10 April 2020

Film review: Résistence naturelle (2014), By Jonathan Nossiter, **


Ten years after the landmark wine documentary Mondovino, filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter returns to the subject, documenting the drastic shifts that have affected the industry in the time since. Natural Resistance follows four Italian winegrowers.

First is Giovanna Tiezzi lives in a converted 11th-century monastery, and grow grains, fruit, and wine in a way that links to their ancient heritage. She laments that much of Tuscany's vineyards have been bought up by foreigners, but then is proud that her region is a leader in quality vine cultivation.

Corrado Dottori is a refugee from industrial Milan, who inherited his grandfather's farmstead and tends to it as an expression of agricultural social justice. he studied capitalism at the Bocconi, he says, so as to criticize it better.

Elena Pantaleoni works her father's vineyards and strives to create a utopian reality.

Finally, Stefano Belloti, the controversial radical farmer poet, disrupts the long-established rules of farming from his avant-garde property in Piedmont. (Synopsys partly from IBMD.com)


A lot of ideology in this hastily put together film, which is really only a compilation of Nossiter's chats with the above growers over some wine.

The title "resistance" recalls the fighters of World War II against fascism and nazism, and it is not by chance. Nossiter, inserts several clips of Mussolini speaking from a balcony and SS guards rounding up civilians in this movie, and contrasts them with the heroic organic farmers, his partisans of today.

The other word in the title is "natural". The film compares and contrasts it with "artificial". And artificial (made by man with material that exists in nature) is not the same as "synthetic" (made through synthesis, transforming elements that do not exist in nature). Of course, all wine is artificial, it does not exist in nature.

Several of the protagonists complain about the DOC rules being abstract, detached from the criteria for quality that was the original reason for being created. In this they are right, and it has long widely been accepted that many top-quality Italian wines do not have, seek or need DOC certification.

The film nostalgically recalls when, in Italy, but the numbers are similar in other European countries, 60% of the people lived and worked on farms. Now it is about 2-3% depending on how you count it. Of course, every country that modernizes and develops moves from the primary sector of the economy (agriculture) to the secondary (manufacturing) and on to the tertiary (services). This brings higher standards of living, I find it hard to argue one should go back to the happy past.

The speakers are generally critical of the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They argue it is a conspiracy to hand agriculture to big multinational corporations. Let alone that in several countries, Italy among them, EU subsidies (managed by regional administrations) are often left unused because small farmers do not bother to claim them.

They also argue that hygiene checks are targeted to create problems for small wine producers while they close an eye on the big ones. I do not know about the accuracy of this sweeping statement but they do not provide any evidence.

I also noticed a bias when a farmer shows Nossiter the difference between rich organic soil and standard vineyard next to it. The organic soil is a dark rich color and fluffy texture while the standard soil is hard and grey. But Belotti digs his organic sample near a plant and the other one on a pathway where constant traffic is expected to compact the soil. A careless test at best.

In sum, this film is more of an emotional call to arms than an analysis of the undoubted biological benefits of organic farming.

You can buy the DVD here

03 April 2020

Film review: L'Esprit du vin (2011) by Olympe and Yvon Minvielle **


A film sponsored by Château Lagarette, a biodynamic producer in Bordeaux.

A dozen or so biodynamic wine-growers express their vision of the present and make proposals for the future.

They ask eminently social and even political questions: What food? How Could humanity restore the ideal of living together?

Through their stories, practices, and the accumulation of knowledge from their experiences, the producers of the film and a group of farmers, biodynamic wine-growers, try to open a path. They want to show how the spirit of bio-dynamics could provide answers to these questions.


This film is an all-out passionate defense of biodynamic viticulture. I say defense because most of the interviewees talk as if they are under siege, as if the evil forces of modernity are out to extinguish the feeble flame of tradition. No alternative point of view is presented in the film. If you want to hear alternative voices, skeptical or critical of biodynamic wine, you have to look elsewhere.

Clearly, the growers interviewed are very passionate about their wine, but often they get carried away. Just a few pearls from their statements. A basic theme of the film is a high level of hostility toward "technology": there is "technological" wine, which is artificial and then there is biodynamic wine, which is natural. Oddly, little attention is paid to organic wines, although biodynamic certification requires a wine to be organic to begin with.

