I may have discovered my downfall. Reif Estate Winery, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, has formulated the most divine of combinations, the Tarot and wine. Being a huge fan of both of these things, you can imagine the positive giddiness that I felt when I first discovered their The Fool Gamay Nouveau in a Toronto LCBO back in 2012, quickly followed by The Magician Pinot Noir Shiraz. In all honesty, these wines would have had to have been pretty terrible for me to not like them, but both were thoroughly enjoyable. The Fool Gamay Nouveau is bright, young and light, The Magician Pinot Noir Shiraz deeper, richer, peppery and more mature. I was intrigued at the differences between these wines, and how they seemed to match well with their Tarot Card. I came to learn that this was the result of deliberate and carefully considered decisions by the winery.
Labels in the Marseilles Tarot Tradition
The look of the Tarot illustrations on the Fool and Magician labels closely follow the Marseilles tradition, but they also feature an original saying that hints at the feeling or meaning of the card, while describing the nature of the wine. The Magician, “knows how to use all the tools at his disposal,” and the Fool, “is always on to a brand new beginning.”. Simple but charming.
Having enjoyed The Fool and The Magician wines, I eagerly looked forward to the next card in the Major Arcana numbered sequence, The High Priestess. However, just the other day I discovered the next offering in the Tarot Collection was in fact The Empress Chardonnay, seemingly skipping over the High Priestess.
I was mildly outraged at the slight to the High Priestess, but I do like a nice Chardonnay, so I located a bottle at one of the larger LCBOs (this wine isn’t widely available in Toronto), paid the reasonable $12.95, and gave it a try.
Chardonnay, the Queen of Grapes
I took a lot of pleasure in sipping this fresh, light and crisp wine while wrapped in a blanket in my living room with a record breaking windchills going on outside. The taste of pineapple and citrus made me wish for sunny patios and ocean breezes. I love a really oaky Chardonnay, but this unoaked, extra dry wine is perfect for summer, or dreams of summer. The artwork on this label was a departure from the other Marseilles-type images, with a lithe and youthful Empress which must have been modeled after the Shadowscapes Tarot artwork.
Talking to Reif Estates about the Tarot Collection
I contacted Andrea Kaiser, the Director of Marketing at Reif Estate to ask her about why they decided to have a Tarot-themed collection of wines. She explained that the winery was looking for concepts for a new, fun, colourful, bright, engaging label design but also one with a story behind it, so Tarot cards seemed the perfect fit. The Tarot images we see on the labels were adapted by graphic designers Max Kaiser and Colleen Kaiser, working with Andrea, who created a saying that fit each wine. Andrea said that she looked at the style and personality/flavour profile of the grape or wine, and then researched the cards to find the best fit and story.
I asked Andrea why the High Priestess was skipped over, and she explained that this wasn’t deliberately done, as usually she looks at the wine first and then seeks out a card that best fits the wine. Chardonnay is considered the Queen of Grapes, hence the choice of the Empress. (I later discovered that Reif had also created a Fortune Cabernet Rose and a Hanging Man Kerner Nouveau, but as these were only available at the winery I wasn’t aware of them, and didn’t have a chance to try them.)
Finally, I asked Andrea if an Emperor wine would be next (the Emperor following the Empress in the Major Arcana sequence), and not to spoil the surprise, but she confirmed that they are working on the Emperor as the King of Grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Although a deep and serious Tarot reading experience doesn’t usually mix well with alcohol, I would serve this wine at a get-together with my friends and other Tarot enthusiasts, or at a gathering that included brief, one card readings as part of the festivities.These wines would be a nice addition to any Tarot-themed casual event, and in fact Reif Estate has had customer appreciation parties that included Tarot readers in the past and are talking about doing so again in the future.
In Ontario, the Tarot Collection wines are available at the Reif Estate Winery, and with limited availability at the LCBO. You can visit Reif Estate at http://www.reifwinery.com/.
Do any Tarot readers or enthusiasts out there find the use of the Tarot images as wine labels undignified or inappropriate in any way? Would you serve these wines to your Tarot friends?
Which wine would you match with the High Priestess, or any of the other Major Arcana? Let me know what you think!