Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tasteful Labels

When I was shopping for wine for opera night, the grocery store's wine manager assisted me. He is quite knowledgeable and does not snub inexpensive wines if they are comparable to the more pricey ones. From previous confession, he knows that my wine knowledge is minimal, so like a good professor, he tries to broaden my education whenever I enlist his help.

In this regard, he confided to me that he was shocked to discover that some people choose wine based on the label artwork.

"Really?" I asked incredulously. Then I shyly showed him a bottle that I had already stashed in my cart; I'm sure you have already guessed how I chose it. He approved the selection, and I happily tucked it back in amongst the arugula, kale, and romaine.

The label proved to be a good history and art research lesson for me. This is what I learned: It features a detail from a fresco painted by Pinturicchio for the Piccolomini Library in Siena. It is one of ten depicting significant events in the life of Pope Pius II that were commissioned in 1502 by Cardinal Francisco Piccolomini.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: "These frescoes are fifteenth-century tableaux vivants in which people of all conditions are represented." In the one used on my wine bottle, Pope Pius II is introducing Emperor Frederick III to Princess Eleanor of Portugal. This site has pictures of all ten frescoes.

And the connection between the artwork and the wine? The description on the back of the bottle says that "This historic painting shares its Tuscan heritage with the wine of the region, Chianti Classico."

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