Film review from AAWE

from  http://www.wine-economics.org/

PAOLO CASALIS & TIZIANO GAIA (Directors)
The Barolo Boys: The Story of a Revolution

Documentary, Stuffilm Creativeye, Bra (Piedmont, Italy), 2014, Italian with English subtitles, NTSC (all regions), $19.99
64 minutes
Reviewer: Alessandro Corsi

Once upon a time there was an Italian king of wines, known also as the wine of Italian kings. It was called Barolo, and it survived in the same form for a century or more. Then, only three decades ago, there was a revolution. Unlike other revolu- tions, this one did not aim to dethrone the king. Instead, the revolutionaries wanted to promote the king but put him in modern dress. 

The Barolo Boys tells the story of this group of wine revolutionaries. In the 1980s, a group of young winegrowers and winemakers started to introduce new techniques to the Barolo region that were drawn mainly from France. The story begins with a young winemaker, Elio Altare, who visited Burgundy and found himself comparing the financial wealth of French vignerons to the misery of the Barolo producers. He concluded that the reason for the misery was that Barolo wines did not satisfy modern palates and were poorly promoted. As a result, a small group of young wine- makers started to experiment. They aged their wines in barriques instead of the tra- ditional casks, and they changed their vineyard practices to emphasize ripe fruit.

The new wines were a huge success among critics and consumers, and they were pro- moted widely. But these new Barolos also inspired a passionate controversy, and a “Barolo war” started. The “traditionalists” defended the old ways of making wine and stressed the typicality of Barolo, refusing to make a wine in the new “inter- national” style. The “innovators” claimed that they had amended the flaws of the old way of making wine and that the new wines better matched modern consumers’ tastes.

The controversy was also a generational conflict. In one dramatic episode of the story, Elio Altare used a chainsaw to destroy the big old casks in his family’s cellar, which led his father to disinherit him, convinced that the young Elio had lost his sanity. Also linked to the generational divide was the collaborative spirit of the group of “revolutionaries,” who collectively shared the results of their experiments in the cellar and vineyard. This collaboration accelerated the progress for the revolu- tionaries, but it was something simply inconceivable among the old winemakers, who remained jealous of their techniques and suspicious of their competitors.

The film focuses on the human side of the revolution and on its economic and social consequences. The interviews with the protagonists (Elio Altare, Chiara Boschis, Marco de Grazia, Giorgio Rivetti, and Roberto Voerzio) and Carlo Petrini, founder and president of the Slow Food movement, are punctuated by clips filmed using Super 8 cameras and by scenes of a local brass band marching and playing in the lovely vineyard landscapes of Langhe. Though it leans on the side of the innovators, the film also presents the arguments of the traditionalists. The film does a good job of capturing the protagonists in revealing moments. And you meet some fascinating characters, such as an unforgettable old worker—a perfect example of the old mentality—grumbling because he is ordered to prune imperfect bunches, which he clearly considers an inexcusable waste of grapes. The film provides a vivid picture of the rise of the movement, the controversy, and the passion of the protagonists. But it also becomes apparent that the cohesion of the group today is not what it once was and that the “revolutionaries” experience some nostalgia as they recall their “heroic times,” as in the film The Big Chill.

If you appreciate human interest stories, you will enjoy this film, as did I. And if you do not know anything about the story, you will find it a good starting point. If, instead, you are looking for more technical information, this film might leave you unsatisfied. One unanswered question is: of what did the “revolution” actually consist? Though the use of barriques was at the core of the controversy, the “revolu- tion” comprised many other technical changes that are not discussed in the film. These changes in the vineyard and in winemaking technology included everything from thinning the grape clusters to reducing the time of fermentation. The innova- tors were looking for wines that required a shorter aging period (which provided an obvious economic advantage), had more color, and had a taste more in line with the international standards promoted by Robert Parker. Some innovations, like dropping grape clusters, were also widely adopted by traditionalists, and, in general, the movement led to a greater focus on technical progress and on quality throughout the Barolo region. In the end, the traditionalists settled into a sort of peaceful coexistence with the revolutionaries, and both benefited from the increased media attention and tourism. Though there are some hints about these issues in the film, they are not fully developed.

