“The primary nutrient in life is joy.”
This is Stefano Bellotti, winemaker at Cascina Delgi Ulivi in Chianti speaking directly from his heart—to my own.
From the moment Stefano comes on frame in Jonathan Nossiter’s documentary, Natural Resistance, I was smitten. Seriously.
It was like listening to the last six years of my own blogging on natural wines, the endless arguments with others about what it means, encapsulated into a lazy afternoon’s conversation of why he and many others do what they do.
Why I and thousands of wine lovers and bloggers are changing the world a little bit at a time by redefining what food and wine is to our lives.
I knew of Jonathon’s work slightly but didn’t know him personally nor much about the film prior.
I need to thank David Lillie and Arnaud Tronche, the co-owners of Racines and hosts for the event for the invite and encouragement to attend. This small gathering for movie and a dinner with people who not only love natural wine as writers and geeks, but are responsible as restaurant and wine shop owners, as importers and distributors, as somms, for getting the best and most interesting of these wines in front of the public.
I seriously loved this film.
With its hand-held shaky noirishness, with its quirky juxtapositions of obscure images, this movie is—yes, I need to say this—about a love of what nature has given us. About following your heart, not ideology. How the bravest amongst us invoke the very core of tradition to innovate, not to follow.
I understand Italian not at all, yet I forgot I was reading subtitles, forgot that my chair was bumping the portable projector repeatedly. I just felt like I was at home in this conversation.
I kept thinking about the folksiness’ and profundity of Whitman and Hart Crane. I kept nodding my head like a student listening to this farmer talking, creating concrete poetry out of his land and wine.
The movie, while a documentary, was so sun drenched, so lazily paced as the winemakers walked through their vineyards. So crisp when Stefano held up the lively soil of his vineyard in one hand and contrasted it to the calcified clay of his neighbors in the other. So personal as they drank wine with their friends, hugged their children, played with their pets, that you forget—these individuals are considered radicals, almost subversive, by the Italian wine industry.
Yes, revolutionaries created by the stupid rigidity of the DOC systems under which they worked.
The ‘resistance’ part of ‘natural resistance’ almost gets lost unless you know the language or the back-story. How these intelligent and exuberant people were being castigated by the Italian DOC system. Having their wines banned from supermarket shelves, and fined possibly to the point of bankruptcy because they eschew, just refuse to use, chemicals or supplements, and just make wine in their own raw, natural way.
You need to do a double take honestly that these winemaker are being made revolutionaries by the wine establishment itself. Rebels who believe that there is no social history without agriculture and that to change agriculture is to change culture and the world.
The rub is that these winemakers are not defining themselves by what they are not, not against, but for something.
They believe that the DOC should, by its definition, be helpful, but is a lie. A caretaker of something that is simply not representative of the land, the place, the taste—their lives there.
During the Q & A with Jonathon, I got the sense that he believes that the world is on the brink of ecological disaster if change doesn’t happen. Agriculture subsumed by industrialized techniques and taste that carries with it a variant of cultural suicide.
Maybe it was the inebriation of the words, the buzz of the wine I was drinking and the conversations with friends that make me take the opposite view.
Maybe this example in Italy is an extreme. Or maybe I am hopelessly naïve and optimistic.
To me, change is definitely happening.
More and more agricultural products are being made with astounding quality. More and more importers are finding them and bringing them to market. And with community and network connections, there is an economy being created that will be supportive, even if the national systems themselves are not.
And just as important, there is a rising market of people who simply do care.
I seriously recommend this film.
If you are thoughtful about the relationship of agriculture to culture. Of natural techniques in winemaking to taste. If you believe that individuals collectively impact global change.
It’s a little film with a subtle and, I think, well-placed kick. There is something special and true here.
Congrats to Jonathan Nossiter for creating such a great film and for giving us all such a fine and inspiring evening.
I felt compelled to pass it along.
Thanks to Chris Struck for the photos I appropriated from his Facebook page.