“Living Wine” documentary

I know that “natural wine “often serves as somewhat of a punching bag on this forum. Nonetheless, this documentary at least seems interesting, and prominently features actual winemakers, not a bunch of somms fawning over their favorite niche producers.

Keen to see it - hopefully it’ll eventually land on a streaming service I can get to it on…

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I went to the premiere! Searchlights, limousines, movie stars in mink coats…maybe not…just a few down home winemakers in downtown San Rafael de Marin.

The movie makes a strong argument for making wine naturally and I really like the people.

I am not sold on the ageability of these wines but when young they can be quit tasty.


Here are my thoughts on it I posted to our SantaFe Winos Facebook page:

Attended tonight the Living Wine film/event at JeanCocteau tonight. It was a very well-organized event.
Paul & Martha Wines presented a very good selection of natural wines. Only one natural wine, a Spanish red, was a bit too natty for my tastes, a bit on the funky/unclean side. But the others were very representative of good/solid natural wines.
As for the film… the subject of natural wines is a very complex subject loaded with a lot of thoughts that take on a religious fervor. I thought the film was rather an oversimplification. The film closed with the statement that only 2% of Calif wines are natural, with the implication that the remaining wines are all “commercial”. That is pure baloney.
First, there is no real/precise definition of natural wines. There is a whole spectrum of winemaking techniques that are used from the level of FredFranzia commercial wines through to the purest of the natural wines, and everything in between. There are folks that regard the wines of DarekTrowbridge and ClosSaron not sufficiently pure to be regarded as natural wines. Are Ridge wines natural wines?? Many would regard them as such. But the people at Ridge would reject that thought. They prefer the term “pre-industrial winemaking”.
So I regard the film as a gross oversimplification of the natural wine movement. Nonetheless, it is a film very much worth viewing & raises some very interesting points.
However, any film on natural wines that does not raise the subject of AliceFeiring has to be regarded as a bit on the shallow side.

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The folks at Ridge simply speak with more precision. As you say, there is no precise definition of natural when it comes to wine. And, other than organic and dry farmed, it’s hard to conceive of a coherent one.

Wine is, after all, several steps removed from the natural state of grapes; and, for centuries, and along with bread, it was probably one of the most relatively “artificial” things a person could consume.

I’m looking forward to watching this movie at some point, albeit with my cynic’s hat on. I am fully in favor of vineyards and wineries moving toward regenerative agriculture, dry farming, reduced pesticide/herbicide/fungicide use. But I generally find the whole movement and its advocates to be nauseatingly self-satisfied or moralizing, and often under-informed or misinformed on some of the scientific concepts. The very title “Living Wine” suggests that other wines are somehow dead and that this is a bad thing. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting diverse gut flora, but food sterility and stability can be important too.

I’ve yet to see a documentary called “Living Milk” that rails against pasteurization.

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France has taken a whack at a definition.

That’s a couple years ago now, haven’t been close enough to see if anyone I know or buy has bothered with it.

Not sure Alice Feiring would need to be part of a documentary on natural wine to make it legit… But here is her on the theme related to the French designation above with some other well known figures in that space on the Real Business of Wine series.

Watched this on the plane last night. Pretty interesting. A few observations:

Most of the people presented well. Was cool to see some of the young winemakers completely bootstrapping their operations. Gideon came off as a bit of a hippie but ultimately very genuine and interested in mentoring the interns. The fact that he’s making pinot and not trying to force Furmint to make a dry orange wine helps.

There was a short bit where the “Darek” guy said something to the effect of “you can’t use mechanical harvesters, because the electromagnetic fields screws up the energy of the grapes” My eyes rolled literally around the back of my head and out the other side. Apparently when he fires up the electric press later in the movie, those EMFs are OK.

I couldn’t help but notice when the wildfires came and they all rush to pick, even though they acknowledge it’s not the right time, that considerations about ‘listening to the vineyard’ and ‘not rushing the process’ go right out the window when the money is on the line. I’m sympathetic - they’re not running a charity - but maybe remember your horse ain’t quite so high.

Early on there’s a chardonnay tasting, and basically everyone is bad mouthing chard, saying they’re “ABC” wine drinkers, etc. Then open a ‘standard’ chard (bottle is not reveled) and everyone goes on about ‘we’ve been told this is what chard is SUPPOSED to taste like’ before they all taste a chard that looks like a hazy IPA. I don’t know about you but I don’t like to floss after my chard. They should talk to those people in France, they’ve been doing OK with relatively clear gold chards.

Finally as noted above, they paint EVERYTING ELSE with a broad brush. There’s a scene talking about the 100s of things that can be added to wine, and then a quick shot of bottles which includes a Williams-Selyem and Rhys wine. I don’t know the exact vineyard and winery practices of these producers, and I don’t think anyone would really call them ‘natural wine’, but lumping them in with Rombauer ain’t appropriate. You ain’t special because you foot stomp the wines.

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