Picasso Black and White, & The Noble Chardonnay
Pablo Picasso, Accordionist (L’accordéoniste), Céret, summer 1911
At the Guggenheim until Wednesday, “Picasso Black and White” is a brilliant exhibit that demonstrates the artist’s capacity for expression when limited to these two ends of the color spectrum. Like the noble grape Chardonnay, whose neutral qualities liken it to the vintner’s blank canvas awaiting the footprint of terroir or the thumbprint of its maker, these two shades–when blended–offered the artist an unlimited palette.
Much the lively texture of Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru, whose effervescence unfolds from bubbles to mousse on the palate, the complexity of detail at the center of Picasso’s Accordionist undulates to the edge of the canvas. By stripping his palette of color, Picasso engaged the naked elements, his blacks directing the eye as absorbers of light; his whites the essence of all colors.
Pablo Picasso, Bust of a Woman, Arms Raised (Buste de femme, les bras levés),Dinard, summer 1922
In Picasso’s later work, Bust of a Woman, Arms Raised, we’re reminded of the origins of the grape. Born to Burgundy, Chardonnay finds one of its most minerally expressions in Gaunoux Meursault Gouttes d’Or Premier Cru 2007. Just as in Picasso’s piece pictured above, where the essence of stone is expressed in these seemingly three-dimensional stone-like shades of gray, the minerality in Gaunoux’s 1er Cru is at the forefront of the varietal’s expression. Like the steep, rocky deep soils on a limestone base to which these 60-year-old Chardonnay vines are planted, this painting of a woman seems to have been carved from stone, with skin white like snow bringing to mind beds of salt or chalk, the former appearing on the wine’s finish, and the latter mid-palate.
Pablo Picasso, The Maids of Honor (Las Meninas, after Velázquez) (Les Ménines, vue d’ensemble, d’après Velázquez), La Californie, August 17, 1957
Informed by Diego Velazques’s Las Meninas, Picasso’s painting of the same name is not a singular expression. Inspired by the old master, Picasso composed a total of 44 canvases, each offering his interpretation of this particular image. Here, we see a wine that is not the the result of a single-soil expression, but rather the confluence of selected terroirs that showcase this single varietal’s paramount potential.
A flagship cuvee at ZD Wines, their Chardonnay is a blend of wines from Santa Barbara, Monterey, Napa and Sonoma. With each appellation bringing something different to the cuvee, ZD opted for a bigger picture, deciding to blend these wines after years of vinifying and releasing single-appellation wines from each of these regions. Employing blending as a tool, ZD marries these terroirs just as Picasso’s work here is an interpretation of something that came before him–without one, the other wouldn’t be possible.
Pablo Picasso, Marie-Thérèse, Face and Profile (Marie-Thérèse, face et profil),Paris, 1931
And finally, because no exploration of Picasso’s Black and White would be complete without addressing our expectations of the unexpected, we must add here Kevin Kelley‘s 2009 Salinia “In the Box” Chardonnay from Sonoma County. Offering a totality of sorts, Picasso’s Marie-Thérèse, Face and Profile simultaneously shows the viewer two different perspectives. A union of profile and front-view portrait, this painting brings to mind Kelley’s “In the Box”, which offers terroir alongside the winemaker’s practice.
From Charles Heintz Vineyard in Occidental, and planted to volcanic soil and rock, the fruit of these 24-year-old vines is spontaneously fermented. However, to allow for the expression of the grape’s internal and external makings, Kelley fermented the juice on skins for four weeks before aging for 30 months in neutral French oak. And while the wine offers expected notes, like nuttiness and dried citrus fruits, there’s also a surprising element of cooling herbs, like eucalyptus.