From an economist’s perspective, this film raises some interesting questions. First, why did only some of the winemakers follow the new movement? Negro et al. (2007) have documented how the shift to modernism paid off in terms of both ratings from the critics and wine prices. The second and related question is: why was there such a passionate fight between traditionalists and modernists? After all, they could each make and sell their wines the way they liked and still find consumers. I have two hypotheses to offer. The first is that both parties believed that the existence of the other producers acted as a negative externality, threatening the reputation of their business. This was probably truer for the traditionalists, who considered the typical- ity and the link to traditions and to the terroir as important assets. The second expla- nation concerns the nonpecuniary benefits from wine production. It is evident from the film that winemakers (from both groups) were interested in more than just the income from their activity. Much more was at stake: prestige, acceptance, and recog- nition, all of which had a social dimension. Nonpecuniary issues are often disre- garded in economic analyses, and, I suspect, they are particularly relevant in the wine industry, especially for the highest-quality segment, in which creativity is crucial. Perhaps these considerations lead winemakers to disregard the motto of modern management schools: “be market oriented, not product-oriented.”

Finally, as a personal note, I was delighted by a tale told by Elio Altare at a showing of the film that I attended. Altare related that the much-admired Bartolo Mascarello,1 who was a leader of the traditionalists, had told him: “Look, you use barriques and you must go on doing so. You know that I’ll never use barriques. But eventually, the result will be that those who buy six bottles from you will also buy six bottles from me, and vice versa.” What a fine statement of the rationality of exploiting the segmentation of consumers’ tastes and their search for variety!

1 Mascarello passed away about ten years ago. He was a famed anti-Nazi partisan during World War II, a friend of philosophers and writers, a leader of the traditionalists, and a great personality. He drew his own labels, two of which exclaimed: “Barricades, not barriques,”and “No barriques, no Berlusconi.”

Reference
Negro, G., Hannan, M.T., Rao, H., and Leung, M.D. (2007). No barrique, no Berlusconi: Collective identity, contention, and authenticity in the making of Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 1972, available at http://papers.ssrn.com

Alessandro Corsi
University of Turin (Italian Università degli Studi di Torino), Italy
alessandro.corsi@unito.it 
doi:10.1017/jwe.2015.4

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Ancora una recensione di Barolo Boys

E con i primi caldi non spuntano certo i funghi, ma le recensioni di Barolo Boys / the movie quelle sì. Eccone una pubblicata da MiVini, che contiene un’interessante citazione di Angelo Gaja: “”Non è che i produttori del Piemonte siano chiusi all’innovazione, assai più che in altre regioni molti di loro avvertono la forte necessità di integrarla con la tradizione procedendo per prove, passo dopo passo, senza strappo, con prudenza; mentre altri che non sentono questa necessità continuano a produrre i vini che amano di più”. “

dal sito MiVini

Barolo Boys: storia di una rivoluzione 

Nel bel mezzo dei primi veri giorni d’estate ci siamo imbattuti in un interessante documentario del 2014 diretto da Paolo Casalis e Tiziano Gaia, che racconta la fantastica storia di un gruppo di giovani produttori che a cavallo fra gli anni ’80 e ’90, attraverso scelte ritenute rivoluzionarie e tanta voglia di emergere, contribuirono a fare grande il Barolo e le Langhe rendendo vino e territorio attraenti agli occhi del mondo intero.
È la storia di Elio Altare e altri amici produttori che intrapresero nuove strade per cercare una sorta di ribalta dopo le frustrazioni derivanti dalle condizioni economiche e dalle incomprensioni con i padri padroni.
La “revolution” dei Barolo Boys passa senza alcun dubbio da importanti innovazioni tecniche ed enologiche, ma anche da nuove strategie in campo di marketing e nel settore commerciale, queste ultime guidate con abilità e astuzia da Marco de Grazia, importatore americano che permise ai giovani produttori di affermarsi in maniera decisiva negli Stati Uniti, ottenendo grande considerazione e smisurato affetto.
Per questi giovani pionieri la barrique divenne quasi una religione, cosa che non tutti digerirono, soprattutto alcuni storici produttori fedeli da sempre alle antiche tradizione della Langa.
Da una parte Elio Altare con le posizioni dei Barolo Boys, dall’altra la fermezza di Bartolo Mascarello, icona del Barolo e fermo contestatore della barrique. Il primo importatore di metodologie studiate e recepite nel viaggio in Borgogna del 1976, il secondo legato ai valori della tradizione in chiave futura.
Ancora oggi la crescita delle Langhe in particolare del Barolo è una contesa ideologica tra modernisti e tradizionalisti che scalda gli animi di produttori, critica, importatori, wine lovers, ecc…
Uno sguardo attento su questo intricato scenario ci piace ritrovarlo nelle parole di Angelo Gaja riportate nel volume “Storie di vino e cucina” edito da Mondadori, nel quale parla così dei suoi corregionali: “Non è che i produttori del Piemonte siano chiusi all’innovazione, assai più che in altre regioni molti di loro avvertono la forte necessità di integrarla con la tradizione procedendo per prove, passo dopo passo, senza strappo, con prudenza; mentre altri che non sentono questa necessità continuano a produrre i vini che amano di più”.
Insomma un documentario consigliato a tutti i curiosi del mondo del vino, agli innamorati degli straordinari panorami delle Langhe e dei suoi principali prodotti.
Al termine della proiezione sarebbe stato il caso di bere un buona annata di Barolo firmato dai tradizionalisti ed una dai modernisti, anzi magari due per tipo. Ci sarà tempo e modo di farlo, sapremo rendervene conto, intanto auguriamo buon visione a chi sceglierà di gustarsi questa pellicola.
Info: è possibile vedere il film in streaming (http://www.baroloboysthemovie.com) o scaricarlo direttamnte da Itunes, come abbiamo fatto noi.

