Talking up wine on Santorini
A two-day event unites specialists for the Greek premiere of director Jonathan Nossiter's Mondovino
In Mondovino, Jonathan Nossiter explores the current situation in the international world of wine, including small-scale versus large-scale production.
If your knowledge of wine is limited to the “maturing and aging” process and your vocabulary is restricted to “aroma and color,” you would have enjoyed a three-day event earlier this month at the Santorini vineyards.
The occasion was the Greek premiere of Jonathan Nossiter's Mondovino (2004) and the event was organized by the Thira Film Club.
For two days, winetasters energized their palates by sampling excellent varieties of Santorini wine. They appreciated the dynamics and richness of the Assyrtiko and got addicted to the sweet and sour character of Vinsanto. They also got a taste of the war that Nossiter says is raging in the world of wine — the battle between the small-scale European school of wine culture and the invasion of big-name brands.
The visit included the “Wine - Culture - Globalization” conference, vineyard visits and accommodation for visiting journalists. It was organized by 11 Santorini wine producers, the island's film club with support of the sub-prefecture, the Santorini Municipality and the Oia commune.
The film's premiere took place at an ideal venue, the Boutaris winery in Megalohori, which hosts the film club's screenings. It was a powerful test drive for its debut with the Greek public, which included wine producers, oenologists and wine critics. Most of the film critics present in Santorini had already seen the film at last year's Cannes Film Festival. The discussion, which had begun on the French Riviera, continued during last week's meeting. The film paints a rather pessimistic picture: Globalization and flavor standardization will inevitably lead to the disappearance of original wines — a stance with which numerous specialists on Santorini disagreed.
“Mondovino” reflects the cosmopolitan air of its creator. Born in the United States, 44-year-old Nossiter grew up in France, Britain, Italy, Greece and India. In the film, the director travels from the Pyrenees and Sardinia to the US, Argentina, Italy and France, meeting up with the world's most prominent winemakers.
With his camera in hand, Nossiter conducts research and interviews, plays editing games and employs finesse and knowledge (he is, after all, a sommelier) in an attempt to outline the current situation in the world of wine.
Following the film's screening in Santorini, the discussion became heated — flowing wine adding fuel to the arguments. Criticism of the film was summed up in a commentary written by wine specialist Dean Stergides, published in the Ampelotopi wine review.
“The problem with Mondovino is that although Mr Nossiter begins with a valid question, he does not develop his story as a journalist, but as a director,” Stergides wrote. “In this way and in order to make his work attractive to the inexperienced and have them identify with the good guys, he proclaims a few of the winemakers as the bad guys. And here's the question: Are there bad guys when it comes to wine?”
Dialogue, however, is productive and opens up the road for people from different fields to exchange views. In Santorini, the film club's soul and president, Margarita Roussaki, was responsible for bringing all the different worlds together.
Santorini boasts an historical vineyard stretching over 15,000 acres. Away from tourism-related over-exploitation, which has spoilt much of the landscape, the island enjoys an uninterrupted history of vineyards through a “discussion” which began thousands of years ago.
According to archaeology professor C.G. Doumas, who is in charge of the excavations at the prehistoric Akrotiri site, research in the area points not only to winemaking and storage activity, but also to trade. Findings on the island demonstrate the role of Santorini in wine trading since the 17th century BC.
By Maria Katsounaki - Kathimerini