Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

Ask ABK6 Cognac, Ackerman, Champagne Mailly & Ruinart, how they converted their wine into Artist objects

14 min read

Wine has always been connected to Art, and vice versa…  Through an existing iconography of famous paintings, sculptures and frescoes highlighting the cult about this divine drink. Starting by the early divinity of Dionysos and Bacchus, already acclaimed in the antiquity, along many other legendary Mythology banquets, where this elixir was essentially a proper pretext to celebrate a real epicurean lifestyle. 

In ancient times, wine was often consumed according to a fixed ritual. The resulting drunkenness was seen as a sort of cognitive experience, a path to another sacred dimension. That’s why wine was celebrated by numerous great painters, such as Bacchus by Caravaggio (pictured here), the Anacreon, Bacchus and Love by Jean-Léon Gérome (as cover photo), or the masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Scene, as well as his many diversions. 

Although, 1945 was a date to remember in the further connection of these two galaxies, when the front label of a famous Médoc Premier Cru from the Château Mouton-Rothschild was offered to a different contemporary artist, every year. Among them, the Millesime 1973 was borrowed from Picasso, as an homage to this artist who died that same year. But the list of artists is long, and just for this domain… Counting on Georges Braque, Pierre Alechinsky, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Paul Delvaux, Keith Haring and even Balthus whose too erotic label was banned in the prudish United States, where, as a sign of protest, the bottle was sold there without any label.

In this topic, we would have look on different kinds of artistic conceptions in this wide world of wine, whatever if it’s a sparkling wine like Ackerman, a Cognac like AKB6 and Champagne such as Mailly and Ruinart. By Alex Plato


We start our artistic wines tour with the brand new creation of the ABK6 Artist Collection Cognac developed by the Domaines Francis Abécassis, and this in connection with our future article about Cognacs!

With 370 hectares of vines, the newly baptized ABK6 Cognac is today one of the largest independent producers of the Cognac appellation. Francis and his daughter Elodie have built a solid team where each person contributes with their own function and naturally their skills, in their daily actions, to the elaboration of these refined Cognacs. Each of their estates occupies a privileged location, and all stages of production are independently carried out there, in order to adapt the production methods of these Cognacs adapted to their specific terroir.

As far as we know, their Ugni-Blanc grapes are harvested plot by plot and immediately pressed on each site to avoid transport and thus excessively long processing delays. That’s why, their winemaking cellars are equipped with facilities equipped with some high-tech temperature control equipment, intended to produce the finest distilled wines. Moreover, loyal to their green commitment, in the respect of their direct environment and sustainable development, the Abécassis vineyards are as well High Environmental Value certified (HVE3).

Art is an other engagement for the Abécassis family, especially through their ABK6 Reserve Artist Collection. A limited edition dedicated for this Cognac, based on a list of only 160 artist proofs, initially reserved for their boutique, and sold in the domain but also on their online store (photo credits: ABK6).

Along this initiative, the team decided to expose in the aging cellars of their estate, a selection of some artworks from the local artist Julien Drevelle. Plus, these large formats had the chance to be surrounded by oak barrels, containing their very precious Cognacs. Such a privilege for these juices which live and evolve, notably thanks to the “part of the angels” and contribute these Cognacs to mature harmoniously. This ABK6 Reserve Artist Edition Cognac, can be easily considered as fine and intensely aromatic. As an authentic testimony to what a long aging may provide to any Cognac, particularly in terms of elegance and complexity.

The first edition of this ABK6 Reserve Artist Collection has been imagined as a limited edition, starring numbered bottles from N°1 to 5000. Fully designed by Julien Drevelle, these samples are dressed with an abstract art robe and then offer you a real contemporary art moment, to share with your friends. Really distinctive from his confreres, the style of this French artist gives to this original art support, a certain colorful attractiveness.

For more comfort, this ABK6 Reserve is presented to you in a unique carafe shape, topped with a natural beechwood stopper. Furthermore, its label and gift box echo the bright and harmonious colors of the native artist‘s canvas.

 

The result in your palate is a bright amber wedding, full of intense and elegant aromas, implying a cocktail of fruity notes of apples, pears, candied plums, cinnamon and even vanilla, with a delicate woody touch. This sweet balance between roundness and strength, leaves a final impression of dominant spicy, vanilla and woody aromas, revealing these persistent fruity notes. Recommended price: 49€.

For the second edition, Francis Abécassis still wished to present another work realized by his friend, the artist Julien Drevelle, a personality particularly close to his heart. For your information, in this ABK6 Reserve Artist collection N°2, the original canvas is also visible in the family estate’s distillery, located in Claix (Charente).

