Behind The Wine: ‘Natural Resistance’ cover

Behind The Wine: ‘Natural Resistance’

By ,


A new documentary from SundanceNOW sheds light on the struggles of Italian natural winemakers as they face corporate opponents.





NoteStream NoteStream

NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!

The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.

For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.




Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!

Save to App


Behind The Wine: ‘Natural Resistance’

Passion For Wine And Spirits

A new documentary from SundanceNOW sheds light on the struggles of Italian natural winemakers as they face corporate opponents.

If your passion for wine and spirits extends to documentaries about wine and spirits, click this way to the Sundance Documentary Club. Launched in 2012 by SundanceNOW, this subscriber-based site recently added a Wine and Spirits collection. Currently on offer are Douglas Tirola’s Hey Bartender, David Roach and Warwick Ross’s Red Obsession and two films from Jonathan Nossiter: Mondovinoand Natural Resistance.

New Documentary

New Documentary

Image by SundanceNOW Documentary Club

'Natural Resistance'

To kickoff this new collection the SundanceNow Doc Club recently hosted a viewing of Natural Resistance, at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn.

Released last year, this is the second documentary from Nossiter, who made a name for himself back in 2004 with Mondovino, a critical exposé of the wine industry’s increasing corporatization and homogenization. Chief among his villains were Michel Rolland, Robert Parker and Robert Mondavi, whose power and influence, he claimed, were pushing out small, independent, terroir-driven winemakers. Natural Resistance is not a sequel per se but explores the same theme.

This time, however, his focus is narrowed on four Italian winemakers committed to making wine in a natural, sustainable way.

Preserving The Tradition

It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful setting than the rolling hills of the Italian countryside, but unseen to any tourist is the pitched battle taking place between these more traditional winemakers/farmers and the Italian DOC/DOCG system.

The term “natural” doesn’t have a precise definition but usually means that the grapes have been grown without chemicals, and the wine made with as little intervention as possible. No additives, no manipulations, the use of native yeasts, and little or no sulfur. These practices don’t always conform to the standardized regulations and winemakers face either fines or declassification.

But for them these methods are a matter of tradition, principal, ethics, and personal freedom.

Preserving The Tradition

Preserving The Tradition

They want simply to preserve the tradition of independent agriculture and ensure the future viability of their land.

©iStock

Let Them Speak For Themselves

As in Mondovino, there is no narrator telling the story, instead Nossiter lets the winemakers speak for themselves, and the case for their struggle is made all the stronger for it.

We meet Giovanna Tiezzi whose Tuscan vineyard was passed down to her from her great grandparents and who lives in a former monastery built in the 900s; Corrado Dottori, an ex-stockbroker from Milan who inherited his grandfather’s farmstead in Le Marche; Elena Pantaleoni in Emilio-Romana and Stefano Bellotti, a poetry-reciting winemaker in Piedmont who has been farming biodynamically since 1987.

Life And Death

He provides the film with its most poignant scene.

Out in the vineyard he holds two clods of dirt. One is from his organically farmed property, and the other is from his neighbor who uses chemicals. The earth from his land is a rich reddish brown, threaded with roots, while that of his neighbor’s is a gray, solidified clump that “smells like laundry detergent.” The difference is shockingly stark. “Life and death,” he says. The case could not be more clear.’

Taken From the Earth

Taken From the Earth

©iStock

Revolutionaries Of Their Own Time

Interspersed among the walks through the vineyards and the picnic-table discussions are film clips from old movies and newsreels.

We see Charlie Chaplin boiling an old shoe, and Mussolini shouting Fascist propaganda. While some of the clips provide levity, what is clear is that winemakers see themselves as revolutionaries, resistance fighters, battling against the tyranny of bureaucrats and industrialized agriculture.

The lack of specific examples is one of the film’s few shortcomings. Belloti, for instance, was once fined for having a peach tree in his vineyard and had 30,000 bottles confiscated for not conforming to the labeling requirements. Their only recourse is to opt out of the DOC regulations and instead have their wines classified as IGT, a lower rung on the quality ladder, which means lower prices.

The Importance Of What We Consume

It is the price they are willing to pay to be able to farm the way they believe, and the feeling among them is not totally hopeless.

In the 11 years since Mondovino, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of what we consume, not just with wine but food too. There is an increasing demand for organically grown produce and humanely raised livestock that hasn’t been pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones.

Stefano Bellotti

Stefano Bellotti

Image by SundanceNOW Documentary Club

Becoming More Aware

In essence the public is becoming more aware of the fact that how their food is grown or cared for affects their health too.

Why shouldn’t this also apply to grapes and the wine that is made from them? These winemakers would say there is no difference and the need to return to a more natural way of agriculture is in everyone’s interest.

Membership for SundanceNow Doc Club is either $4.99/month for an annual subscription or $6.99 per month for a month-to-month subscription. A new gift subscription option is also available. Viewers can watch via web, iPhone, iPad, Android, Roku, Chromecast and Apple TV (via Airplay).

Alcohol Professor