Drink Like Picasso

A man who talks about drinking on his deathbed must have drank pretty well during his lifetime. Pablo Picasso is one such man, and his last words were so famous that they were actually turned into a song by Paul McCartney upon the painter’s death in 1973.

Our story starts four years earlier, when movie director Veljko Bulajić, king of the WW2 Partisan movie genre, reached out to Picasso to design a movie poster for his masterpiece.

The movie in question was the Battle of Neretva, the biggest spectacle of Yugoslav cinema. The production starred Orson Welles, Yul Brynner and a battalion of 10,000 Yugoslav People’s Army troops personally ordered by Tito to assist with the filming. Ah, to be a dictator.

Picasso asked for a pre-release viewing of the movie, liked it, and accepted the proposal to design the poster on the spot. Even though the film had a sizeable budget, the producers panicked at the thought of how much they would have to pay him for his work.

It turns out Picasso said he did not want any money, but instead asked for 12 bottles of the best wine from what was then Yugoslavia. The movie premiered in Sarajevo in 1969, with the likes of Tito and Sophia Loren in attendance. It went on to be seen by 450m people worldwide and earn an Oscar nomination. And Picasso got his wine.

But this is where the trail of the legendary story goes cold. There is no record of which wines were chosen, so we set out to track down the director, Mr. Bulajić who is now in his 90s and lives in Zagreb.

After a bit of detective work, we got him on the phone and he was very happy to talk about meeting Picasso whose signed poster still hangs in his study. Mr. Bulajić clearly recounted briefing wine experts at the time to assemble a case for Picasso and gave us a few more pieces of the puzzle.

He confirmed that the case included wines from Istria, Herzegovina, Montenegro and of course Dalmatia, however the exact producers and vintages have faded from memory in the intervening half a century. What we also know is that only a few years earlier the Dalmatian micro-location of Dingač had become Yugoslavia’s first internationally recognized PDO, and is to this day considered by many to be the best wine in the region.

We’re pretty sure we’ve found a match, which is why this week we’ve picked three great examples of Dingač, so you too can drink like Picasso. Whether you choose to do so while watching the Battle of Neretva is up to you. And, no, unfortunately we cannot accept posters as payment unless you're Picasso.
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