gift of the gods: the art of wine and revelry at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park) to October 21. 416-586-5549. Rating: NNN
there's something about the Royal Ontario Museum's Gift Of The Gods that feels like the exhibit was cooked up by a cross-marketing expert and packaged after the conceptual fact by the museum's curatorial staff.It's a solid show, but nothing particularly heady or inspirational, which really is a shame given that most of the objects on display celebrate Dionysian delight and Bacchanalian revelry.
Starting with amphorae, drinking vessels and other wine-related artifacts from ancient Greece (where drunks were believed to be possessed by the not-always-benevolent spirit of wine deity Dionysus) and progressing through the more commercialized wine culture of Rome (where Bacchus emerged as a more benign god), Gift Of The Gods draws on the ROM's own objects dating up to the 20th century (including a Jensen chalice and Lalique vase) to show the reverence with which oenophiles treat their favourite drink.
Some of the displays are fascinating -- like the wall text that illustrates the cost, based on a day's skilled and unskilled wages, of a bottle of plonk versus premium vintage in ancient Greece and Rome.
The interactive how-to-match-wine-to-food is also kind of fun. But this show tries to do too much, and doesn't do all of it well.
A display case filled with vintage mid-20th-century fortified-Concord-grape Ontario wine bottles is a little scary, but it's not nearly as disturbing as the display of current wines, which includes only products from Ontario's wine regions. Boosterism this extreme just looks silly.
An LCBO Ontario wine boutique and tasting bar are conveniently set up inside the museum through the run of the show. Again, not even lip service is paid to the wines of 21st-century Greece, Rome or Gaul.