy.

Pure magic.

This sentimental little parable, this ode to vino, is a perfect parallel for another eternal and international intoxication. Art, of course.

We have hundreds, no, millions, of people who make the claim that art makes them feel alive. We have a mind boggling population of pilgrims streaming in and out of a zillion museums the world over. We flock to stand in front of square panels covered in acrylic or oil paints in various arrangements of colours.  A similar scene in real life might elicit nothing more than a stifled yawn. But rendered in paint, such banal scenarios as an old lady looking out the window or a birdbath or a stack of dishes, evoke wonder. Some kind of alchemy has taken place. Straw is spun into gold.

The more practical among us, those who do not squander hours of every day on elusive analysis, may question the utility of “art”. Who hasn’t felt their stomach turn when passing a huddle of homeless young people on a bitter winter night when that day, the city added a twelve million dollar  acquisition to their arsenal of art, some striped strip of cloth, or still more trees at sunset.

Still, even opponents of such indulgence unwittingly fight tooth and nail for art. We may be from an austere cut of cloth, but we flock to Latin American cathedrals or to performances of The Magic Flute. Because, art. We show up at local openings and end up moved to buy some photography of  shadows on a sewer grate. Because, art.

We might vote against art cuts, but still rail against the mystifying lunacy of whatever the local academes have on offer, certain our housekeeper or uncle who paints is woefully  underrated. We may lobby for those cuts, furious at outrageous expenditures on experimental claptrap the so called experts have lauded as “brave.” We prioritize the need for jobs, food, or mental health treatment. Yet we can’t quite dismiss the very real effect arts training and appreciation has on the human spirit. We know it’s more than shelter or soup. Way more.

I ask myself this question, or a version of it,  over and over. What’s the deal with pictures? My morning feeds are resplendent with subscription to various feeds on colour and decor and collection. My whole life revolves around pushing some paint around and juxtaposing it with cut out images and words, in hopes of a pleasing effect. When I draw a blank, I feel parched and desolate. Unignited.

There are endless nights in which I have staid off more elemental pleasures of flesh and fantasy, staying in from the party, in order to imbibe in a more subdued setting. Flipping through volumes of Whistler or contemplating Magritte’s mysteries pairs perfectly with Pinot, either Noir or Gris or even Grigio. On these occasions, I am an armchair enthusiast of both wine and art, cognizant that the root of the word “enthusiasm” is “entheos”: to be possessed by gods, inspired, filled with beauty.

From our armchairs or our hallowed gallery halls, we may all wrestle from time to time with the spirits in our glasses and on our walls, wondering whether we should take our inspiration from the “real world” instead. We chastise our escapism, that grim hooded spectre that stands between us and real life.

I toasted that ghost in the looking glass some time ago. We all live in that real world, the one where death and taxes are certain. We work hard, we get sick, we tend to crying babies, we give to those less fortunate, we tend to the mundane mechanics of boiling water and recycling and filing reports. We sweat, we argue, we suffer. We see the news and sometimes we live it, too.

But life is more than pragmatism and toil. If the pleasure of food was only for fuel, we would never talk about savoury or spice or culture or creative cookery. We would not need a good food revolution, and wine would be totally useless if water could be found.
I am certain that some kinds of escapism are not evasion at all, but a closer communion with life itself. Enchantment is vital to a fully realized humanity, whether through sharing meals or  wine or feasting on Whistler’s nocturnes.

What purpose can eradicating romance and mystery from daily life serve? What if art and wine are keys with which we unlock the mysteries of ourselves and the world? They are keys we have always used.

I paraphrase Keats to say, give me books and wine and art and music, for these are the elements of true riches and true health, of real life.

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Three enchanting wines to chase away the rest of winter…

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay, $21.95
Crisp, tingly, rich and beautifully dry, I swear I can taste a faint pudding of cinnamon and gorgonzola at the back of my palate.  Pair with spicy Tandoori chicken, carrot cake, and the ethereal interior painters popular in Denmark at the turn of last century, like Vilhelm Hammershoi and Carl Holsoe.

Fuzion Alta Reserve Malbec, $8.95
Who says enchantment is expensive? Aerate this $8.95 marvel  in a beautiful decanter and pretend it’s a splurge. Smooth and spicy, it tastes like chocolate covered currants, or Mexican mole. Dark enough for a fire, candlelight, and the nightmare and incubi paintings of Johann Fussli.

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2014 $45.95
I’m loving New Zealand wines lately, and this one’s a gem. There’s a lot going on, from gravel to cherries, yet it’s a smooth roll. Shirk tradition and pair this heavy handed red with something light and floral, maybe salad Niçoise or herby shrimp. Get lost in something convoluted and colourful, maybe James Ensor or Basquiat.
Find out more about Lorette C. Luzajic, and view her art at mixedupmedia.ca.