A couple of speakers identify "technological" wines as the result of American influence and specifically the work of Robert Parker, while, on the contrary, "Europe" is the custodian of genuine winemaking. Well, Parker has nothing against biodynamic wines and actually promotes it. And, of course, there are lots of American biodynamic producers and in fact the USA is the biggest biodynamic farming producer in the world.

One speaker argues that biodynamic vineyards are better equipped to resist the negative radioactive impact of Chernobyl, thus lumping together as if it was a dogmatic truth a whole host of questionable assumptions.

A major problem for me is when, as several speakers repeat in this film, the argument is put forward that what is important in biodynamic wine is NOT the result, but the relationship between man and nature, a new philosophy of daily life. Assuming the latter is somehow better served in biodynamic farming, for me the end result, ie good and healthy wine, IS WHAT MATTERS.

Technology, a word that is often repeated with a grimace by many interviewees, destroys the relationship man and nature, farmer and vineyard. Biodynamic preparations restore the correct energy flows! A corollary of this argument is the open hostility of one speaker to established wine associations such as the Masters of Wine. In his view, these associations have been created to serve technology against the natural traditions of wine.

One speaker is very honest when he says biodynamic farming is like a religion: you can not demonstrate it, you can only believe it. Another one compares it to acupuncture: not scientifically proven, but many believe it anyway. Not surprising that biodynamic farmers also accept homeopathic principles, as they use extremely diluted solutions in some of their preparations.

A quirky claim toward the end of the film is that biodynamic wine is especially appreciated by women! Maybe so, as a woman grower claims to have produced a "concert wine" in her biodynamic vineyard because both wine and music share a spirituality for people to appreciate.

If you already believe in biodynamic farming this film will make you feel really good. If you are trying to understand more, it will give you only half the picture.

For a wise and cool view of the subject, read Jancis Robinson, one of the world's most respected authorities.

You can watch the film reviewed here on Youtube.

You can buy the DVD (in French as well as English) here on Amazon. Hard to come by and very expensive, however!

19 March 2020

Film review: Children of Heaven (1997) by Majid Majidi, ****


The accidental loss of a pair of shoes causes problems for a young Iranian boy in this award-winning family drama from director Majid Majidi. After Ali (Mir Farrokh Hashemian) fetches his little sister Zahra (Bahare Seddiqi)'s pink shoes from the cobblers, they are accidentally picked up by a garbageman.

With his family in financial troubles, Ali decides not to tell his parents about the loss. Instead, he agrees to share his shoes with Zahra.

The plan is that she will wear them to school in the morning and return them to Ali at midday, so he can attend afternoon classes. However, the arrangement soon brings further hardships and it's not long before Ali is forced to consider an alternative solution.

In 1998, it was the first Iranian film to be nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film by the Academy.


A lot of suspense in this movie with two children as protagonists of a story that takes us into the life of poor Iranians scraping a living at the margins of society. I see it as a celebration of family love as much as a not-so-indirect denunciation of social inequality in Iran. The two young actors are really talented! Very illuminating to look at the world, or at least at Iran, with the eyes of children who can find happy moments in adversity and overcome the odds.

14 March 2020

Guest post: Giordania alla scoperta dei luoghi biblici, di Carlotta Garilesi

Monte Nebo
Da inizierò a pubblicare post in collaborazione con Rolling Pandas. Spero siano di gradimento dei miei lettori.


Che decidiate di svolgere un pellegrinaggio a Canaan o che siate solo curiosi, la visita dei siti biblici della Giordania è un viaggio indimenticabile e ricco di storia ed emozioni.

Monte Nebo

Secondo ciò che è scritto nel Deuteronomio, Mosè affrontò un’arrampicata sul Monte Nebo per ricevere da Dio la mostra della Terra Promessa prima di morire da lì a pochi giorni.

Sulla cima più alta, intorno ai 710 metri, sono stati ritrovati negli anni ‘30 i resti di una chiesa e di un monastero bizantini costruiti in commemorazione alla morte di Mosè.

Betania oltre il fiume Giordano

Sulla riva destra di questo fiume trovate Betania, un luogo importante per le Sacre Scritture. La prima citazione di questa meta nella Bibbia si ha nel secondo libro dei Re dell’Antico Testamento in cui, sulle rive del Giordano, il profeta Elia ascese in paradiso con carro e cavalli infuocati dopo aver nominato Eliseo come suo successore.

