A Swedish version of the review is availabe at Magnus Reuterdahls vinblogg Aqua Vitae.
I have had the opportunity to see an advance copy of the film Barolo Boys – The Story of a Revolution. Here are a few words on the movie, on Barolo, on a modern winemaking era!
If you do not know the Barolo Boys, they were a group of young winemakers in Barolo in the 1980s and 90s. Despite the name, it was not just the boys in the group it included one girl as well. Another important part of the group was an american; Marco di Grazia. The addition boys come from that they were young, and the majority of them were just boys.
This is the story about them and the Piedmont in change, a change that is still going on but perhaps not gone in the direction they expected when the revolution started. Barolo Boys changed and reinventetd Barolo. They went from poor farmers to winemakers with rock star status. They went from anonymity to fame.
They broke up the traditional and created something new, they brought in outside influences and changes in how they worked both in the vineyard and in the winery. They started from fresch, from scratch and this created conflicts between generations, in some cases as far as fathers and sons broke completely with each other. Others just didn’t understand and viewed them as crazy.
It all started in the early 1980s, a time of optimism in Italy, supported by an economic boom and that it has won the Soccer World Cup in 1982. This optimism was also found among the winemakers. The young winemakers started to experiment, collaborate and fundamentally change Barolo wines and its character – at least for a while. The change also caught international attention through among other things tours to the United States. Soon they got soaring ratings of known wine writers, they got hyped at restaurants and became the name on everyone’s lips, which culminated with the Barolo and Barbaressco score a 100-point vintage in Wine Advocate in 2000.
The success in the 1990s led to a willingness to go even further, leading to more experimenting and a strive of making the perfect wine. Some went over to using more new barrels, making wines that were more suited to American tastes and the wine writer’s palette. Did they go too far from the origin?
Many felt that way – it was something of a war between traditionalists and modernists in Barolo. In the end it is a matter of taste, but it feels like it like that 100-point vintage was one of the turning points when you loook back. Many took a half step backwards and started to look for the traditional again. There is also a new generation of young winemakers who will and have begun to make their mark on the wines – wanting to go there way.
One can see it the modern Barolo as a bubble. Personally I’m not a big fan of the style but I think there are lot of positive that came out of this period and its this experimentation. This has led to the that the wines are much cleaner and fresher today and at the same time more accessible as young though still with good ageing potential. The wineries are more modern so there are better possibilites to do good wines, there is more money in the region which also is an enabler for working with quality.
This movie is a good starting point to understanding Barolo and its development but also to understand where Barolo is going, what is to come. However, it is not a film that only illuminates what happened in the “modern Barolo” but it can be translated into what happened in the “modern Rioja”, the “modern Bordeaux” and so forth – what is sometimes called the Parkerfying of wine. It describes an era in the wine industry that can be found in many places and the movie provides a key in understanding this.
This is a really good and interesting movie for all those interested in wine and winemaking. So sit down, pour a glass of good Barolo and take in what the Barolo boys learned and take part of their heritage, of images of the past and the present, and glimpses of the future.
Among the people you see and hear in the movie are Carlo Petrini, Oscar Farinetti, Joe Bastianich, Elio Altare, Chiara Boschis, Marc de Grazia, Giorgio Rivetti, Roberto Voerzio, Lorenzo Accomasso, Silvia Altare, Beppe Caviola, Alessandro e Bruno Ceretto, Giampiero Cereda, Giancarlo Gariglio, David Berry Green, Bartolo Mascarello, Marta e Beppe Rinaldi, Davide Rosso and Maggiore Vacchetto.