 

Barolo Boys: The Power & Effects of International Wine Marketing

from UncorkedinItaly.com

“Barolo Boys” (2014) is a documentary about the Barolo “boom” in the nineties. The strength of the film is its success in chronicling how a group of family owned wineries (7 men + 1 woman)* changed the historical character of their wines for marketing purposes and what happened as a result. The story is important because versions of it occurred in many other parts of Italy. The echoes can still be heard today.

*Elio Altare, Chiara Boschs of E. Pira e Figli, Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta, Roberto Voerzio, Luciano Sandrone, Domenico Clerico, Giovanni Manzone, Enrico Scavino of Paolo Scavino, Renato Cigliuti and Roberto Damonte of Malvirà

What happened?
The Barolo Boys altered their methods in the vineyard and in the cellar to catch and ride a wave of stratospheric Parker/Wine Spectator point scores. Italo-American marketing expert, Marco De Grazia, took the group on tour in the United States and brought new wealth to them and to the area. But all of that had consequences in the community and provoked a counter movement toward “traditional” Barolo wine.

To Buy or Rent or on iTunes

As background to the film, it’s important to know that the United States was the fastest growing, largest and richest market for wine in the 80s and 90s. Robert Parker’s 100-point scale, which spread to the Wine Spectator and other publications, fueled sales based on Parker’s personal preference for fruit forward, robust, ready to drink reds. His palate aligned with that of most Americans.

So how do you get Nebbiolo wine, which has traditionally been highly tannic and austere with a need for long aging in the cellar, to score 100 points?

Answer:
– Prune bunches off the vines to concentrate their efforts on fewer grapes
(Create intensity of aroma and flavor)
– Allow the grapes to mature longer on the vine
(Add fruitiness, roundness and higher sugar content–higher alcohol)
– Shorten the period that fermenting wine remains with the skins
(Reduce tannins for less austerity)
– Use new barriques (small, French, wood barrels)
(Soften tannins and add aromas and flavors, like vanilla)
– Use additives, commercial yeasts, etc. to change the wine chemically in the cellar.
(All of the above)

The original group ranged from small to large producers (4,500-450,000 bottles annually). What they had in common was a feeling of frustration at working so hard to grow grapes but then, having to sell them in bulk at low prices or produce wines that were not recognized beyond the local area.

The film recounts both the rise of these “modernists” and the reaction that eventually rose up against them from the “traditionalists” like Giuseppe Rinaldi and Bartolo Mascarello, who made a label for his wine that revealed his thoughts on the matter. Whichever side people aligned with, it was clear that one effect of the Barolo Boys was a rift in the community.
No Barrique

The Barolo Boys’ boom also led to a gold rush where land prices skyrocketed and vines proliferated where once there had been woods, fruit trees, hazelnut trees, grain, grazing pastures and other crops. The monoculture that exists today has fundamentally changed the character of the area, reduced the health of the vines, and reduced the variety of aromas and flavors in the grapes.

monoculture

Many vines are grown with industrial methods (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc.) and are heavily pruned to force the plant to concentrate efforts on the grapes. On a recent walk through vineyards above Barolo (castle in background), I took this photo.

conventional

Interestingly, some of the Barolo Boys wineries are following the market once again and leaving their “modern” methods in favor of a new marketing trend toward more authentic, terroir based, “natural” wines. The group no longer exists as such, and Marco De Grazia has moved to Mount Etna.