Dopo secoli il luogo acquistò popolarità grazie alle predicazioni e ai battesimi effettuati nelle sorgenti nei pressi del fiume Giordano da Giovanni Battista che solitamente riposava in una caverna vicino alle sorgenti di “Saphsaphas”, dove era solito ricevere le visite di Gesù. Intorno alla grotta di Giovanni fu costruito nel V secolo un monastero che comprendeva quattro chiese.

Riscoperta verso gli anni ‘90 dell’Ottocento, Betania oltre il Giordano tornò in auge come luogo di pellegrinaggio cristiano nel ‘900, in particolare dopo il 1994 (anno del trattato di pace israelo-giordano).

Sulla meta vi sono cartelli esplicativi e visite guidate che descrivono le vicende che si sono susseguite sulle rive del Giordano durante i secoli.

Umm Qais

Le leggende narrano che qui Gesù abbia esorcizzato un uomo pazzo trasferendo i suoi demoni ad un branco di maiali annegati, dopo una corsa folle giù dalle colline, nel mar di Galilea.

La città si trova su una collinetta da dove si possono ammirare il già nominato mar di Galilea, ma anche le Alture del Golan, il Monte Hermon e la Valle del Giordano.

Gadara si aggiudica la menzione di ciò che c’è da vedere in Giordania non solo per i suoi punti panoramici e la sua eredità religiosa, ma anche per le sue estese rovine: due teatri in basalto, bagni pubblici, un acquedotto, una basilica e il decumano massimo ancora in parte conservati, ogni angolo è la prova dell’antico splendore della città ormai scomparsa.

Mar Morto
Mar Morto

Una delle mete più conosciute per le numerose citazioni nella Bibbia, il Mar Morto nell’immaginario religioso è principalmente conosciuto per le vicende di Sodoma e Gomorra.
Nel libro della Genesi si dice che rivelò ad Abramo la sua intenzione di distruggere le due città perché «il loro peccato era molto grave». Due angeli ricevettero, quindi, l’incarico di distruggerle, ma arrivati a Sodoma, vennero accolti da Lot, nipote di Abramo, che chiese loro di risparmiare le città. Dopo aver rifiutato, la moglie di Lot iniziò a fuggire, ma si girò e fu trasformata in statua di sale, motivo per cui sulle coste del Mar Morto è comune vedere delle formazioni rocciose simili a delle figure che vengono spesso identificate proprio nella moglie di Lot.

Nelle sue vicinanze, in particolare nel villaggio di Safi sorge la grotta dove si presume che Lot e le sue due figlie abbiano vissuto dopo essere scappati da Sodoma.

Eppure, il Mar Morto è diventato importante nella seconda metà del ‘900 anche per i ritrovamenti archeologici: i manoscritti, i primi trovati nel 1946, sono datati tra il III secolo a.C. e il I secolo d.C.

Consigli Utili Prima di Partire per la Giordania

Partire per la Giordania per scoprire i luoghi biblici può essere davvero un'esperienza unica, un viaggio attraverso l'incredibile storia di questa terra, che oltre alle destinazioni appena descritte ha davvero tanto da offrire. Dalle rovine degli insediamenti romani a Jerash e Azraq ai primi insediamenti greci nella regione visitabili a Umm Qais, passando per i castelli crociati Karak e Shobak, la Giordania è decisamente una delle destinazioni che maggiormente attirano gli appassionati di storia, in particolare del mondo antico.

La Giordania è inoltre nota per gli incantevoli paesaggi naturalistici, la bellezza unica delle barriere coralline del Mar Rosso esplorabili ad Aqaba ed ancora una lunga tradizione culinaria che sapranno rendere indimenticabile il tuo viaggio in Giordania.

Di seguito vogliamo lasciarvi con qualche consiglio utile prima della partenza.

Come arrivare in Giordania

Se state cercando un volo per la Giordania vi consigliamo di effettuare la vostra ricerca sull'aeroporto internazionale Queen Alia (AMM) che si trova 35 km a sud di Amman.