This Cognac issued from the ABK6 Reserve Artist Collection remains the same, fine and particularly aromatic. This time, just the colors and the shades of the canvas used to wear this ensemble have varied, inviting anyone on a tasting and epicurean journey between art and pleasure. Recommended price: 65€.

Visits of the Abécassis estate are also possible, where you could discover the production stages of their Cognacs.
Open every day from 9am to 5pm upon reservation.
– Discovery tour: 5€ including the visit + the tasting of 1 Cognac
– Tasting tour: 12€ including the visit + the tasting of 3 Cognacs

More information on the official website.


Still in the western part of France and linked with a certain festive spirit, the Maison Ackerman just initiated an innovative spirit, through their sulfite-free cuvée, called  and in another hand, a collector edition of their XNoir cuvée. Indeed, always eager to innovate, this sparkling wine structure from Saumur is considered as a pioneer in the Loire Valley, to marry their combined vision of art and technology to some of their different references, in order to offer as much as possible to their fans, an interactive melt into an artistic experience (photo credits: Ackerman).

This is a real revolution for this centenary Maison, founded in 1866, by Louis-Ferdinand Ackerman who took over the reins of this own wine venture, contributing to the international influence of its Maison Ackerman‘s fine bubbles, in particular in England, where he paid the tribute to create a legendary sparkling wine, called the Royal edition. Therefore, this nectar, also available in Brut Royal and Dry Royal, immediately met with immense success across the United-Kingdom and even in its colonies, then became very quickly available on the most famous tables, all over the world, from Europe to the Americas.

Available through an augmented reality device, thanks to the Snappress application, the Nouvel Esprit offered by the Maison Ackerman thus invites its enthusiasts to enter in a galaxy of fine bubbles, for this unique experience using your smartphone or tablet, simply by scanning the label.

From then on, a 3D graphic animation would eventually appear to you, like a genius, to tell the story of the Loire winegrowers at the origin of this Nouvel Esprit. Thus, you would be undoubtedly glad to virtually meet these different wine activists and epicureans, full of passion and conviction, but also concerned about a certain well-being and a sustainable future for their community. This is also an opportunity to explore this Nouvel Esprit‘s philosophy, mainly issued from a collective reflection of a group composed of winegrowers, oenologists, researchers, academics and consumers, willing to restore the inner expression from Mother Nature. This excludes all kinds of sulfites, insecticides nor any use of glyphosates. This virtuous circle was made possible through the improving of the production material and then limiting any other types of inputs into the vineyards

Therefore, the Ackerman team has imagined the development of their direct ecosystem (including bees, ladybugs, etc.) which naturally promotes pollination and limits the presence of vine pests. They also thought about the implementation of some green manures (barley, mustard, radish …), able to positively complete the remaining grass. Last but not least, the presence of sheep in the vines is a huge chance to preserve and enrich the soil, reflecting this eco-friendly Nouvel Esprit‘s spirit, as a  combination of a specific vineyard management on selected plots and a cautious vinification, in the respect of rigorous procedures.

For your information, the Nouvel Esprit is a range of white Crémants de Loire, in a selection of four sparkling  wines, immediately revealing this genuine Champagne method of making wines, grown in a natural way in the multiple vineyards and by the winegrowers.
At the heart of their vineyard located in Puy-Notre-Dame, the plots are ideally exposed on a limestone subsoil, offering a solid basis able to produce an elegant and fruity wine, offering aromas of very ripe yellow fruits of peach and apricot. Indeed, this cocktail of 66% Chenin and 34% Chardonnay conveys to a fruity final moment, full of fresh and subtle notes of pear.

This elixir is dedicated to be paired with savory or sweet puff pastry and fruity desserts, or even just as an aperitif. Recommended price: 10€. 

As you can see with these yellow sculptures, Ackerman is used to support some artistic initiatives, and another designed option would be possible, from this longtime player in fine bubbles of the Loire Valley. Then, recently was as well launched a limited edition of their XNoir cuvée, although it’s a rosé sparkling wine… A good occasion to reveal their projection on modernity and innovative design within this new collector‘s edition, embodied by a black and fuchsia bottle.

Initiated in 2006, this so-called XNoir cuvée already created sensation by the time thanks to an original packaging, in a very modern retro-chic spirit. Only available to decorate your summertime, this limited edition appears in an elegant matte black background, sublimed by a flashy fuschia pink flamingo and the ancestral royal symbols. Indeed, this updated robe is an opportunity to give a funny tribute to the double origin of this wine, cherished by the founder Jean-Baptiste Ackerman, of Flemish origin and these fine pink bubbles extracted from the Pineau d’Aunis grape variety, harvested in the Loire Valley and especially in the heart of the Côteaux du Vendômois.