It is notable that some winegrowers in the area (and in other parts of Italy) never changed. They stayed with traditional, sustainable, “natural” mentors in the vineyard and in the cellar. (See winegrowers on this blog…and more stories coming soon from Piemonte!)

They plant only a small part of their acreage…
vines with woods

Allow all kinds of flora and fauna to grow in the vineyards…
eugenio

flowers

Allow their vines to find their own equilibrium by not pruning the tops or conducting heavy pruning of bunches.
happy vines

And intervene as little as possible in the cellar.

The fascination of Italy remains the natural diversity of land, climate, soil, altitude, exposition, grape variety and winegrower personality. Wine has been made here for over 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the culture, a fact that no point score or ranking can easily change.

Published: June 22, 2016

For more information on Barolo wineries or on planning a trip to the area,contact Eleanor.

Recensione del film su Das Kabarett

Dal sito Das Kabarett

[Andar per gusti] Elio Altare, Renato Cigliuti, Domenico Clerico, Renato Corino, Matteo Correggia, Franco Minuto, Giorgio Rivetti, Luciano Sandrone, Enrico Scavino e Marc De Grazia, insieme a Chiara Boschis, the Girl One, sono iBarolo Boys: si tratta di un gruppo di imprenditori che hanno rivoluzionato la produzione del più famoso e importante vino piemontese. Siamo nella bassa Langa, precisamente in provincia di Cuneo, proprio nella zona dove nacque Cavour. Qui, da tempi lontani, in questa sorta di Mesopotamia italiana (tra il fiume Tanaro e il suo affluente Belbo, un torrente molto “vivace”), dal Nebbiolo si produce un vino dalla spiccata personalità e dalla fortissima impronta locale, che però denota una scarsa cura della sua “piacevolezza”. Le botti sono vecchie e tarlate e le condizioni igeniche di maturazione non ottimali. Il destino di quegli abitanti sembra segnato da un’irrimediabile ereditarietà della miseria, con scarsissima spinta ad innovare: la tradizione è quasi una condanna. Ma negli anni Sessanta e Settanta poco alla volta crescono uomini e donne che trovano un po’ stretto questo mondo e i progressi della società danno l’avvio  a una piccola rivoluzione. Dei giovani, figli di contadini, cominciano a osservare ciò che li circonda, ciascuno dal suo posto, si riuniscono e formano una specie di alleanza per cambiare le cose: è così che tra gli anni ’80 e gli anni ’90 la produzione del Barolo cambia del tutto aspetto


L’epopea dei Barolo Boys (2014, tit. or. Barolo Boys. History of a Revolution), scritto e diretto da Paolo Casalis e Tiziano Gaia, racconta questa storia con garbo e un discreto equilibrio. La voce narrante di Joe Bastianich è poco meno che un cammeo, perché a prevalere sono i volti e le opinioni dei protagonisti di tutta la controversia tra la tradizione e lo strepitoso successo commerciale dei Barolo Boys, fino ai 100 punti di Robert Parker, ai Tre Bicchieri del Gambero Rosso e oltre. Non c’è nessun progetto agiografico (anzi) e le voci discordanti trovano il loro spazio, perfino i ripensamenti o comunque le rettifiche: quella che sembrava una svolta epocale ad opera di una comitiva inossidabile di amici e collaboratori si risolve in breve in una moda (in apparenza) senza sbocco e senza futuro, che viene caricata in più dalla responsabilità di aver fatto uno sgambetto alla tradizione. Di quell’entusiasmo globale per la barrique, che aveva acceso gli animi per il legno nuovo, l’aroma di vaniglia, la maggiore freschezza e la più rapida bevibilità, restano però i risultati che sono sotto gli occhi di tutti: una cura maggiore per il prodotto e per il dialogo con i suoi fruitori e un’esportazione oltre i confini delle Langhe (che, per parte loro, proprio nel 2014 sono state incluse dall’U.N.E.S.C.O., insieme a Monferrato e Roero, nella lista dei beni patrimonio dell’umanità). Che questo dipenda da un momento di euforia per il mondo del vino e per unboom economico e culturale ormai lontanissimo, a me interessa fino a un certo punto: l’entità della rivoluzione non si dovrebbe misurare dalla sola sua persistenza, bensì dalla capacità collettiva di gettare uno sguardo nuovo su ciò che viene trasformato fin quasi a ricodificarlo. Né mi interessa o mi stupisce la breve durata di questo sodalizio, prima che i singoli produttori prendessero ciascuno la sua strada: l’alleanza ha comunque sortito i suoi effetti quando serviva.

