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
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.”
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
University of Turin (Italian Università degli Studi di Torino), Italy
“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
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.
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?
– 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.
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.
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.
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…
Allow all kinds of flora and fauna to grow in the vineyards…
Allow their vines to find their own equilibrium by not pruning the tops or conducting heavy pruning of bunches.
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.
Barolo is delightful little medieval hamlet in Piedmont’s beautiful Langhe wine region in the North West of Italy. It’s also the site of one of the most remarkable food revolutions of the 21st Century.
In the 1980s, Barolo wines weren’t recognized internationally. The wines were known to age beautifully, but couldn’t be enjoyed in their youth as the tannins were so strong. Wine makers lacked capital to buy tractors and other critical tools, and winemaking techniques weren’t up to modern standards of cleanliness as a result.
A group of local wine makers decided a revolution was needed.
This group became known as the ‘Barolo boys’, completely transforming the world of Barolo wine and winemaking more broadly. Their story is a story of the clash between tradition and modern innovation.
Revolutions start when bellies are empty- Elio Altare (Wine and Revolution Maker)
Barolo Boys the documentary explores this revolution, the positives and the negatives. It also tells the personal story behind the scenes – a tale of friendship and spirit of the people behind the transformation and the resulting success.
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.
Barolo Boys – The Story of a Revolution
read original article: http://vindeling.com/2014/09/14/barolo-boys-story-revolution/
Barolo Boys is a documentary film telling the story of the Langhe region, the North Western region of Italy, and its famous “Boys”.
I had a great opportunity to watch in in Premiere during a special screening.
A great movie for wine enthusiasts to introduce people to the Barolo wines, history of a major part of Piedmonte and its winemaking.
A film by Paolo Casalis and Tiziano Gaia
64′ / ITA / ENG
Produced by Stuffilm Creativeye
The film tells the fascinating story of Barolo wine and how it exploded as a world phenomenon.
Now one of the most famous red wines in the world, 30 years ago Barolo was unknown even in its own production region, the beautiful Langhe (just nominated UNESCO World Heritage Site), in northwestern Italy.
Barolo’s current success is mainly due to the courage and initiative of a group of small-scale wine producers, the so-called Barolo Boys.
In the optimistic Eighties, these winemakers upset the quiet world of the Piedmontese countryside and brought about a revolution in Italian wine, igniting a fierce controversy between different generations and different ways of thinking.
After almost 30 years, what is left of that experience? As one of the film’s characters asks, what revolution has ever been successful?
Barolo Boys. The Story of a Revolution traces the short but intense trajectory of a group of producers who indelibly changed the world of wine.
For the first time Joe Bastianich, as narrator voice, is telling the story of a group of wine producers led by Elio Altare (including one girl), which in the 90’s set the agenda for the development of the modern Barolo. Among the people who appears and takes part in the film is Carlo Petrini, Oscar Farinetti, Joe Bastianich, Elio Altare, Chiara Boschis, Marc de Grazia, Giorgio Rivetti, Roberto Voerzio, Lorenzo Accomasso, Silvia Altare, Beppe Caviola, Alessandro and Bruno Ceretto, Giampiero Cereda, Giancarlo Gariglio, David Berry Green, Bartolo Mascarello, Marta and Beppe Rinaldi, Davide Rosso and Maggiore Vacchetto.
A movie where producers unveil themselves, becoming through the years much wiser and experienced, quoting so many good life lessons, but sometimes becoming as stubborn as their ancestors they were so critic about. Confined in their wellness zone.
Through the story of the Barolo Boys, a group of winemakers quite unknown in the 80s, were dreaming of change and shifted the way of producing Barolo wines. And with hard times, convictions brought Barolo wine to an undisputed star level in the 90s. They brought enormous changes to the Langhe. some define it as the Langhe “miracle”.
Between magnificent new shootage and videos archives. Like a time machine.
Many questions to be reflected in the movie from various view points, between history and respect.
Was that a revolution, a philosophy or a passing trend? Modernists Vs Traditionalists? And many more…
The Barolo Boys are doing a portrait of themselves but also their ancestors and Italian people. Because you realize, same as today in the Italian wine world they are all divided, each consortium working separately very few producers walk hand in hand. Thinking just because they make wine they will sell it. But today it does not work like that, so many people make good wine, in different range and quality. But what really makes your wines better than the ones from your neighbor? Yes you need to do proper marketing, find a niche, create your market and collaborate with the right people who can help you thrive and communicate for you efficiently, and you need to be willing to invest for it.
Elio Altare: “I think all revolutions started on empty bellies”.
