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What Happens When Art and Wine Collide?

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Wine, art and investing often blur.


There is an art to making good wine, and there is art to sound investing.

Additionally, you can invest in art and wine. But there are rare times when both wine and art collide that create extraordinary opportunities.

We've talked about investing in wine before, but sometimes it takes hard numbers to make the point.

According to the London International Vitners Exchange, over the last five years, the S&P 500 is up 57 percent whereas a bottle of 2004 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti from the Grands-Echezeaux vineyard in Burgundy, France, is up 143 percent over the same period.

A bottle of the 2007 Opus One out of Napa Valley is up 113 percent over that period as well.

More recently, while the S&P 500 has been basically flat over the last year, a bottle of 2002 Masseto is up about 51 percent.

Related: The Top Wine Trends Expected in 2016

Granted, much like picking stocks, the variables matter. In the wine world, the vintage, or year, of the wine is key to appreciation so education is necessary before you buy and hold.

Investing in art has a similar upside, especially if you pick the right artist and the right medium. So imagine what could happen if wine and art merged.

Ornellaia, one of Italy's great Super Tuscan wines, has created that union.

In 2008, CEO Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja started the Vendemmia d'Artista project, which allows his wine labels to be a platform for contemporary art.

Related: Wine Ring App Lets Your Taste Shape Your Ordering

Each year after harvest, Ornellaia Winemaker Axel Heinz is asked to come up with a single word that describes the vintage. The winery then hires an artist to design a label that encapsulates that description.

Granted Chateau Mouton Rothschild, one of the most famous wineries in the world, has been doing that since 1945. And its annual label has been created by artistic greats, such as Marc Chagall, Keith Harring and Andy Warhol.

Ornellaia has taken it a step further though by adding a charitable component. Its artist-designed bottles are auctioned, and the proceeds are donated to back to the art world.

This year, Ornellaia Winemaker Axel Heinz chose the word "L'Eleganza" (The Elegance) to encapsulate the 2013 vintage.

They then hired Japanese artist Yutaka Sone to translate that notion onto the label. "They gave me a chance to drink 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013," he said.

"No artist, who worked on Vendemmia, has studied the wines as hard as Yutaka," Heinz said. (Can't blame him. The wines are amazing.)

Related: Why the American Wine Industry Needs a Shakeup

Sone designed multiple labels that were placed on larger format bottles and recently auctioned off at LA's Hammer Museum. They raised $128,000, which Ornellaia donated to the Museum.

Since "Vendemmia d'Artista" began, they have raised more than $1.7 million for arts foundations around the world, including the Whitney Museum in New York, the Royal Opera House in London and the H2 Foundation in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Sone also designed a label for the regular-sized 2013 Ornellaia wine bottle, which retails for around $150. One in every six bottles will have Sone's label on it.

Granted, these wines are an investment. So you can you buy the wine, hold it, and let it appreciate. Or you can drink it, and still appreciate it.

Either way, it's a win-win.

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