Il gusto del Barolo in quella precisa stagione è già stato superato? Certo, e anche dopo; ma se l’importanza del vino (anche grazie a questa sfida, o a quest’abbaglio, come qualcuno lo considera) è cresciuta, e così la cura al prodotto, ciò lo si deve anche ai Barolo Boys.

Roberto Oddo

Barolo boys or, simply, boys

from fabiodellamarta.com

I don’t wont to take part in this struggle because, you’ve to know, it’s a struggle between two sides. When I was a child, I was with the cow boys against Sioux, I was with Mickey Mouse against the Beagle Boys. Now that I’m older, just a little bit, probably I’ll have a chance to understand that borders are often smooth and made to be broken.

I don’t wont to take part in this struggle, I don’t really know if barolo history has been made by the “olds” with the big barrel or by the “youngs” with the barrique, by the fathers of the “big quantity” or by the “sons” who cut the grapes and leave them fall on the ground. Probably history, as history itself would be able to explain, take origin from a synthesis…and a synhtesis is always full of pain.

Neverthless I can’t stop to be fascinated, I can say this without any kind of fear, by Elio Altare’s words. I can’t stop to be fascinated by that age, that strain, that “affronto” as he defined it in the movie. And I don’t absolutely care if his barolo is better than his father’s one, or not. What is important for me is wine, that once more tells us about life, about times, about evolution. Our evolution.

So Barolo Boys simply were what we all were one time ago. What we were in that wonderful and painful moment when we had to decide to leave our house our nest and to fly, to live. When we had do decide what to do and what to be.

Because, as I often said to myself, to leave and to change, doesn’t not mean to abandon or to repudiate. And I think there are only two ways to die: not moving or moving without having inside what others before us teached to us.

So, probably, before “Barolo Boys” they were, simply, boys.

Barolo Boys una storia da film

dal Blog di Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Barolo boys storia di una rivoluzione” sbanca il Most Festival di Cinema e Vino del Penedès con i premi della Giuria e della miglior Produzione Internazionale

BaroloBoys_cover_ITA

Di Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Brunello

E’ una delle storie più belle del vino italiano, talmente bella che sembra un film e invece sono i fatti realmente accaduti che hanno ispirato un film.
Nel 1983 il vento della ribellione giovanile soffia anche fra i filari di Nebbiolo e 4 giovani langaroli sognano di rivoluzionare la tradizione e produrre il vino più buono del mondo. Lo scontro con le vecchie generazioni, che si oppongono a ogni cambiamento, è durissimo. Elio Altare, il più radicale del gruppo, prende la motosega scende in cantina e taglia le botti del padre. La reazione è terribile e viene diseredato. Ma non si arrende, con Chiara Boschis, Giorgio Rivetti e Roberto Voerzio trovano un giovane importatore visionario come loro Marc de Grazia e con lui partono per New York. Un’impresa squattrinata e un po guascona ma talmente coraggiosa da fare breccia nel

Chiara Boschis

mondo del vino conquistando gli appassionati di tutto il mondo. Nasce il mito di Langa In – Barolo Boys piccoli produttori con un’enorme passione per il grande vino e il coraggio di rischiare tutto per affermare le proprie idee di cambiamento. Un idealismo generoso che nel cinico e arrivista mondo di oggi appare quasi inverosimile ma ispira rispetto e gratitudine.
Cosa resta della rivoluzione dei Barolo boys, dopo 30 anni? Gli effetti sono forti e indelebili. Hanno cambiato il Barolo aprendo la porta all’innovazione e al confronto con il mondo. E’ dal loro seme che sono nati successivamente movimenti, iniziative commerciali e un nuovo stile di comunicazione che hanno fatto del Piemonte l’avanguardia nel vino italiano.

