Over the last couple of years, I’ve traveled over 18,000 kilometres, visiting about 20 Spanish wine regions, plus the Douro region of Portugal, and have filmed over 230 hours of material that will be made into four documentaries related to wine, all due to be released over the course of 2011. The films have relatively little to do with wine as a drink, but focus on the often unique, fascinating people and complex culture that produce it. It has been the stories that I’ve heard that have kept me interested, stories that deserve to be known but that are all too often ignored, even by the wine world itself.
Of all the many remarkable stories and interviews for which I am very grateful to have shared, that of Pedro Vivanco has to rank as the most incredible and unique.
No one else started off delivering family wines door-to-door on a bicycle as a teenager and subsequently rose to become the major provider of wine to Rioja wineries. No one else was a bad student in school but then went away to study wine-making at twenty-two and earned top marks. No one else gave his wife half the credit for his success. And when everyone else was destroying old wine making equipment to make way for the new, Pedro started saving and collecting those pieces that would later serve as the foundation for what is widely considered the best wine museum in the world.
I first went to visit in 2009 to film material for my Spanish grapes documentary, being introduced to the family via their London representative and ace wine blogger Robert McIntosh http://wineconversation.com. At the time, that documentary seemed an overwhelming task so I thought that doing a few smaller, more contained films in the meanwhile would be a good idea, especially since so many stories arise begging to be made into films.
This happened when I visited the unknown but fascinating area of Arribes on the Duero next to Portugal, with its traditionally sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle and culture, and it happened when I went to the Douro in Portugal to do what was supposed to be a short film on the Quevedo winery in collaboration with Catavino.net.
I love museums, so when I saw the quality of the art and anthropology pieces in the Dinastia Vivanco, I thought that I could do a half hour piece juxtaposing the winery with the museum. But when I finished interviewing brothers Rafael and Santiago Vivanco who run the winery and the museum, respectively, and started editing it, I saw that it would be an hour long film. I went back to film the vineyards, landscapes, and villages a second time. I also wanted to interview Pedro, but got no real reply, and the film was getting close to being finished when an opportunity to show it at the Anthology Film Archives in New York as part of the New Filmmakers series came up. That caught Dinastia Vivanco’s attention and they agreed that it would be a good idea for me to interview Pedro.
So back I went for a third time, thinking that I would get some reminiscences and a bit of a historical context of how it was in the “old days”. Instead, what Pedro had to say and how he said it took the documentary to whole new level, and I felt that the film had been blessed.
I returned home to edit it and the new interview fell into place fairly easily with the rest of the content. Dinastia Vivanco’s marketing director Robert McArdle came to the New York screening which was attended by about 150 people. After seeing it, he suggested that I may consider interviewing Pedro’s mother Felisa and his wife Angelica. Having finally finished the film (or so I thought), I was a bit reluctant to do so. But it was a good idea that grew on me, and back again I went. They gave further insights into life and history, but this time the re-editing took considerably more doing. I also went back for a fifth time to film the red and orange coloured vineyards at the end of the harvest.
There is a perception that Dinastia Vivanco, having opened a winery under its own name in 2004, is a new producer with funds that has enabled them to open a museum rather than the result of a century of history. No matter where I’ve been, it’s never as simple as it seems from the outside.
Pedro Vivanco himself has been making quality wines for decades, and he has had his hand in producing many a highly rated Rioja wine. The museum was the result of 40 years of collecting, as well as foresight and a passion for his profession. Although the context may be wine, it is as much as story about love, passion, vision and hard work, making, I hope, the documentary interesting for those into wine and those who aren’t.
There’s a screening and tasting in London on March 17, 2011, here’s an invite to download – Dinastia Vivanco, at the Roxy Bar and Screen, and plans are being made for more events in the US and Europe. Stay tuned.