Following the path of Elio Altare in 1983, describing the wines of the ancestors as tannic and harsh, that needed to wait 25 to 50 years before being drinkable. The poor living conditions and his father’s reluctance change things in the wine production. He remembers clearly when he took a chainsaw down into the cellar and destroyed large wine barrels. His father threw him Elio Altare out his home and taught he was crazy. Where he just came back in 1985 at his father’s death. Elio Altare was back from Burgundy for inspiration and experience. There he learned the importance of thinning the number of grape bunches and use small French barriques for storing wine in.
He still remembers when Barolo wines where not famous, not even known by the world, when Langhe wines where just consumed locally. Many questions were running around, “Why isn’t people drinking Barolo?” because it did not bring pleasure he says.
In 1969, people were still working with animals in the vineyards, he quotes “there was no tractions at that time, we were selling Barolo for 1500 lire / 0,7L so about 1$ a bottle, it was a frustration”
Memories of the past, not often the most shiny ones.
“ When a great wine was produced it meant that nature had had better sense than the winemaker”.
Silvia Altare, one of the two Elio’s daughter, remembers and describe the winery in its past, “gasoline, chicken shit and wine making in the same area, that is why maybe it wasn’t so successful”.
Beppe Rinaldi remembers time when the wines were sold unbottled, except for Barolo. Quoting “I’m the fifth generation, a rot let’s say”. And qualify again the local people and producers state of mind, “ the local people never had a cooperative spirit, Langhetto sticks to his culture and history”.
Alessandro Bruno Ceretto, who was part of the beginning of the Barolo boys, portrays the Langhe people as difficult and gamblers, people who likes challenges. He says they love the risk.
Giampiero Cereda remembers a time when barrels were hidden with card boards from the ancients in the back of the winery, the eldest people just wanted old wood for their wines.
This “youth revolution” took hard work and time to settle, two months after the methanol scandal in 1986 shocked the wine world as a powerful hailstorm destroyed the best vineyards around Barolo and a tested industry was on its knees.
People was then at that time working as a team, to revamp and give rebirth to the Langhe, Barolo and its wines. They were trying different barrels, blends, they were experimenting, wanting to leave behind the poverty.
But with the incomprehension of the old people, Maggiore Vacchetto, an old vineyard worker says “I’m sorry to see these grapes on the ground, however they are in charge”
Giorgio Rivetti says “ We met as a group of friend every week”.
Chiara Boschis quotes “ There was this absurdity, that thinning out should be hidden from the others”.
Una bella escuerda.
Then in the 90’s, that they went to conquer the US like rock stars. It took much enthusiasm and courage. With Marco di Grazia, an American who grew up in Florence, Italian wine broker extraordinaire, has turned some of Italy’s finest winemakers into cult stars. He was part of the Barolo Boys adventure, and says “if you stay home, you could be the best winemaker in the world and nobody will know”.
Especially the American wine journalists became enthusiastic about the “modern” Barolo, which was much more concentrated in both color and taste than the traditional Barolo, more clean, more modern. Barolo became in terms of taste a fruit bomb with soft tannins.
They were like the “rebel boys”, the success that the young Barolo Boys achieved was not without a price. Although they overcame the crisis, the price has been high for many of them. Confronted to their families eldest and has a misunderstanding. Enhancing theInnovators VS Traditionalists, Rebelious VS Patriots…
In 10 years more money came into the Langhe than in the whole previous century.
Economics mattered more and more so from low price, in the 90’s with 3 bicchieri you coulddoubled the price of your wine, it changed the economics of a winery.
Then 2000’s, came Parker and the 100 points awarding a few 100 point perfect scoring to some Piedmonte wines, maybe it went too far ?
Today, individual nature prevailed and so everyone tried to make their own path. Each got their own interpretations of Barolo identity. They all worked in their side. Time matters and maybe they became a bit what they were afraid, a bit like their ancestors maybe. This is the beginning of pressure
They are facing past, just as the “big traditionalists” overshadowed them, now they are overshadowing the young winemakers. Receiving some critics because they behave as their ancestors were.
So many things run around – A life lesson like movie, a bit of a roller coaster. A great journey, filled of confessions and reflexions.
“All generations have this incredible “will” when instead you have to go back to the origin of things. “
“Tradition is a successful innovation.”
“Being conceited about your own generation is a mistake.”
“You have to go slowly to change the world.”
“Without the talented Barolo Boys, the Langhe would have been just screwing around.”
“It seems a bit rash to claim that the history of Barolo was written by the modernists.”
“I believe that in life easy things are boring.”
“Great wines are always good not only after 20 years, as you get married and you want & will enjoy the marriage, you don’t have to wait 30 years.”
“In my opinion modern Barolo doesn’t exist.”
“The crucial element is the evolution of taste.”
Were they visionaries?