Elio Altare nella vigna

Ora il film “Barolo Boys storia di una rivoluzione” di Paolo Casalis, miete consensi. La voce narrante è quella di Joe Batianich anche lui innovatore e uomo di grandi sfide. Accanto ai cinque protagonisti del celebre viaggio newyorkese del 1983 compaiono nel doco film personaggi come Carlo Petrini, Oscar Farinetti, Bruno Ceretto e Giancarlo Gariglio mentre la produzione, Stuffilm Creativeye, ha avuto l’appoggio di Slow Food Italia e Eataly Media. Insomma uno spiegamento di forze rappresentativo del Piemonte del vino più innovativo.

marc-de-grazia

Anche gli autori sono personaggi di grandissimo spessore: Paolo Casalis e Tiziano Gaja. Quest’ultimo è scrittore e autore teatrale di grande spessore ( “Puoi chiamarmi fratello”, “6 come noi”) oltre che ottimo esperto di vino e in questa veste è stato vice curatore

Giorgio Rivetti

Barolo Boys film review from Vineous

Barolo Boys – film review

Around 1980 I was on a budget holiday in Northern Italy, where most meals were bread, cheese and ham picnics.  However, one evening we pushed the boat out and went to a proper (albeit cheap) restaurant.  I remember we ordered a bottle of Barolo and, even though I had little interest in wine in those days, I can still conjure up a vivid image of how it tasted: brown, tannic, and totally devoid of fruit.  Today I would probably send it back, and I did consider it back then.  But of course we drank the bottle, even though it gave no pleasure.

That must have been an example of the wine that prompted the modernist revolution in Barolo.  It was the style of wine that sold for little money and kept the wine growers in poverty, as described in Barolo Boys, The Story of a Revolution.  But then how does it relate to the great traditional Barolo wines that, in the same documentary, David Berry Green said were so fantastic?  Ultimately I am still left a little confused about what the situation was before the revolution, and how it relates to the current state of affairs.  However, it seems that the quality of Barolo has been raised generally, irrespective of whether the traditionalist or modernist tag is applied. Are the Barolo Boys to thank for that?  Regardless, it must be seen as a good thing.

The Barolo Boys were a group of producers who introduced crop thinning, shorter maceration times and barrique aging, thus making the wines more appealing to consumers and critics alike, and allowing them to sell for a lot more money. The film tells this story through interviews with the people involved, and through archive clips.  However nice it was to meet the people, learn a bit about their culture and see the landscape, I am not convinced that is the best way to understand a story, but I cannot deny that I did learn quite a bit.

I am a little ashamed to admit that I used to think that the Barolo Boys was just the name of the winemakers’ football team.  Though it is that too, and the football team even featured in the film.  The other surprise was to see the documentary’s Langhe landscapes suddenly switch to the volcanic Mount Etna and Marco de Grazia.  I know about Marco – he is the guy that is currently busy raising the profile of Etna wines.  But what’s he got to do with Barolo? Ah, I see… before he arrived in Sicily he encouraged the Barolo revolution, introduced the Barolo Boys to America, and imported their wines.  In fact, it was on the American tour organised by him that their name was coined.

Interestingly, the booklet that accompanies the DVD mentions that in the early 19th century Nebbiolo was used to make a wine that was semi-sweet and slightly fizzy.  But the landowners wanted something better, so experts were called in to introduce the latest winemaking techniques.  Does that sound familiar? Terms like traditional and modern are, if they have any meaning at all, relative terms.  My only concern about change, particularly with modern communications, is that stylistic choice in the world of wine might get diminished. That might be a real danger in some cases, but I would say today’s Barolo remains distinctive. And if you want red wine in the early 19th century style, you can still get that from the region, in the form of Bracchetto d’Aqui. Has much really been lost?

If you are interested enough to read my blog, I think there is something in this documentary for you. DVDs of Barolo Boys, The Story of a Revolution are available here, along with further information. That is where I bought my copy. But be warned – the homepage is a badly-executed multimedia extravaganza, so you will probably want to turn your computer sound off.  If you want to see the trailer, you’d do better accessing it on Vimeo directly, by clicking on the above image for example.

Update 03/2016: I was recently talking to a Barolo expert (but not sure he would want to be quoted on this), who said that before the revolution the general standard was poor. But there were a few producers making good age-worthy wine that sold for more money than most, and that David Berry Green was probably mainly thinking of one in particular that he had an involvement with.

