I’ll be the first to admit that fashion eludes me. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Madrid not 2 and half years ago, I’ve found myself at odds with the entire industry. I had read an article last January which described a study conducted by the Spanish government on consumerism, finding that the average Madrileño (a resident of Madrid) spends an average of 2,000 Euros on clothing per year. 2,000 Euros! I never forgot that article because it brought to light the amount of importance Spaniards place on fashion. Madrid, is the epicenter of fashion pumping out designer clothing faster than you can locate a tapas bar – which is every four steps. But designer fashion is also a close associate to class, where only those who have enough cash to spend on a peacock feathered dress can do so, while the rest of us wonder if there have been incidents of cats attacking women who dare wear such bizarre creations on the street. Therefore, it is of no surprise that wine, at one time only sipped upon by the rich and mighty, is still a close bedfellow with fashion.
And although and I have worked hard to demystify wine, making it a closer relative to beer than to Gucci, there still seems to be a tight rope around its image. For whatever reason, there appears to be a desire by the “haves” to keep it away from the “have nots”. And now, more than ever, there is a battle between the common man’s desire to enjoy wine for what it is and the elite who want to shroud it in romance and wealth. A great example of this is a recently published national survey by the Travel Industry Association. It showed that 27 million American travelers, have participated in culinary or wine related activities over the past three years. The report goes on to say that the travelers are not only younger, but better educated and more affluent. Affluence, a word directly related to class, prestige and importance. Whether we talk about the brand name, intricately related to what is currently hip and trendy, such as a Waterford wine glass valued at $60 a pop or a $40 merlot tie, wine will always be considered fashionable.
Spain has been savvy of this fact for years, using designer fashions to market their wines. Last March, “Fashion Week” was held in Burgos, when the top International designers chose 11 wineries to inspire their new line of clothing. In August, La Rioja and Lavinia will join forces in an effort to promote wine wine from Rioja during “Las Noches de San Lorenzo 2007”, an annual cultural event in San Lorenzo, La Rioja, by creating a week long event called, Fashion Wine. The event was created to fuse the wine world with fashion by joining both the famous Cibeles designers with some of the most prestigious Bodegas in La Rioja. The objective is to have the public connect design with quality wine. Antonio Alvarado, Carmen March, Jose Enrique Oña Selfa, Juanjo Oliva and Locking Shoking are the five designers who have created an exclusive collection of labels for Bodegas López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia, Roda, La Rioja Alta S.A., Muga and CVNE. Each Bodega will make a limited number of bottles with the designer label from a harvest of their choice. The bottles will only be available for purchase at Lavinia in Madrid.
Is this good thing? Should fashion and wine be such a tight pair? I suppose if we look aesthetically, one could make the argument that both are inspirations of beauty and passion. One could also make the argument that fashion is an enormous industry, and for the wine market not to utilize its expansive reach would be ludicrous. However, like the Marques Riscal Hotel designed by Frank O’Gehry, if we continue to keep wine in the tight diamond grips of only those who can afford a $1116.40 pair of shoes or a $3,000 Donna Karen dress, it will remain a fine beverage strictly for the haves.