In the 1980s and 90s, a small cadre of young men in Piedmonte, Italy aggressively broke with the winemaking traditions of their fathers. Born of economic necessity, these “Barolo Boys” embraced French techniques including intensely ripe fruit and the use of New Oak French Barriques. It was a revolutionary move causing scandal in Italy, but also resulting in enormous financial and cultural rewards. The wines were beloved by critics both within Italy and overseas.
Barolo Boys: the Story of a Revolution (2014) tells this story primarily through interviews with the people that lived it.
The trailer is below:
I rate this movie 87 points on the 100 Point Wine Rating Scale popularized by Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, and others…
The best things about Barolo Boys:
If you are new to the story of the Barolo Boys or are first being exposed to the wine region of Piedmont, you’ll likely find this a pleasant overview. The story is told clearly and concisely. The characters and their dilemmas are well drawn. There are also some soaring videography of Barolo’s beautiful vineyards.
The most precious parts of this documentary, however, are the intimate interviews with some of the Barolo Boys: Elio Altare, Marc de Grazia (Barolo Importer), Giorgio Rivetti, Robert Voerzio, Bruno Ceretto and more including Barolo Girl Chiara Boschis. Preserving for posterity the first hand accounts of their figure is a blessing. Many of these winemakers are of advanced years and their isn’t likely must time left to document their stories. See the full list here.
The least effective parts of Barolo Boys:
The documentary is quite short, coming in at only 64 minutes, and yet often feels slow and bloated. You could easily trim this to 45 minutes and lose nothing. There is so much more to say about this topic that is interesting. Long sequences of marching bands and soccer players didn’t add to the film. I definitely believe that this film was padded to get to feature length for festival submissions.
In addition, the filmmaking was at times amateurish. The directors didn’t seem to trust the film’s ability to keep our attention in flashback. They are digitally over-processed in the style common to college film students. It makes the film feel cheaply made. This is unfortunate because there are other times, specifically vineyard photography, where everything is smooth and professional.
The last major flaw is the intro and outro by Joe Bastianich. He simply lacks any charisma onscreen. You feel bad for him as Bastianich is a deer in the camera’s headlights. Don’t feel too bad for him, though. He has famous parents and manages dozens of awesome restaurants around the world as well as Eataly. But he should not have been in this documentary and his introduction may make many people turn it off prematurely.
If you are new to the story of the Barolo Boys, you’ll get a lot out of this. I do recommend that you watch Barolo Boys even if you are already knowledgeable about them. It is great to see the vineyards of Piedmonte and many of the prominent winemakers of Barolo. Not a bad way to spend an hour.
I rented my copy of this documentary.
In my job at Cutting Edge Selections, we currently sell in Ohio and Kentucky some of the wineries referenced in this documentary, but most of the wines and the major importer featured in the documentary are with direct competitors of Cutting Edge.