Aurora Garrison | April 2018
Inexplicably, Alexander Schmidheiny, owner of Cuvaison Winery, crossed paths with Andy Warhol in the 1980s. While at a tasting, Schmidheiny asked Warhol what he thought of the winery’s Cabernet. Warhol quipped the wine was excellent but the wine label as art did not equal the quality of the wine.
Instantaneously, a partnership was struck. Warhol was commissioned to design a Warhol-inspired label for Schmidheiny and his winery Cuvaison. Fast forward 38 years, in 2018, Cuvaison is still utilizing the Warhol label for its Collector’s Box sets.
To learn more about this unique partnership and label, I had a brief interview with the Cuvaison team in Napa Valley:
- What are the similarities between the winemaking process and the artistic process?
Winemaking offers a rare intersection between art, science, craftsmanship and creativity. In addition to technical knowledge and skill, it also requires an understanding of how to achieve balance and proportion in a way that can be very reminiscent of fine art.
- How are qualities of fine wine and fine art comparable?
Both fine wine and fine art are collector’s items. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that you are the keeper of something special and rare. Also, just like the great artists of the world, the great winemakers in the world share a legacy and create something meaningful.
- The art of wine labels is a century-rich tradition – what characteristics make the Warhol Series One label great?
The very best labels do so much more than just draw the eye in. They reflect the beauty, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that define a great wine. They also have the ability to create an aesthetic, or even an emotional, connection. Cuvaison’s Warhol labels achieve all of these things. Warhol was a master, who understood the power of his images, and of art.
- What were the: date, circumstances, time, place and people when Warhol first became associated with the wine, winery and owners?
Cuvaison and The Andy Warhol Foundation long discussed the opportunity to bring this unique, rarely seen body of work to the public. In the early 1980s, Alexander Schmidheiny, who owns Cuvaison, commissioned Andy Warhol to create numerous screen prints for his Cuvaison wine labels. Cuvaison collaborated with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, a not-for-profit leading funder of contemporary art, to create three limited edition Collector’s Box sets. In his signature Pop art style, Warhol configured grapes in stunning patterns and colors—all of which have been rarely seen until recently.
Warhol was a friend of Alexander. They shared the Cuvaison wines together and talked about wine and art. This intimate connection shines through in these stunning labels.
In 2016, nearly thirty-five years later, Cuvaison was excited to share this collaboration with wine lovers and Warhol collectors alike.
- What are the ideas and concepts behind the label?
The Warhol labels are vibrant, and beautifully composed with a real sense of purpose and artistry, which is very reflective of what’s in the bottle. In broader strokes, Warhol was a pioneer and an icon, who pushed boundaries and helped to redefine how we experience art, which in some ways parallels aspects of Cuvaison’s history. Cuvaison was one of the first wineries to introduce luxury Napa Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to the world. They were also one of the early champions of cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which is something that has influenced generations of winemakers.
While many of Warhol’s pieces have been utilized over the years in marketing or ad campaigns, these images were created by Warhol himself, specifically to be used as labels for Cuvaison. They were created with a very clear purpose that makes them quite extraordinary, both visually and from a historic standpoint. Warhol is widely considered the preeminent American artist of the 20th Century, so the fact that he created labels for Cuvaison is amazing!
- What media was the art conceived in?
When he was working on the Cuvaison labels, Warhol made more than 50 custom screen-prints using Polaroid pictures of grapes configured in various patterns and colors.
- When and where (what’s the provenance) of the original art?
In the early 1980s, sparked by a conversation at a dinner party in Heerbrugg, Switzerland, Alexander Schmidheiny, owner of Cuvaison Winery and friend of Andy Warhol, commissioned the iconic artist to create numerous screenprints for his Cuvaison wine labels.
- What does the association of Warhol to the winery mean for the people there?
The association with Warhol is a really exciting one for the Cuvaison team. These labels are a part of the winery’s history, rediscovered for the modern moment. At the same time, they are timeless, in the way that all great works of art—and great wines—are.
09. What is the cost of the boxed set? Is it currently available?
The boxed set costs $250 and includes one bottle each of the 2014 Cuvaison Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley and 2014 Cuvaison Bordeaux Blend, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley.
- Did Warhol the person or Warhol art influence the making of the wine?
While Warhol talked at length with Alexander Schmidheiny about Cuvaison’s wines, and the relationship between wine and art, when he originally made the labels, he did so independently of the winemaking process. The wines that Cuvaison has bottled using these labels are both from the 2014 vintage. This was an exceptional vintage in the Los Carneros region of Napa Valley, where Cuvaison makes its wines, and helped to pioneer cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
- What’s the vintage year? Where are the grapes grown and what varietal of grape(s) used?
The first Andy Warhol by Cuvaison Collection was released in the fall of 2016 and featured a 2014 Chardonnay from the Carneros Estate in Los Carneros in Napa Valley and a 2014 Bordeaux red blend from its Brandlin Vineyard on Mount Veeder in Napa Valley – exclusively sourced from the best fruit of these two premiere vineyards.
On behalf of Revolver Gallery and Andy Warhol fans everywhere, we thank you for your art, your work and the fabulous wine you create in collaboration with Warhol’s art and his legacy. Thank you and we wish you every continuing success and are looking forward with you to new wines and vintages from your vineyards. The set is available for purchase via the Cuvaison website and 350 cases will be produced this year.