Salvador Dalí’s Surreal Guide to Drinking Wine

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Salvador Dalí. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, 2017Courtesy of Taschen

As The Wines of Gala is re-published by Taschen for the first time in 40 years, we outline its eccentric take on the art of wine consumption

Last year, Salvador Dalí’s 1973 cookbook Les Dîners de Gala was re-issued by Taschen. In its pages the artist and his wife, Gala, wrote of how to assemble such delicacies as frog pasties – requiring a precise number of 36 legs from the amphibian – and the erotic potential of lobster and sea bass dishes, which were regularly served at the couple’s legendary dinner parties. A little-known sequel to this fittingly bizarre edition was The Wines of Gala, published in 1976 and named (for a second time) after the artist’s muse and lover. Written by Max Gérard, a longtime friend of Dalí and Louis Orizet, a viticulturalist, the tome sets out to explore the “pleasures of the grape”, with over 140 illustrations by the artist himself.

This month, Dalí’s culinary exploits have been re-visited by Taschen once more, with The Wines of Gala bound in a weighty, golden cover that would entice even the most hesitant of alcohol drinkers. Setting out to explore the artist’s interpretation of wine in the most abstract sense, “according to the sensations they create in our very depths”, the book is split into two sections. The first, titled Ten Divine Dalí Wines, which is penned by Gérard, chronicles ten wine growing regions important to the surrealist artist, with chapters such as The Wine of Ay discussing the unbridled joy that is found in the luxury of sipping French champagne. “In the foam of Ay shines the lightning of happiness,” it reads.

The second chapter is written by Orizet and titled Ten Wines of Gala. It categorises global wines – from Bordeaux to Muscadet – not by year or by maker but in accordance with a sensory response. Such eccentric groupings include Wines of Dawn (named as such due to the quality that Rosé posesses to evoke a “summer morning” in our minds), Wines of Sensuality, which, due to its sweetness “stretches against our palate and makes love to all that chews, breathes, tastes, sings, speaks, and perceives in our mouth” and Wines of Joy, which must be drunk chilled – at 53-60˚F, to be exact. 

Dalí’s famous maxim, “A real connoisseur does not drink wine but tastes of its secrets”, rings true throughout the edition, with the sprawling prose – a veritable wine-based odyssey – impenetrable in parts, in keeping with the artist’s surrealist oeuvre. There are further quotes from famous writers and thinkers, too, dotted in small text boxes throughout its paragraphs: “Wine fills us with a voluptuous drunkenness, wine invites us to the dance and makes us forget our ills,” says Euripides; “Rising early is no happiness; drinking early is far better,” quips François Rabelais. This is a wine-drinking bible, best-suited to those who prefer their reading material to evoke the effect of a few too many glasses.

Dalí. The Wines of Gala is out now, published by Taschen.