To know and discover more you can order athttp://www.baroloboysthemovie.com/index_eng.html#book
I was given the opportunity to watch and review Barolo Boys before its release. I decided to let Antiqua Tours intern Anna review it. She is a newcomer to Italian wine and I thought it would be interesting to see the film through her eyes, as someone with no preconceived ideas or exceptions. I really enjoyed what she wrote and hope you will too.
Barolo Boys: The Story of a Revolution
Review by Anna Aguillard, Intern
Wine, as ancient as its roots, unsurprisingly has a complex and dynamic history that is not easily traced, let alone clearly explained. However, Paolo Casalis and Tiziano Gaia’s upcoming documentary Barolo Boys attempts to do just that, as it traces the revolutionary story that lies behind the international phenomenon of Barolo. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of the film.
As a newcomer to the Italian wine scene, I am still learning about the basics of the industry and its rich history. The documentary does an excellent job of explaining a very intricate topic; and gives enough background information to clearly explain Barolo wine’s peculiar history without getting lost in technicalities.
Barolo Wine, made from the Nebbiolo grape in Northwestern Italy, is known today as one of the world’s greatest wines. However, it didn’t always have such international acclaim. The documentary invites its audience to “take a journey” to discover the story behind Barolo’s rise to fame, which it promises to be “full of surprises.”
Beautiful shots of the Northern Italian country side are captivating, as close-up shots of red grapes dripping with dew, scenic view of misty rolling vineyards, and picturesque ancient buildings set the scene of Langhe, where the Barolo Boys’ story begins (and makes me really want to plan a trip). The film begins by explaining what the wine business was like in Langhe for producers before the Barolo “revolution” in the 1980s. Through interviews with major wine producers such as Elio Altare, Chiara Boschis, Marco de Grazia, Giorgio Rivetti, and Roberto Voerzio, the documentary depicts the “pre-revolutionary” wine industry as being about survival – there was no profit, no investment, and no innovation. By using the voices of many different experts with so many unique stories, the filmmakers do an excellent job of capturing daily life for Barolo winemakers up until the revolution.
The film then addresses the factors that lead to Barolo’s popularity explosion, focusing on the particular historical context of the boom. It does a good job in attributing the innovation to the particularly positive international sentiment during the 1980s – consumerism was on the rise, the stock market was flourishing, Italy had just won the world cup – changes were welcomed, and the Barolo Boys were the ones to bring them.
After seeing how French wines were sold for more than twenty times the price of Italian wines, a small group of producers in Langhe got together (for the first time in history) and decided to “make the best wine in the world.” This group, called the Barolo Boys, changed numerous things about the way Barolo wine had been made for centuries.
As a new wine lover, I must admit that I found the film’s explanation of Barolo wine’s traditional production to be a little bit unclear – thankfully, all I had to do was Google it. For those who, like me, are unsure: In the past, Barolo wine took up to 50 years to become drinkable, and it aged in large, wooden casks.
The film does an excellent job of capturing just how revolutionary the Barolo Boys’ changes were. They began thinning the grape vines, cutting fermentation times to just days, and aging the wine in barriques (small barrels) instead of large crates, creating a fruitier wine that appealed internationally. These changes, however popular in the market, angered the traditional Barolo producers, to the point that Altare’s father, “never stepped foot into the vineyard again.”
Despite the opposition, the film depicts the wine revolution as a very happy time for the producers in Langhe. I really enjoyed the original footage of the Barolo Boys’ meetings, during which they ran countless experiments and tastings in their pursuit of the best wine. Their hard work paid off – due to the help of Marco de Grazia, who marketed the wine in the American market- the Barolo boys rose to fame. The film humorously emphasizes their popularity with shots of the “Barolo Boys” soccer team doing drills through the vineyards, and barriques being rolled through the Italian streets. More money came into Langhe in ten years than it had in the entire last century, and in America, the wine grew to symbolize fashion, glamour, and luxury.
The film suggests, however, that Barolo’s golden age may be coming to an end. Pitting the innovators versus the traditionalists, the film delves into both sides of the Barolo Wars that typify the archetypical clash between old and new. Although the Barolo Boys are no longer working together, the film depicts a story of the courage to make drastic changes, and the backlash that all significant changes unavoidably receive. By leaving open the question, “who is the winner” in the war between traditionalism and innovation, the film suggests that the solution lies in some combination of old traditions and new techniques.
I recommend this film for all those interested in wine, in history, or in the Italian culture’s influence on the world. With interviews from Oscar Farinetti, the president of Eataly, and Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, the film offers a holistic view of a very interesting cultural phenomenon. Let’s face it – some of Italy’s most influential contributions to mankind have been through the wine it produces, and this film succeeds in giving the industry the attention it deserves.
For more information and ordering information, please visit