Sono molti gli aeroporti che dall'Italia servono questa tratta e prenotando con anticipo è possibile trovare biglietti aerei a prezzi davvero bassi. L'aeroporto italiano dal quale è possibile trovare le migliori tariffe è quello di Milano Malpensa. Acquistando infatti i biglietti con qualche mese di anticipo rispetto alla partenza è possibile trovare offerte a partire da 80 euro a persona per andata e ritorno. Altro consiglio poi se partite dall'aeroporto di Milano è prenotare per tempo anche la tua sosta presso l'aerostazione milanese. Anche in questo caso, la prenotazione in anticipo sulla partenza ti permette di risparmiare e di poter trovare il miglior parcheggio Malpensa low cost in relazione alle vostre esigenze.

Quando andare in Giordania

In Giordania il clima e le temperature variano molto in relazione alla zona del paese che desiderate visitare, per le differenze di altitudine che contraddistingue il territorio. Ad esempio ad Amman, così come il resto della Giordania settentrionale è solitamente più freddo rispetto al resto del paese.

Se dobbiamo consigliare un periodo nel quale visitare la Giordania, sicuramente più piacevole sarà organizzare la vostra partenza alla scoperta dei luoghi sacri durante la primavera o l'autunno, quando i luoghi di maggior interesse non sono affollati da turisti ed le temperature sono ideali per le escursioni a piedi. L'estate infatti è solitamente contraddistinta da un clima torrido e temperature elevate soprattutto nella zona del Mar Morto. L'inverno invece può essere molto rigido ed in questo periodo molte attività turistiche sono sospese.

Si ricorda infine che in Giordania si segue il Ramadan durante il nono mese del calendario musulmano, durante il quale i fedeli, la maggior parte della popolazione, digiunano e si astengono dal bere durante tutte le ore diurne. Anche se i turisti non sono obbligati a seguire queste regole, mangiare in pubblico durante questo periodo è considerato da molti una mancanza di rispetto ed inoltre la disponibilità di servizi e gli orari di apertura di molte attrazioni turistiche, in particolare nei luoghi biblici, possono diventare decisamente irregolari.

Il nostro consiglio è quello di non perdere la possibilità di compiere un viaggio in Giordania per un’esperienza all’insegna di emozioni, storia e spiritualità.

Puoi comprare libri per preparare il viaggio in Giordania qui.

05 March 2020

Film review: The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003) by L. Falorni and B. Davaa, ***


Documentary intercut with tender narrative drama set in the Gobi desert in Mongolia. When a camel gives birth to a rare white camel colt, the difficult and protracted delivery leads to problems: the mother rejects her baby and refuses him her milk or bodily warmth. This turn of events spells disaster for the nomadic family to whom the camels belong, and they send their two sons off to the nearest town (some 30 miles away, on camels across the desert) to find a musician who can perform the ancient 'Hoos' ceremony that will reconcile the mother with her son. The film won the 2003 European Film Award for Best Documentary.


It is a documentary but narrated like a historical novel. The movie takes the viewer into the secret lives of Mongolian camel herders, where camels assume individual personalities and are almost part of the family. It is plain narration, not emotionally charged, but a good illustration of the life of this nation about which we do not know much.

Films about wine

Films are listed in alphabetical order by title. This is a "living list", continuously updated when I manage to see new films.

An Autumn Tale (1998), by Eric Rohmer. ****

Barolo Boys (2014) The story of how Barolo changed and became famous.

Bottle Shock (2008) by Randal Miller, *****. The story of the "Judgement of Paris" of 1976.

Disrupting Wine (2020) by Johan Rimestad, ***. The story of Heini Zachariassen, the founder of Vivino.

L'Esprit du vin (2011) by Olympe and Yvon Minvielle **. Apology of biodynamics.

A Good year (2006), by Ridely Scott. ***

Red Obsession (2013) by David Roach and Warwick Ross, ****. The Cinese wealthy start buying great wines.

Résistence naturelle (2014), by Jonathan Nossiter. ** An accusation against presumed threats to wine and the environment.

A seat at the table (2019) by David Nash and Simon Mark-Brown, **. New Zealand joins the top table of wine making nations. 

Sideways (2004) by Alexander Payne. ***** The best romantic comedy about wine lovers.

Somm (2012) by Jason Wise, ****. The story of a most excruciating battle to reach the summit of the wine trade.

