How would a wine tasting party with surreal artist Salvador Dalí be like? Just take a look at his book The Wines of Gala.
“A real connoisseur does not drink wine but tastes of its secrets.”
Salvador Dalí, The Wines of Gala
I think I don’t really need to say this, but this isn’t your regular coffee table book about wines. Whether you like it or not, we can't deny that Dalí is probably one of the most famous contemporary artists. His eccentricities have drawn (and repelled at the same time) millions, and even if you’re not so familiarized with his work, we all identify his iconic mustache and his bizarre personality. I’m not a huge fan, to be honest, but being as objective as I want to be, I must accept that his early work has an important artistic value. He started working as part of the famous Surrealist group founded by André Breton. His unique style launched him to fame and success, but it was perhaps his thirst for wealth and recognition what ended with his real artistic career.
His ambition had no limits, not even moral nor idealistic, and soon, he yielded to power to get the aid he needed to keep his status. Rejected by his peers, artistically speaking his work became void and meaningless. That’s when he started working more and more on his persona. So, by the late sixties, Dalí wasn't anything but a joke, old and losing that mysterious weirdness that had given him so much money and status. And still he was driven by ambition, which made him appear in a couple of strange and creepy commercials. It is in this context that this book appears. It is a continuation of his 1973 Les Dîners de Gala, a cookbook in which the painter and his muse, and partner, emulate a surrealist dinner where food works as a catalyst to unveil each one's passions and sensuality.
The book was a huge success and, of course, it gave the old artist a good idea of what to do next. Four years later, he published Les Vins de Gala et du Divin, the one we’re going to focus today. Now, if you take a look at the many reviews of the book, you’ll see that most of them are really heartfelt praise to the painter and his genius idea. I can’t say the idea is good. While it's actually quite clever, it just looks like he got the formula to earn big money, but he didn’t care enough to make it right. Let me explain. In the cookbook, he made some original illustrations and wrote most of it imbuing his own visions and personality to the book. Here, he just hired an editor and many writers to do the job for him, who had to achieve the perfect Daliesque tone to make it relevant.
Out of the 140 illustrations, most of them are just reprinted sketches intervened by the artist, making some random and kind of bland collages if you ask me. Having said this, it’s only fair to say that the authors made a great job in creating a one of a kind book of wines with some Surrealist hints that weren’t actually achieved by Dalí giving his name, but thanks to the great research job of these people.
The book’s main premise is for the reader to experience the pleasures of the grape and the different types of wines available. Here is not entirely about dividing and telling the readers what are the best wines for each determined food, nor what region makes the best wine. This is all about how to experience wine and the sensations it provokes while tasting it. That’s the genius of the book: making the reader realize that wine isn’t really about costs, or what is considered the best by experts, but the ones that appeal to you the most in every determined moment in your life.
The authors analyzed Dalí’s work and his recurrent themes thoroughly: emotions, dreams, memories, and sensuality. Also, they adequately transferred them to the essence of the book. The book is divided into two. According to many of the reviews available, the first one is not so memorable and could be easily skimmed. However, if you want to get a more direct connection with the artist (if that’s even possible), this is the part you should pay more attention to. Named “Ten Divine Dalí Wines,” it centers on the regions devoted to viticulture, but not as any regular wine compilation, of course. Here it’s all about those regions that left a mark on the artist and the memories they brought to him. It would look like this was the section he got more interested in and, honestly, it looks like he sat next to the author of the chapter so that he could really convey those feelings and experiences.
The second chapter, “Ten Gala Wines,” is what people praise the most, since it’s actually the part where specific wines are categorized in terms of their emotional importance in the taster, and in this case, the impact they allegedly had on Dalí. With sections like “Wines of Purple, Light, Generosity, Frivolity, the Impossible, and Dawn,” the importance of each type of wine lies on the moods they spark. So, the book possesses a logical way of organizing and categorizing the experience of tasting wine. This second half of the book encourages you to make your own categories according to your own emotions, memories, and experiences, and that’s, perhaps, its most redeemable aspect.
If you live and breathe Salvador Dalí, or just want to know a bit more about him, you should really take a look at these: