Mother Vine

I went to the movie premier of Mother Vine in Lisboa at the start of May. It is a movie by Ken Payton, known to me from his blog Reign of Terroir, as well as meeting him on a couple of occasions here in Portugal. He is from California, knows quite a lot about wine, and was taken by the complexity, variety (of native grapes as well as styles) and the individual nature of Portugal’s wines. So much so, he wanted to show his experiences of Portuguese wines to the world. His movie is a documentary about the wine industry in Portugal. That could sound a bit tedious to many people – myself included. Endless footage of stainless steel vats and pristine vineyards are interesting, but not interesting enough to sit watching for an hour and a half… Fortunately this movie is about small, traditional wine producers and their personal stories of producing wine the same way their family did before them. Stainless steel vats are nowhere to be seen. Nor are vast manicured vineyards; these are agricultural people who have a passion for their way of wine making.

In the film, various wine makers share their stories and passion with the viewer. From the Azores to the Minho, Colares to the Alentejo, the variety of techniques and wine styles are as varied as you would expect from such a diverse cross-section of Portuguese wine regions. The touching and, in most cases sad, part of most of these people’s stories is that they feel their way of making wine will not be handed on to another generation, or anyone at all. Surrounding these hardy, mostly aging men’s land, very few vineyards survive. They have either been abandoned or turned into another agricultural pursuit.

Although this film (and some passionate people in Portugal) is trying to keep these traditional wine make practices alive, the people in the movie in the most part, have a very pessimistic view of their passion continuing past their lifetime. I am not sure what to feel after watching the movie. There is something different in all of the wineries shown, something that should be preserved for the Portugal’s heritage as much as for wine lovers. The film aims to show the slow death of these traditions in a hope to raise people’s awareness of them. The value of these wines cannot be measured by a mark out of 100. They are hand-made wines in a world of mass-production; they cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, so the value of these wines should be more than the few Euros you would pay for them.

I was fortunate enough to taste some of the wines from the producers (who were in attendance at the premier) and although some were an acquired taste I have to say, most were quite good. I know they will probably be different vintage to vintage, but really who cares? They tell a story in every bottle. That is something a modern winery will never be able to do. And I for one hope this film goes a long way in helping the people who are working to keep these traditions alive. The world of wine will be poorer if they do not exist past the current generation.

If you get a chance to see the film – do go along and watch it. But I do not foresee it being in your local cinema complex… You may need to wait until DVD sales are available. Here is a brief trailer for the film. If this film interests you – leave us a comment and I will provide you with more information on how you can see, or buy it soon. Or you can contact the director at his blog Reign of Terroir

By Chris Metcalfe


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