L'Officiel Art

Ruinart, the Oldest Established Champagne House, Creates A Conscious Wonderland

2029 will mark the 300 years of Ruinart, and artists have already been commissioned to concoct a project, with a focus on sustainable development and artificial intelligence. The project's name? 'Retour aux sources.'
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Thirty feet underground, you might find yourself in one of these crayères, or chalk pits, listed as a UNESCO heritage site. This is where Ruinart keeps its wines, inviting viewers to a magical show. In the darkness, there is first a gigantic, all-steel root, which is 7 meters high. And then on the walls, rays of light are accompanied by sounds escaping from a dozen hanging bubbles. It looks like the reflections of the sun at the bottom of the ocean. And it’s not just an impression: it once was an ocean...and this layer of chalk surrounding it was its bottom. That’s the meaning behind Retour aux sources, the name of the immersive installation created by the artist duo Mouawad Laurier. It’s a little glimpse of how the oldest champagne house is about to celebrate its 300th anniversary. Although not until 2029, Ruinart is starting ten years in advance, presenting each year to visitors a new—artistic, technological or architectural—piece, which will be installed in vineyards or cellars, emphasizing the commitments of the house in terms of sustainable development and innovation.

We wanted to put the human being back in their place: tell them that, despite their apparent domination, they are temporally and physically small.

These artists have been given a carte blanche because they have experience in the subject, integrating advanced technologies into their creations, such as artificial intelligence, innovative sound and light devices: Maya Mouawad manipulates LEDs like no other, and Cyril Laurier, a sound specialist thanks to his studies at Ircam, is an expert in the emotional analysis of music. The ultimate point in projects? “The strong relationship with nature, which we find in each of their pieces,” adds Frédéric Dufour, president of Ruinart. Still, the constraints were heavy: it is difficult to deploy a work of this size and in these fragile depths. “Humid and underground temperature conditions are ideal for our wines but less so for this technology,” he admits. The result: it took two years to develop! 

And it’s an artistic and technological feat! Equipped with artificial intelligence, the root can observe in real-time the elements that take part in the making of champagne: the cycle of the seasons, climate and temperature changes...it feeds on them and reinterprets them, delivering this evolutionary choreography. And through it, its vision of the vineyard and production. As innovation does not go without relying on ancestral savoir-faire, craftsmen from Murano were asked to design these fine glass bubbles, equipped with LEDs, capable of reproducing underground, the effects of light. What message did the artists want to convey through the work? “We wanted to put the human being back in their place: tell them that, despite their apparent domination, they are temporally and physically small,” they confide. And from Ruinart: “We wanted to symbolize our roots in the Champagne region and our strong bond with nature, while making visitors aware of the challenges of climate change.” It’s beautifully artistic and highly technological and yet also instructive...

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