Barolo Boys/ Film Review from Weinroute.de (Germany)

Die Geschichte einer Revolution

from Weinrouten.de (http://www.weinrouten.de/wr/news/news.php?id=228)

Das Wort “Revolution” im Zusammenhang mit der Produktion – zugegebenermaßen großartiger – Weine ist vielleicht etwas hoch gegriffen. Klugerweise wählte man für den jetzt vorgestellten Dokumentarfilm den Titel “Barolo Boys” und vermerkt nur im Untertitel “storia di una rivolutione”. Für die Protagonisten und die Region um das piemontesische Alba waren die Auswirkungen jedoch über die Zeit enorm. Die hier erzählte Geschichte ist damit auch ein Lehrstück über Tradition, Innovation und den Wandel zur modernen, globalisierten Mediengesellschaft.

Angefangen hat die Geschichte mit großer Not in der Weinregion um das berühmte Dorf Barolo, gegründet auf einem allgemeinen Desinteresse an dem hier produzierten Wein, der allenfalls Experten bekannt war. Die Söhne (damals übernahmen noch praktisch ausschließlich Söhne die Weingüter) zogen lieber in die Fabriken nach Turin oder Alba, um sich einen Lebensunterhalt zu sichern. Oft wurden die Rebflächen und Weingüter verkauft – falls man einen Käufer fand. Gleichzeitig war das Leben hart, wer Glück hatte konnte am Ende eines Jahres seine Ernte zum Niedrigstpreis komplett an Mittelsmänner verkaufen. Den Launen der Natur setzte man im Weinberg eine Menge Chemie entgegen. So ging es auch dem jungen Elio Altare aus La Morra, der nach einer Vergiftung aus dem Krankenhaus entlassen, nach Hause fuhr und im Zorn mit der Motorsäge die Rebstöcke abschnitt. Es musste sich also etwas radikal ändern!

Elio fuhr mit seinem alten Wagen ins nahe Burgund. Weil er kein Geld für ein Hotel hatte, schlief er sogar im Auto. Er wollte sehen und verstehen, warum man dort schon lange sehr gut vom Wein leben konnte, warum sich die Burgunderweine für ein Vielfaches und leicht verkaufen ließen. Was er dort sah, war eine konsequente Qualitätsorientierung – im Weinberg und im Keller. Geerntet wurden nur gesunde, reife Trauben, im Keller arbeitete man sauber und baute die Weine im Barrique aus. Zurück im Piemont diskutierte er tage- und nächtelang mit Gleichgesinnten, einer Generation von jungen Winzern, die sich von den Traditionen der Region unbedingt lösen, es einfach besser machen wollten. Aus dieser Gruppe wurden dann später die “Barolo Boys” – ein Name, den sie auf einer Tour durch die USA bekamen und behielten – mit einer Ausnahme: Chiara Boschis war und blieb das einzige weibliche Mitglied, das “Barolo Girl”.

unten von links: Luciano Sandrone, Giorgio Rivetti, Piero Selvaggio, Chiara Boschis, Elio Altare, Marco de Grazia

oben von links: Enrica Scavino, Franco Moccagatta, Marco Parusso, Dina Cigliuti, Giovanni Manzone, Angelo Rocca, Luigi Scavino, Renato Corino

Der Erfolg der jungen Gruppe war unglaublich. Die Weine zeigten sich gefälliger, fruchtiger, sauberer und präziser. Man musste nicht mehr 20 Jahren warten, um einen Wein zu genießen, dessen Tannine eingebunden und rund waren. Es waren Weine genau nach dem Geschmack der gleichzeitig aufstrebenden amerikanischen Weinkritiker wie Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) oder James Suckling (Wine Spectator), die diese Weine bejubelten. Mit der medialen Verbreitung dieser frohen Botschaft steigerte sich der Durst in der Neuen Welt nach diesen Weinen, der Export wurde selbst bei steigenden Weinpreisen immer stärker. Gleichzeitig entdeckten nordeuropäische Weinliebhaber das Piemont und seine Produkte. Innerhalb nur eines Jahrzehnts floss mehr Geld in die Region Barolo als die einhundert Jahre zuvor, wird im Film festgehalten. Viele Produzenten nahmen den Betrieb wieder auf, junge Leute kamen zurück. Baroli, die vor 15 Jahren noch 20 Euro kosteten gibt es heute nur noch für deutlich über 100 Euro, falls man überhaupt eine Flasche kaufen kann. Im Ausland erreichte mancher der Barolo Boys den Status von gefeierten Rockstars.

