They say that change is the only constant in life. In the case of champagne, it has always been at the vanguard of major shifts in social movements, lifestyle and life’s most important moments. Throughout its history, champagne has stayed remarkably contemporary, yet it remains timeless – classic – even traditional. Sara Underdown interviews Sydney artist and champagne aficionado, Belinda Aucott, about champagne as a modern muse.
I first discovered Belinda Aucott by accident. Somewhere in the labyrinth of social media posts and platforms, I was halted by flashes of her work across my screen. There they were. Bottles of bubbles in the look and feel of Toulouse–Lautrec – even Gaugin – with dramatic black lines, bold colours and abstract shapes, as if seen through absinthe-eyes.
Dom Pérignon, Cristal and Krug never looked so sexy than when drawn in pastel with a casual air and non-conformist touch. They are alluring and awkwardly sensual depictions of special bottles and moments in the time, experienced by Aucott, who confesses to being obsessed with the sensation of how champagne looks and feels.
Champagne’s hand has been a constant throughout Aucott’s life. Its impression has been left from earlier years – working in wine – to more recent times as a writer, artist and public relations professional specialising in luxury markets like fashion, art, food and wine. Champagne finds it natural compliment here.
On any given day, you can view her works in exhibitions and on websites and read her ruminations on life, design, people and champagne (of course) in magazines and online publications.
After years of admiring from afar, I thought I’d take a few steps closer and ask the modish and fascinating, Belinda Aucott, a few questions on champagne as a modern muse.
It definitely began when I was working as a wine education assistant at Berringer Blass in my early twenties. Doing a lot of tasting, I discovered I loved champagne the most.
I’d always written about food and wine, but after living and working in Paris as a fashion journalist for three years, I became a bonafide Francophile.
In 2014 I was on holiday in a remote part of New Zealand and I decided, ‘I’m not going to drink anything else, I’m just going to drink champagne’.
My partner went out and bought me every brand the local wine store stocked. It was only natural that I drank them over the course of the week which also inspired around 90 drawings in six days. At the end of that week, I was just looking around and saying, ‘Ok, this is something. I need to follow it.’
Your background in PR seems to have focused largely on the luxury market: fashion, art and design. How do you see champagne in this market? Is it as much a luxury item as always or do you think it has evolved into something else?
Australians are very well versed in wine and champagne. The data shows our tastes are also evolving toward grower, rosé and vintage styles – and we’re becoming more sophisticated and adventurous. Champagne is also a modern symbol of transformation and appealing to young countries like ours and the United States.
We see evidence of that at The Australian Open, and The Grand Prix, at our spring racing carnivals and also in our fashion and art worlds. Champagne is always there – at important times in our life – like when we move from child to adult, single to married, or from house to house. Champagne is also attached to moments of transformation when people go from competitor to winner, defender to champion, outlaw to leader, or hoodlum to superstar. I think it remains a potent emblem for social evolution. It stands for something.
Champagne and art have always enjoyed a close relationship. To you, what makes them such a natural complement?
I believe champagne and art makes you feel something. They’re also both feats of human endeavour and experimentation. They make happy bedfellows because they are both alive and fluid. They are each art, a form of expression that moves with the times, reflecting the fashions of the day and yet, simultaneously, they stem from and really must respect deeper traditions and rules that have evolved over centuries.
What goes through your head (or heart) when drawing and drinking champagne?
I like to reflect on the sensation of the wine and how it makes me feel. The first thing I look for is colour. Then I look for the aromas and try to find as much as I can find in the bouquet before I sip. While drinking, I look for the way it sits in my mouth. Like a beautiful couture dress, I pay attention to where it clings, where it floats and the impression it leaves behind. Some champagne leaves a long, alluring trail (and I love those the best).
What kind of art / artists inspire your style?
The classics, like Degas, Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Manet and – of course – people with a much looser line like Bacon, Whiteley, Miro and Klee.
I’m working on some sculptures and more writing.
What are the most memorable champagne(s) you’ve experienced?
Definitely a 2006 Egly-Ouriet given to me by Simon Denton. This is definitely the best champagne I’ve tasted in the last two years and I am so grateful to have tasted it. A masterpiece. It’s a pinot noir dominant grower champagne of extraordinary depth and elegance. Think English marmalade gingerbread, coffee mocha – it’s creamy and balanced with a light, mineral freshness – pine needle – quality that’s spliced with fine chalk. There’s a lovely pithy grapefruit on the end of the palate too. Really gastronomic and lively.
What is your favourite champagne and food pairing.
I love champagne with caviar, raw seafood like sashimi scallop, rock oysters natural, roll your own sushi, or with a light snack like smoked salmon on rye with lemon. Sublime.
Read more in ISSUE NO. 4 of VINE & BUBBLE Magazine.
Interview by Sara Underdown with Belinda Aucott
Photography by Nikko To and artist’s own work