Somm, into the bottle (2015), by Jason Wise, ****. Stories of somms, rare bottles and the meaning of it all.

Somm 3, (2018), by Jason Wise, **

Three Days of Glory (2018) by Scott Wright and David Baker, ***. Three days in Burgundy for an eclusive annual event.

Vintage (2019) by Colin West, *. Vintage time at a NZ vineyard.

A Walk in the Clouds (1995), by Alfonso Arau. ****

A Year in Burgundy (2013) by David Kennard. *** Documentary about a vintage (2011) and the people behind it.

You will be my son (2010), by Gilles Legrand, ****

01 March 2020

Film review: Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) by Scott Hicks ****


Scott Hicks' screen adaptation of David Guterson's best-selling novel. On San Pietro Island, shortly after the end of World War Two, local fisherman Kazuo (Rick Yune) is on trial for the murder of another fisherman. The hearings are attended by Ishmael (Ethan Hawke), a local reporter who was also the childhood sweetheart of Kazuo's wife, Hatsue. As the hearings progress, Ishmael gradually begins to realize the extent of anti-Japanese feelings which still remains, and suspects that it could affect the course of the trial.


A gripping historical novel about a lesser-known (unless you are a Japanese-American) aspect of domestic politics in the USA during and after World War II. A dark page in American democracy but a message of hope at the end. Also, it shows how immigrants in the American melting pot do not always, well, melt in the pot but keep cultural, if not political, affiliations to their country of origin.

You can buy the book here

Compra la versione italiana qui

13 December 2019

Cantina Pereira d'Oliveiras, Funchal, Madeira, Portogallo

Accogliente Luis Pereira d’Oliveiras nella cantina che la famiglia gestisce dal 1850. 

Il padre Anibal, figura storica dell’isola, li ha lasciati da pochi anni, adesso è lui il capo, aiutato dal figlio Felipe. Mi offre di assaggiare tutto quello che voglio, dalle bottiglie più recenti fino a quelle appunto, del 1850! Non so da dove cominciare. 

Con calma, comincio dagli anni 90 del XX secolo e risalgo man mano fino al 1850. Ecco qualche appunto un po’ a caso che ho preso oggi pomeriggio.

Per un articolo più completo e ragionato sul vino di Madeira, leggi questo post sul sito del Brussels Wine Club, AIS di Bruxelles.

Verdelho 2000 colheita bottled 2018
Forte acidità
Mandorle tostate

Sercial 1999 colheita bottled 2016
Even fresher
Deve aspettare 100 anni

Tinta negra 1995 medium dry, bottled 2019
Still very dry, comincia a essere bevibile

Verdelho 1994 bottled 2019
Pronto grande potenziale
Caramello nocciole tostate

Malvazia 1990 bottled 2019
Mela cotogna
Perfect balance
Round ready smooth
Score 90

Boal 1984 bottled 2017
Round complex long
score 94

Boal 1982 bottled 2019
Dry figs
Ready complex
Moderate length
Score 92

Terrantez 1971 bottled 2018
Perfect balance
Score 94

Sercial 1969 bottled 2019
Still incredibly fresh
Lacks length
Score 86

Boal 1968 bottled 2019
Dark Amber
Very long
Score 95

Sercial 1937 bottled 2003
Still incredibile freshness
Moderate length
Score 88

Verdelho 1932 bottled 2012
Nuts figs
Still on fresh side, moderate balance
Very long
Score 96

Bastardo 1927 bottled 2014
Complex nose
Figs prugne cotte
Perfect balance
Long, imbottigliato per la prima volta nel 2007!
Score 98

Verdelho 1912 bottled before 1994 not indicate bottling on label
Nuts figs
Still incredibly fresh
Very long
Score 98

Boal 1903 bottled 2017
Still fresh!
Near Perfect balance long
Score 94

Moscatel 1875 the bottled pré 1994
Super complex
Amazing balance and length
Score 99

Sercial 1862 bottled 2014
Still very fresh even too fresh
Touch of bitterness
Moderate length
Score 88

Verdelho 1850 no bottling date
Still fresh
Touch of bitter
Long complex
Score 90

Up to 80 years of aging is optimal, longer and the rise in cost is not justified by a corresponding rise in quality and drinkability

12 November 2019

Magnolia, a Chinese Poem

作者:睦石 (Author: Mu Shi)
朝代:明朝 (Dynasty: Ming Dynasty)