Therefore, this very aromatic Pineau d’Aunis de Loire has been reinvented by Maison Ackerman offering an elegant and fruity wine, plus delicately spicy, able to surprise your entourage by the persistence of its dynamic bubbles. Like these two flamingos, a good way to keep your feet in the water! A limited edition Ackerman XNoir, for a recommended price of 6.50€.

More information on the official website.


Following our article about Champagne Grand Cru, we tell you about you the last creation of one of its main players the Champagne Mailly, a Maison grounded in 1929. Indeed, this (soon centenary) exploitation enjoys a privileged natural environment, through a Grand Cru terroir, located in the heart of the Regional Natural Park in the Montagne de Reims.

Thanks to a range of distinct vineyards, extended on more than 600 plots, or 35 localities, cultivated like precious gardens, all offering a pleasant panorama on the Champagne reliefs, punctuated by the artistic shapes of the valleys. This is where, day after day, season after season, the House winegrowers get down to work in these grapevines, with respect and passion, both in solidarity and in the strong commitment regarding the sustainability of the domain, thanks to a double HVE/VDC certification (High Environmental Value/Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne). Thereafter, this poignant framework inspired some of the creative initiative involved by the Champagne Mailly, such as the birthday artwork for their 90th anniversary in 2019, around the Composition Parcellaire thematics, a whole category of packagings and labels redesigned with the contribution of the Médiane agency.

Moreover, the last art project was initiated about the Nature Millesime 2013, by Charles Neubach, a French multimedia artist, born in Paris in 1986 but who nowadays lives in Reims (photo credits: Champagne Mailly).

Indeed, proud of an experience of two years in Berlin in 2011, where he held a workshop at the Kunstfabrik HB55, within some work that led him to be part of the selection of the 58th Salon de Montrouge. After this consecration, he pursued some time in the studio, located in the Parisian region, where he exhibited during several occasions. Then, he decided to settle temporarily at La Fileuse, an artistic wasteland in the city of Reims, the time of a residence of almost 4 years, where the artist tended to explore a couple of new techniques of painting, screen printing, educational interventions and in situ performances. This experience enriched his application scope,  either visual and sensory, through a hybrid approach, sometimes using a musical production and a light encoding, forged in a closed and smoky space. 

Based on this florilege, an immersive installation was directly designed at the Champagne Mailly estate, on the occasion of the commemoration of their 90th anniversary. After this first step, Charles Neubach joined the expression tribune offered to a bunch of contemporary artists in collaboration with some cellar masters of the domain. This is here the fifth edition of an original venture, already launched 20 years ago, under Les Artistiques Collection name. Taking precedence over his predecessors, back in time illustrating on various topics, such as the artists Bernard Pages, Florence Valay, Claude Vialat (we had previously admired in the In Situ festival in Occitania) and Xavier Coulmier, at this occasion Charles Neubach arises and melts within the new 2013 vintage of the collection.

Thus, he signed an original artwork, both on a metallic box and on the bottle label, inspired by the shapes and colors of the domain’s vine plots, in order to realize a colorful tribute to one of the more famous terroirs of Champagne.

 

The same Charles Neubach admits that “the particularity of my artistic practice is to think and realize in situ works, according to a context and some corollary constraints, through complex, subtle and nuanced digital works. By drawing lines, I imagine complex equations able to offer a visual result aesthetic. Here, each shape is the result of colorful overprints, gradients and superimpositions, on a living metal support. In this case, this is a vision above vine plots, mainly observed in the fall, highlighted by many color shades, specific to this season. It is a projection of the Champagne vines passed through my geometry, my matrices and my sensitivity. It is a living work in the light that offers, depending on its position and angle of view, a pretty unique perception, but constantly renewed.”

Furthermore, this Nature Millesime 2013 is a limited edition, only issued at 17,950 copies, offered in a metal case adorned with this shimmering decoration, whose birth was accompanied by Sébastien Moncuit, the cellar master. The result is a non-dosed Grand Cru (without any added sugar), only based the 2013‘s harvest, which started late that year since it wad collected on the estate from October 8th, 2013.

Once in mouth, you would be very quickly seduced by its fresh juice, mostly oriented on a selection of fresh white fruits, fulfilling anyone’s minimalist expectations. Starting from a dynamic bubbled structure, this Millesime 2013 reveals the best identity of its soils, among its notes of spices, juicy pear, crunchy apple, matured clementine and even mandarine! This was made possible by bringing together the two main grape varieties cultivated in the vineyard, including Pinot Noir (75%) and Chardonnay (25%).

