Picture an artist’s work place. Some paintings hanging, some standing against the walls. There is one right in front, the artist sitting next to it. A young man comes in and almost fearfully approaches the huge painting.
‘What do you see? Wait. Stand closer. You’ve got to get close. Let it pulsate. Let it work on you. Closer. Too close. There. Let it spread out. Let it wrap its arms around you; let it embrace you, filling even your peripheral vision so nothing else exists or has ever existed or will ever exist. Let the picture do its work – But work with it. Meet it halfway for God’s sake! Lean forward, lean into it. Engage with it! … Now, what do you see?’
This is the opening scene of Red, a play by John Logan about Mark Rothko. A marvellous play that I saw in Berlin, November 2011, performed by two brilliant actors who completely knocked me out in one and a half hours of verbal combat.
Now, what did the young man see? He, who wants to become a painter, an artist, who is at the threshold of a new phase in his career, who has made it so far that he will be assisting one of the famous painters of his days – challenged to give it his utmost he says: ‘Red.’
I do sympathize. I often feel the same way when tasting wine. I look at the colours in my glass, swirl the wine, sniff at it several times (deep breaths, short breaths), what do I smell?, take a sip, let some air in, chew on the wine, what do I taste? Red wine. Positively: red wine. And in my mind’s eye I see my teacher despair, in a similar way as Rothko did in Logan’s words:
‘I don’t even know what that means! What does “red” mean to me? You mean scarlet? You mean crimson? You mean plum-mulberry-magenta-burgundy-salmon-carmine-carnelian-coral? Anything but “red!” What is “RED?!”’
Good question. What is ‘red’? Or, more in line with this blog, what is ‘red wine’? Well, that’s a bit much for a first posting. Let’s rephrase it Fish-called-Wanda style. What would Plato think? What would Plato think of if he thought of red wine (ignoring the fact that in his days wine tasted differently)? My answer would be: Domaine de la Roche Bussière’s Petit Jo, a Vin de Table from the Southern Rhone. An authentic wine. Grenache and a little Syrah. No sulphites (only a minimum when bottling). Fruity, farmy, herby. A wine that made me sigh: This is how red wine is meant.