Wine writer Robert Joseph posed an interesting question in the September 2010 issue of Meininger’s Wine Business International where he asks is a winemaker an artist or an artisan.
He recently uploaded the column to his blog and defines an artisan as people who “make things like tables, chairs, clocks, glasses and rugs. They may use artistic skills to render these items aesthetically pleasing, or they can adopt utilitarian designs that place function above form… Another essential quality expected of artisans is consistency.”
“Artists march to the beat of a very different drum. Their task is to express themselves and their personal perception of the world around them. An artist might quite legitimately make a chair out of ice cream cones on which no one could actually sit. Or a clock whose hands never move. Crucially, he or she is rarely expected to explain or defend the artworks they have conceived.”
So which category does the winemaker belong to?
“Most winemakers, even when they are at the helm of enterprises turning out tens of thousands of cases of wine, instinctively consider themselves to be artists, and openly reject many of the characteristics associated with artisanship,” Joseph writes.
However, the argument in Joseph’s column builds towards his conclusion of “is it too much to ask for winemakers to accept that they might possibly have more in common with a chair maker or a cheese maker than a sculptor.”
I am not that sure that being an artist and an artisan are mutually exclusive concepts. What do you think?