Enhanced by its natural freshness and elegance, their blend subtly introduces you a wide palette of nuances and maturity, since it required no less than 6 years, spent in the tranquility of cellars and 20 meters down under, to get this prestigious wine ready! This long time to sleep in the underground atmosphere was necessary to wake up the smoothness of the Pinot Noir‘s assets and thus permit it to be adjusted in accordance with the specific momentum, inherent to this special 2013 vintage.

On top of that, this zero dosage aspect represents an original gift for any Champagne enthusiast and places this 2013 vintage in the niche category of unvarnished wines, more and more acclaimed by a new clientele. For your information, you could easily enjoy it as an aperitif or marry it with a salty starter of oysters, sashimi, ceviche and any other kind of fish, like sea bass or sea bream and carpaccio. For more surprise, why wouldn’t you associate your glass of this Champagne with goat cheese for example? Recommended price: 49€.

More information on the official website, and discover their wide selection on their online store.


Every year, the illustrious Maison Ruinart welcomes an internationally-celebrated contemporary artist in Reims to share his or her vision of the famous Maison, which will soon hit its tricentennial year. Following Liu Bolin (2018) and Vik Muniz (2019), in 2020 British artist David Shrigley applies his unique take on Maison Ruinart across an ensemble of 36 drawings and acrylics—as well as three neons, two ceramics and one door. This great British creative, whose work evokes an almost irreverant vibe, is a witty artist processing the contemporary world through incomparable irony (photo credits: Ruinart).

Fixing his gaze upon the longstanding Maison, David Shrigley allows us to rediscover Ruinart with his quirky and uncompromising humor. His art shines a new light upon the vineyards, the heritage and the savoir-faire of the Maison.

During the stay of the artist in Champagne, he roamed among the vines, explored the cellars, noted each expression and gesture. His works inquisitively examine the rituals and customs of those working in the field, as well as the oenologists and additional collaborators who bring Ruinart champagnes to life. With a sharp eye and great curiosity, he studied the well-kept secrets behind the creation of champagne.

“When making art on the subject of Champagne production: one must make several visits to the champagne region ; one must visit the crayères and the vine yards and the production facilities ; and one must ask questions of the people who work there and listen very carefully to what they say. And most importantly you must drink some champagne.” David Shrigley explained.

…we can confirm the soil is important!
Some pleasures are shared…

Through his drawings, neons and sculptures, David Shrigley offers up a journey that is at once welcoming and singular, provoking surprising conversations about nature and the wine-making process. In tandem, he makes us mindful of day-to-day environmental challenges, which Maison Ruinart is attentive to. Humour is, without a doubt, one of the best means for spreading awareness.

Reflecting this bold yet committed stance, his artistic reinterpretation is titled “Unconventional Bubbles” (Bulles singulières). David Shrigley’s work unveiled in Paris in March 2020 in the Paris Opera (reconstituting in a way the underground atmosphere of the Crayères), and then exhibited at the 37 international contemporary art fairs that Maison Ruinart has officially partnered with in 2020.

…once you had admired the symbol!
Don’t leaf the entrance…

Exactly so did this member House of LVMH group, one of the oldest Champagne houses, last October 10th and 11th 2019, when it hosted some guests for a unique experience in a magic Parisian place, the Atelier Richelieu, very close to the Louvre Museum.

Baptized for the occasion Maison 1729, it was an occasion to share the spirit of this prestigious Champagne House in an exceptional ephemeral artistic nest, notably introducing an exhibition space dedicated to the Ruinart artist of the 2019 year, the Brasilian Vik Muniz, nearby a bronze smith masterclass lead by the sculptor Pierre Salagnac on a real grapevine (photo credits: Maïté).

…and get cleared with this lamp!
Ice cubes feel better in this bucket…

During two days, visitors would have be able to discover the history, heritage and involvement in the Art branch of Ruinart, thanks to tastings and more specifically the art of pairing dishes and champagne. Guided by the oenologists Louise, Raphaëlle plus Valérie Radou, the resident chef of Maison Ruinart, located in Reims, for a unique culinary experience, and marry two major cuvées of the house, their legendary Blanc de Blancs and the Ruinart Rosé, tasted as a duet, a way to rediscover these two emblematic bottles.

Thereafter, the experience may have been followed by a tasting of Millesime cuvées trio, through the Ruinart Millesime 2010 in comparison with the Ruinart Millesime 2009 in bottle and the Ruinart Millesime 2009 in a magnum shape

More information on the official website.