It was a cold, drizzly evening in Williamsburg as I ducked down a flight of brick steps just outside the Wythe Hotel's screening room and bar entrance. As I entered the space, it hit me: What I was about to experience would be something incredibly special, unique, and (literally) underground. After all, it was the SundanceNow Doc Club's inaugural screening of Jonathan Nossiter's Natural Resistance.
The SundanceNow Doc Club is a service dedicated solely to streaming documentaries completely ad-free! They provide tailored collections selected by tastemakers and experts (from the likes of Susan Sarandon, Anthony Bourdain, and Bill Hader, to name a few) for under $10/month ($6.99/month or $4.99/month for an annual subscription). Natural Resistance is a part of the Club's "Wine and Spirits" Collection (a series that I can get totally down with).
Prior to entering the screening room, I sauntered over to the bar to check out the selection of natural wines being poured for the evening. The tastings married beautifully to the synopsis of the documentary, as the vineyards and their owners were also featured in the film! Below are the varietals that I was able to taste, each distinct in flavor and composition:
- La Distesa Verdicchio 2013
- La Stoppa Malvasia/Ortugo 2009
- Stefano Bellotti Dolcetto/Barbera 2013
- Pacini Sangiovese 2010
While all of the tastings for the evening hailed from Italy, natural wines can now be found all over the world - Austria, France, and even in America. What is a natural wine, you ask? Grapes (for natural wines) are farmed organically and made with minimal chemical or technological interference. Nothing is added and nothing is removed during this process, so you are tasting the PURE byproduct of the fruit and its dominant terroir.
Natural wine has a noticeable difference in its flavor profile; it's a lot more vinegar-y and, in some cases, cider-like. The coloring is derived from the innate hue of the grape skins (which can change with each harvest due to weather and farming) and is not modified to conform to a consumer's expectations of how a white or red should appear. Hence, you might even receive a glass of orange-tinted wine (such as the glass of "La Stoppa," pictured below, that I tried)!
The film was an absolutely lovely portrayal of natural winemakers, their passion for the product, and their stance against conforming to the contrived industry standards enforced by the EU and the DOC. The most eye-opening scene was when winemaker, Stefano Bellotti, dug up the lush, earthy, living soil of his organic vineyard and compared it to that of his neighbor's (soil) just a few feet away, which was hardened, dead, and grey from the over-usage of pesticides and chemicals. It really makes you wonder...Am I what I eat and drink? And, if so, do I want to be hard, dead, and grey!? Let's just say that I'm sold on natural wine!
I absolutely loved my experience with the SundanceNow Doc Club! Make sure you check out Natural Resistance and many other amazing expertly-curated documentaries using their service! Whether you are an avid film buff or just a "movies and chill" type of person - I am certain you will not be disappointed.
Until we eat again,
Jean Hsu for The Lunch Belle