By Michael McCarthy By Michael McCarthy | February 24, 2022 | Food & Drink
Robert Mondavi partners with legendary porcelain house Bernardaud to create exclusive art bottles—purchased only with NFTs.
A trio of the newly designed bottles by Bernardaud
Robert Mondavi Winery is among Napa’s old guard, but this hasn’t stopped the minds behind the winemaker from evolving—especially with a multimillion-dollar renovation and a modern twist on collecting rare bottles. The winery recently unveiled a new limited-edition collection of wines, dubbed MCMXVI, which can be purchased exclusively with nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.
In a nod to the year the winery was founded, a mere 1,966 porcelain Mondavi magnums were created with French luxury porcelain house Bernardaud; it’s the first time Bernardaud has produced bottles in its 150-year history. The bottles, each a collectible piece of art, hold custom wine blends created by Mondavi’s Winery Technical Council—Geneviève Janssens, Andy Erickson and Thomas Rivers Brown—and are sourced from the renowned To Kalon Vineyard in Napa Valley.
The rare art bottles only can be purchased via NFTs.
Why use NFTs, and how does all of this actually work?
First, the unique release addresses the global issue—in the wine industry and among other highly coveted products—of counterfeiting. The winery offers collectors a digital transaction record for their corresponding NFT purchase, which is tied to the bottle each collector receives. This proof of authenticity lives forever in the so-called blockchain. Once collectors make a purchase, artist Clay Heaton produces digital artwork—a collectible NFT—which serves as a token or key. This gives buyers access to the actual wine, along with the opportunity to take part in exclusive experiences at the winery and insider access to future collaborations and special wines.
Each sculptural bottle took 50 artisans two weeks to create; color schemes include reflective red and platinum, matte-black and reflective red and gold. The team spent considerable time experimenting with kiln temperatures, pigment and glazing to achieve the desired look. Topping each bottle is an ornamental piece that features an engraving of the winery’s arch and bell tower. Two of the bottles feature burgundy hues, paying homage to Mondavi’s signature cabernet sauvignon.
The burgundy and gold bottle.
To honor the founder’s incessant curiosity, the Mondavi team will conduct a little wine-aging experiment by arranging a stash of the wines (both in traditional glass bottles and the celebratory porcelain) on their sides for the next 30 years. Every three years, one of each type of bottle will be opened and tasted. Porcelain, of course, offers complete protection from light exposure and boasts less temperature variation than glass. It’s a compelling experiment for winemakers and luxury enthusiasts. In the meantime, prime the NFTs, as beauty and taste await.
Photography by: PHOTOS BY TIM HOGAN