Natural Resistance in NYC

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On May 1, Jonathon Nossiter will be at the 8pm screening of his new film, Natural Resistance, at the IFC Center on Sixth Ave. (To watch online)

Nossitor’s 2004 documentary, Mondovino, shook the wine world by exposing the myriad of ways that globalization and market forces are incentivizing a standardization of taste (what some call the Parkerization of wine) and an accompanying trend toward industrialization of wine making. This film continues the conversation through a series of informal interviews with four Italian artisan vintners.

Since I know and have written about two of the four, I was trying madly to see the film. I missed the screening at the Santa Barbara film festival earlier this year (sold out). I finally got a copy through amazon.it, which is great if you know Italian. If you don’t, the film with English subtitles is not yet on Amazon but will be on sale at the IFC next week.

The film is primarily built around informal al fresco lunches with the vintners along with walks in their vineyards. The underlying theme, which becomes more prominent toward the end, is that Italian cinema parallels Italian wine…that these two “cultural products” have a hold both on Italian memory and the Italian present. Both are deeply tied to what wine people call “terroir”, the links wine has with “people and place”.

Stefano Belotti, on the film poster, figures strongly in the film making the point that agriculture has a profound cultural role to play because the things we eat and drink define us. He follows biodynamic agricultural methods at his farm, Cascina degli Ulivi and produces extraordinary wines, especially the reds: rich, robust and full of life. One of the most powerful moments in the film is a simple one he digs up some dirt to show the difference between biodynamic and conventional soil.

He makes the point that the Earth’s soil was once alive and rich with minerals and nutrients, so much so that the robust grains resulted in bread that people could live on…ditto for the vegetables, fruits, and, of course, wines. As chemical treatments and industrial agriculture deplete the soil, the food products are poor, and they in turn, lead to illness and weakness in human beings. It’s not hard to see that like the plants in depleted soil that survive on chemical fertilizers, herbicides, etc, people become weaker, less healthy and more dependent on pharmaceuticals.

Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa, talks over lunch with her niece about this trend toward industrialization of agriculture and grape growing. Her niece, who is studying viniculture, explains that the universities teach chemical and industrial methods, that she has to learn sustainable, organic practices and an artisan approach from Elena. In other words, she comes to La Stoppa to “unlearn” what she has been learning.

(For more about industrial winemaking and UC Davis in California where much of it was pioneered, read Alice Feiring’s The Story of Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization).

Nossiter weaves the vintners stories in with cinematic clips from Italian films, especially toward the end. His point is that if a culture lets go of its “memory”, whether on film or in wine, it has no anchor and becomes susceptible to being controlled or simply lost. At the end of the film, Stefano Belotti says that independent farmers, especially vintners in Italy, are the last defense, the “Natural Resistance”, to the ever expanding power of nameless, faceless bureaucracy.

I am inspired by the film. Buying wine made by artisan vintners like these is a cultural and, yes, a political statement. Keep reading Uncorked in Italy. Keep drinking these wonderful wines. Be a part of the movement not just Natural Resistance but positive change in the world.

April, 2015

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Comments

    • Ellen Yeoman
    • February 20, 2016
    Reply

    I would like to know how Stefano Belotti is doing? I just watched the documentary and was so moved by his devotion to maintain his beautiful natural farm/winery. Please let me know how to find these kinds of pure wines, do they still exist in Italy? Do they ship to the US if so? The film was made 10 years ago, I believe, so I’m nervous of the conditions of wine making now in Italy and just how much has the government been able to control/victimize vintners over the last years. Any reply would be most welcomed! All the best, Ellen

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