What I’ve been doing lately

Over the last year or so, I have visited some 20 different wine regions in Spain, travelling over 15,000 kilometres (10,000 miles), accumulating 180+ hours of material, including many fascinating interviews on the history, evolution and culture of wine. Not only has the filming, travelling, wine and food been an incredible experience, but supportive professional relationships and solid friendships have arisen from it.

I didn’t have the opportunity to start editing until late in 2009, but am finally wrapping up the first documentary on the Dinastia Vivanco winery and top wine museum which will be screening at Anthology Film Archives, New York as part of their New Filmmakers series on June 30. More screenings in the USA, UK, Spain and elsewhere are being arranged.

Dinastia Vivanco at Anthology Film Archives, NYC invite

I originally visited Dinastia Vivanco to tape material for a series of documentaries on the wider topic of Spanish wine looking at grape varieties, wine making and marketing, but the museum and 100-year family history gave me the idea of also doing a half hour piece of the winery, which then quickly expanded into an hour.

It started off weaving the two interviews with the Rafael and Santiago Vivanco brothers, winemaker and Vivanco Museum and Foundation director, respectively, as well as others involved in the winery. I had originally asked for an interview with their father, who started out delivery family bulk wine on a bicycle about his beginnings, but when the Film Anthology screening came up, I gave up on the idea, and the film editing was close to being finished. But with news of the screening, they finally viewed a very rough, first cut that I had sent a couple of months previously, and agreed that including Pedro Vivanco would be a good idea. So back I went in late May, and started an editing marathon to fit in his interview with the rest of the material. Luckily, it fit in well with Santiago’s overview of the family history over four generations and Rafael’s interview about the evolution of Rioja wine, and luckily the re-editing went as smoothly as could be expected.

The Pedro Vivanco interview gives the documentary an extra-special quality. I feel extremely fortunately to have interviewed many people on their long family histories and erudite and strong opinions about wine and winemaking, and I feel blessed to have had that experience, but no one else started off on a bicycle and ended up with possibly the best wine museum in the world as part of his philosophy of giving back to wine what wine has given to him and a need to share his passion for wine.

I have visited several places for material for my documentaries on broader subjects, but, on taking a closer look, saw that there were stories there waiting to be told, and now my biggest problem is time. It’s always tempting to go off to travel and film (and taste wine that I otherwise wouldn’t) but besides being with my family (and missing them and feeling guilty about being away too much), I have to edit the material to give it sense and meaning. A challenging process I thoroughly enjoy, but it’s just not as tempting and enticing.

In early 2009, I met Ryan and Gabriella Opaz, an American couple living in Barcelona and founders of Catavino (www.catavino.net) that blogs about wine, develops on-line and social media strategies for wineries, and organises the EWBC (European Wine Bloggers Conference). (It was through them that I met Robert McIntosh, wine blogger http://wineconversation.com and Dinastia Vivanco’s representative in the UK, who in turn introduced me to winery.)

I was interested in including social media in my documentary on marketing wine as it is changing the way wines can be promoted in giving a voice to producers and consumers and creating new, evolving relationships between them. This developed into an idea for a film on wine and social media itself, which then evolved using Catavino’s work during a year as they organise this year’s EWBC in Vienna as a narrative thread.

Through Ryan and Gabriella, I met Oscar Quevedo, responsible for marketing his family winery http://quevedoportwine.com in the Douro, Portugal, who has used social media to great effect, including getting importers in the USA and UK. We thought it would be an interesting idea to do a short film on his winery, and see how Catavino and Oscar could use it in tandem with social media to promote the winery, all of which would be included in the final documentary on wine and social media.

Due to circumstances, timing and screening opportunities, we weren’t able to follow up on that particular idea, but it transmuted into an hour long documentary on the Quevedo winery in the context of the history of the Douro and Port wine which hopefully will be finished by the end of the year.

A new narrative thread was then needed for The Trans-Iberian Express, and I decided to shift the focus on to Ryan and Gabriella themselves, what it is like to live in a culture foreign to your own, work extremely hard for something you believe in, and coming up against resistance to new ideas and ways of doing things, and, through persistence and determination, build something and gain an increasing degree of recognition and success. They are solid, straight-forward, and sharp, both personally and professionally, and a film should emerge on exile and community building as much as on wine and social media.

I don’t know if I’m just lucky or if I chose well or a bit of both, but all three documentaries now have dynamic narratives on people that are great to work with. If all goes well, the Quevedo piece will be finished by the end of 2010, and The Trans-Iberian Express early next year.

I’m slowly but surely going through the rest of the 180 hours of tapes for the documentary on Spanish grape varieties, each representing a region, history and culture. I will interview two other people I have been lucky enough to meet that should give it an interesting overview. One is Norrel Robertson, a Master of Wine working out of Calatayud who makes wine in various Spanish using a dozen different grape varieties or more. I have already interviewed him on Garnacha in Calatayud, and on Monastrell in Bullas and Jumilla. The other is the leading Spanish wine writer Amaya Cervera, and the two should offer an interesting juxtaposition of points of view and experiences. Not to mention the few dozen winemakers talking about their own particular grapes, wines and regions. Warren Edwardes has asked me to write an article on Spanish grape varieties from my point of view for his GrapesTALK http://grapestalk.co.uk magazine, and I’ll talk more about the people I’ve interviewed.

Other documentaries, projects and ideas are simmering and bubbling in the back of my mind, it’s just a question of finding the time. My www.artafterscience.com collaboration with Adrian Marshall has also been temporarily put on hold as has my painting, but both will be back in due time. The films on wine making and marketing wine should be released sometime in 2011.

I feel very fortunate to have had this experience, and would like say thanks, first to my wife  Albertina Torres www.albertinatorres.blogspot.com for her help and support, and to all those who have generously invited me to their wineries, vineyards, and along their travels, and for the wine and food that has nourished me along the way.

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2 Responses to What I’ve been doing lately

  1. April Yap says:

    Hi Zev,

    Travelling for wine is a great experience. Being able to travel and taste the different wine varieties from different regions and places is such a great experience.

    BTW, I wanted to ask you a question about your blog but I couldn’t find a contact form. Let me know if I can email you!


  2. Pingback: Documentary Teaser on the Spanish Wine Region of Arribes « Wine Blog Reviews

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