Italian Wine Painter Reveals Which Reds Work Best

Piedmont-based artist Vincenzo Reda likes to paint with the same wines he drinks, though some are better on paper than others

Italian Wine Painter Reveals Which Reds Work Best
Vincenzo Reda's studio-bistro (Courtesy of Vincenzo Reda)
Apr 30, 2020

These days have been fruitful for wine-inclined artists. We've seen a "fresco" made from Champagne caps, a new (and NSFW, in the days when people still worked in offices) Mouton art label and even the rebirth of Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyard, all in the past year. Now comes Vincenzo Reda, an artist, writer and poet based in Turin, Italy, who literally puts pours to paper in his paintings.

As with many wine stories, food had a role in his inspiration to paint. “It happened during a dinner,” Reda told Unfiltered via email, specifically a meal he shared with font designer Aldo Novarese. Two other dinner companions had stained Novarese’s business cards with drops of wine while using them as sketch paper. “It all started there,” Reda explained. “After a few weeks I found those [stained cards] and went to experiment and try.”

Vincenzo Reda wine painting
Vincenzo Reda painted the concrete egg fermentors at the Tenuta Mara winery with Egyptian symbols like the ankh. (Courtesy of Vincenzo Reda)

Reda was an artist before he was a wine painter, working in photography and filmmaking and even participating in the Venice Biennale at age 24. After stints in advertising and publishing, “in the mid-’90s I sold or closed my companies and I returned to work with art.” The wine medium was a natural fit: Reda's father and grandfather had been winemakers in Calabria, and the regional Cirò wine is still one of his favorites. “I like everything about wine. Wine has flowed in my veins since I was small.”

“If I remember correctly, I first experimented with Barbera and Pinot Noir from Burgundy.” Since the 1990s, Reda has reddened many surfaces, including fabric, leather, a crystal chess board and, recently, concrete egg fermentors at the Tenuta Mara winery, in the Rimini area of Emilia-Romagna. Paper works best, though, and as for a preferred palette, grapes with higher levels of anthocyanins (i.e. pigment) produce wines of more vibrant shades; Reda cited Dolcetto, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Primitivo and Merlot as ideal materials.

Vincenzo Reda wine painting
A Reda original (Courtesy of Vincenzo Reda)

“My favorite wine for painting is Dolcetto," Reda explained. "Then I always like to paint with the wine of my heart, Nebbiolo, even if the color of this extraordinary wine is rather scant.” He's found cheap wines work as well as expensive ones and, interestingly, the paintings—like their source material—have the ability to "age" and develop tertiary characteristics. “Over time [the wines] also tend to oxidize on paper and always turn toward brown, sienna and neutral and warm shades.”

Reda pairs his wine-painting habits with his wine-drinking ones. “Typically, if I can, I paint only at night and always with wines that I have drunk, and for which I know the producer and history.” Reda’s work has been exhibited throughout Italy and as far afield as India, Brazil, Japan and even New Hampshire—perhaps an appealing prospect for those of you stuck at home, looking for new hobbies and lucky enough to have a little extra wine around.

Vincenzo Reda wine painting
Reda says Nebbiolo can be a tough wine to paint with, but a very easy one to drink. (Courtesy of Vincenzo Reda)

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