Zuhause aber war eher das Gegenteil der Fall. Elio Altare wurde von seinem Vater aus Zorn enterbt, ein heftiger Streit entbrannte zwischen den Revolutionären und den Traditionalisten. Lange Maischezeiten, Lagenverschnitt, Ausbau in großen Botti und eine radikale Ablehnung der intensiven grünen Lese waren für sie unverzichtbar für einen “echten” Barolo. So wurde das Wort “Barrique” zum Sinnbild eines Generationenkonflikts, was Bartolo Mascarello in seinem berühmten Etikett “no Barrique – no Berlusconi” prominent zusammenfasste (es gab übrigens nur eine Handvoll Originale dieses Etiketts). Bartolo war und blieb übrigens ein Freund von Elio Altare, beide Protagonisten der gegensätzlichen Lager zeichnete ein großer Respekt vor einander aus.

 

Was Barolo Mascarello von den Barolo Boys hielt, fasste er auf seine Art in einem selbst gemalten Etikett zusammen. Diese Flasche ist vielleicht noch berühmter geworden als seine großartigen Weine.

Barolo Boys ist ein schöner Film ohne Spannungsbogen. Er erzählt die Geschichte der Barolo Boys entlang geschickt ineinander geschnittener Interviewausschnitte mit wichtigen Zeitgenossen. Elio Altare ist dabei die zentrale Figur, vom Beginn bis zum Schluss des Films. Er verkörpert wie kaum ein anderer die Revolution, die die Region verändert und den Winzern “ihre Würde zurückgegeben” hat. Die Qualitätsoffensive, die von den Gegnern als solche naturgemäß komplett negiert wird, traf auf ein sehr aufnahmefreudiges soziologisches Umfeld. Mit dem starken Trend der Globalisierung einher ging eine breite wirtschaftliche Erholung nach der Stagnation der 1970er Jahre. Nach den entbehrungsreichen Nachkriegsjahrzehnten entwickelte sich eine Konsumgesellschaft unter der Führung der USA. Und der Konsument verlangte zusehens Qualität, eine Qualität, die die bislang unbekannten Weine aus dem Piemont selbst für breitere Konsumentenschichten auch lieferten.

Eine Anfang der 90er Jahre absolvierte Promotiontour einer Gruppe der Barolo Boys durch die USA war von durchschlagendem Erfolg. Von New York bis San Francisco trafen sie auf ein begeistertes Publikum. Bis heute finden in den USA regelmäßig große Verkostungen der Weinen statt, nur, dass die teilnehmenden Winzern mittlerweile geübte USA-Reisende sind.

20 Jahre nach der Revolution im Piemont sind auch die Barolo Boys in die Jahre gekommen. Der Streit mit den Traditionalisten ist weitgehend beigelegt und man gibt heute sogar zu, in der Veränderungswut übertrieben zu haben. Die Traditionalisten sind heute auch nicht mehr gegen Edelstahl für die Fermentation, verkürzen die Maischezeiten und achten auf bestes Traubenmaterial. Die Gemeinsamkeiten der Gruppe haben sich damit weitgehend verloren und gleichzeitig der Tendenz der Piemonteser zur Eigenbrödlerei Vorschub geleistet. Elio Altare hat das Weingut seiner Tochter Silvia übergeben und widmet sich einem neuen Projekt: an der Ligurischen Küste reaktiviert er die alte Kultur des Weinbaus in den Steillagen. Eine neue, junge Genration von Winzern hat die Betriebe der Generation der Barolo Boys übernommen. Und wie jede Generation kämpfen Sie nun aufs Neue um die Zustimmung jeder kleinen Veränderung. Aus den ehemaligen Boys sind heute erstaunlich viele junge Girls geworden. Die Revolution frisst ihre Kinder.

Kein großes Kino, aber ein großartiger, einfach gemachter Dokumentarfilm: informativ, sensibel, lustig, nachdenklich und ohne Wertungen. Ein Lehrstück über das Leben und wie schwer man sich das Erbe der Väter erarbeiten muss, um es zu erwerben. Und doch ein happy end.

Der Film ist nur auf Englisch / Italienisch (mit englischen Untertiteln) erhältlich.