Getting the Necessary Nonsense Right

Madame Arcati, the “very self-serious medium on the prowl for vibrations from the spirit world” in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, is packing them into the Schubert Theatre on Broadway. Played by 83-year old Angela Murder She Wrote Lansbury, the New York Times review notes “she demonstrates how an expert can turn surface silliness into something of real substance.”

A bit like art critic Melvyn Minnaar’s entertaining effluvium on “wine as portrait”[ure] on the Grape communal blog. Even if the portrait by Ben Quilty used to illustrate his thesis is not the one that won the A$150,000 Moran Prize which you can see for yourself on the competition’s musical website. If you can’t be bothered, here it is:

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Talk about synchronicity, but the cover picture on the Moran site is Weather Girl – a name appropriated by Bruce Jack for his Flagstone Sauvignon Blanc. The image chosen to illustrate Mellie’s story is Quilty’s portrait that came second in the Archibald Awards, another Aussie wine competition that was won by Guy Maestri with a depiction of the blind indigenous musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunuping. Which must have been what Mellie had in mind when he noted “oh, it will be darn difficult, I suppose, to judge a portrait competition blind.”

Mellie puts his own story down by noting “the wine connection is that Quilty resides somewhere among the vineyards of the Southern Highlands, down under” when a far stronger connection is that the portrait subject is aging rocker Jimmy Barnes whose journey through alcohol addiction was the reason Quilty chose him in the first place.

Mellie may be unfairly labeled as a purveyor of “codswallop” and “gibberish” (as he himself notes) but I think the conflation of portraits with bottles of wine is a stroke of genius or gibberish. One I have put to the test over the last couple of days. On Wednesday it was a 2007 blend of Touriga Naçional and Pinotage made by Stellenbosch legend Beyers Truter, son Anri, Croydon winemaker Corius Visser and Kanonkop winemaker Abrie Beeslaar. Called Legadontes, is it the oral analogue of the winemaking team?

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Or does Thursday’s MCC bubbly maturing on its lees at Graham Beck’s Madeba Cellar in Robertson reflect the team that made it: Graham Beck winemaker Pieter Ferreira, Tinus van Niekerk, Ray Edwards and Joaquim Sa?

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Of course viewing an image of a winemaker as a wine is tasted is the ultimate sighted assessment and could explain the high ratings of wines made by attractive winemakers in some guides. Empirical evidence confirms that there is quite obviously a very high positive correlation of performance in sighted guides and the physical appearance of the winemaker which I put down to pundits perving over producers. Now thanks to Mellie, I know it’s just art appreciation.