玉兰原文:Original Magnolia


ní shang piàn piàn wǎn zhuāng xīn ,shù sù tíng tíng yù diàn chūn 。
yǐ xiàng dān xiá shēng qiǎn yūn ,gù jiāng qīng lù zuò fāng chén 。



Your petals pretty and light
Like the evening makeup fresh and bright

Your twigs and branches slim and slender
Like girls waists graceful and tender

Your pink petals of various shades
falling and drifting at its own pace

Hugged and kissed by morning dew
Like Spring embracing you

Poetic translation by Lifang Yan

11 November 2019

Chenzhou west railway station

Want to talk about water?
Time to catch a train back to Hong Kong and return to Europe. The station at Chenzou is impressive as ever.

Or maybe it is normal for a city of 4 million to have a modern railway station with fast trains and proper facilities.

Like wifi. There is free wifi everywhere in the station, though it is not super fast and at times a bit erratic.

Several shops sell food, drinks, small stuff.

Everything is payable electronically with Wechat or Alipay. I am, again, one of the few, maybe the only, customer using cash. Oh wait, this really old man is another one I feel less lonely! Not that I did not try.

Vacuum packed duck meat
But I have not been able to use WeChat pay as I do not have a Chinese credit card. The app allowed me to register a European Mastercard, but when I try to use it to pay it tells me I have no funds. When I try to add funds, for example, my wife tried to send me money from her Wechat, I get a message I am not allowed to receive funds either. So I am stuck, though I can still use the app to communicate with my friends!

As for paying, I am resigned to always be the only one using cash in the supermarket, in the farmer's market, restaurant, everywhere really, though my Mao portraits banknotes have never been rejected. At the station's toilet dispenser I was saved as I had paper tissues in my handbag!

Something which is advertised here though you can not just buy it on the spot and take it away is a Japanese style WC, with all the bell and whistles they come with. All kinds of buttons, to wash, dry and even a "lady function" as the ad says (in English), who knows perhaps it is a front-toward-the-back water jet? Arab toilets have it the other way, back-to-front, to wash the rear of either gender. This is new to me. I am convinced that the first person to import bidets to China will get rich quickly. This high-tech gadget is manufactured in Italy by a company called Faenza.

Strangely empty station in Chenzhou
The fast trains come and go every 6-10 minutes. They are marked white on a large electronic board when they are still far away, then become green when it is time to board, usually 10 minutes or so before they arrive at the platform. This way only passengers for the next departing train can be on the platform at any given time. The train numbers become red when boarding is closed! It's my turn soon, got to gather my stuff and get ready to sprint!

Siedo accanto a due signore che parlano cantonese, non capisco una parola ma riconosco l'accento, che subito tirano fuori pezzi di frutta esotica che non riconosco e uova sode.

Buona parte dei passeggeri mangia roba che si è portata da casa. Mi ricorda i treni che prendevo da bambino in Italia, dove le mamme avevano sempre panini pronti, di solito con prosciutto o salame, prima di tutto per i bambini e per se stesse pure

Filiamo via sui lucidi binari lisci come velluto e arriviamo puntualissimi dopo due ore e mezzo a 300 kmh. Controllo passaporti (ancora necessario per accedere al territorio di Hong Kong dalla Cina) e dogana e poi attraverso ancora una volta la larga striscia gialla che indica il "confine" tra quella che convenzionalmente tutti chiamano "mainland" e la "regione autonoma speciale" che è Hong Kong.

Arrivo a Hong Kong in una splendida giornata di sole, e dopo aver fatto chek-in alla Finnair a Kowloon (a Hong Kong si fa check-in in città e si mollano i bagagli prima di andare in aeroporto) mi accingo a fare un giro per la città quando noto televisori della MTR la metropolitana) che avvisano di disturbi al servizio dovuti a dimostrazioni degli attivisti pro-democrazia.

Rapido controllo sul mio telefono (finalmente posso accedere a tutti i siti e il wifi gratuito dell'aeroporto è velocissimo) e apprendo che ci sono sommosse significative un po’ dappertutto, con anche un ferito grave colpito dalla polizia. È la terza volta che si spara da giugno. Decido che forse il giro in città lo farò un'altra volta.