Interview with director Guillaume Bodin

Film FestivalsDuring the 16th Annual Sonoma Film Festival (April 10-14, 2013) - where fine films and wines are observed in unison - a story that encapsulates both novelties in one is something to celebrate. For this reason, French winemaker Guillaume Bodin’s film ‘La Clef des Terroirs’ (2011) should be mentioned as this month it will be released on DVD in France and America. The film held its international premier at the 27th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Relevant to the situation of California wines and agriculture here in northern California, the film discusses the benefits of ‘biodynamic’ organic farming in the world of wine. It is a form of modern wine producing being used in the global wine industry today to combat technically processed wines, a system of healthy and natural wine production developed by philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

Can you tell us how you first got into ‘biodynamic’ agriculture?

I did all my studies in vine management and wine making when no one was really interested in organic farming and biodynamic agriculture. I was so interested in making wine as close to nature as possible so I decided to do an apprenticeship in a biodynamic estate. My teachers were still a bit closed off to that but I discovered that the best French domains were using the bio-dynamics to increase the quality of their wines... I also went to New Zealand for about nine months and I had the same experience...I decided to speak about what I saw everyday in the vineyard; a film was the best option I found to explain biodynamic agriculture associate to wine.

How hard was it to get your first film off the ground?

When I returned to France from New Zealand, I decided to buy my first pro camera (I already had an amateur camera) and I shot different interviews... After a while I had enough things to make a film and I hoped to screen it in a theater. I did a long edition by myself until I had my film ready to screen. After some papers, I became my own distributor and I started to screen it in French theaters most of the time with Q&A. Then I had the US premier at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival...It's a funny but a good way to become a director.

How long have you worked in wine?

In France we can start our professional study at the age of fourteen. I was ready for this because I knew I wanted to work in wine. It has now been about twelve years that I have been working in wine, including my studies where I did some training in different French vineyards.

What is happening in French wines today different than in traditional ways of making wine?

Wine is linked to land. Since the chemical era, some vintners found the wines had less flavors and quality and decided to look a bit more at their soil... They decided to remove chemical weeding and then remove chemical spraying. Then they found a better quality and the land came back into their wine. Some of the best French estates are working without chemicals and we see more and more people working like that now. We call it ‘organic agriculture’ only because there is a chemical agriculture, otherwise it should be call agriculture. Everything was creates by lobbyists after the two world wars. In wine making there were several changes since Louis Pasteur discovered the alcoholic fermentation formula. We found different ways of making wine by extracting tannins to get more flavor, but much of it standardized the taste of wines... Now the finest wines are made with as less technics as possible to ensure that the wine is only the pure mirror of his land.

How can one tell from a label if the wine is quality or bio or not?

We cannot say that bio is better in taste quality. It all depends on how it is made. Some organic wines are more worthy in taste than traditional wines, but in term of healthiness they are surely better. What I found in organic and even more biodynamic wines was that they are well made and they tell us a story by themselves; a story of land, vintners, and climates. Plus, you can't really find it in traditional products.

How have the French reacted to the film?

It was really interesting to see that they were really interested in my movie, even the people that didn't know anything about wine or bio-dynamics. They understood during the film how wine is made in an organic way... Some people asked me: "But isn’t that how all wine is made?" I had to apologize that humans discovered chemicals and that we eat and drink chemicals every day, and that not enough people speak about it or try to find others way of farming...

Your film has recently been released on DVD. Will there be a way for people to see it in America?

The film is now released in French in France under the name "La Clef des Terroirs" and it will be release in English (with subtitles) as soon as possible under the name "Wine: The Green Revolution". It will be possible to buy it in US.

Has there been any improvements in the French wine world since you made your film?

I did many screenings in wine schools to improve the thinking about bio-dynamics for teachers and students. Many people in the wine industry are speaking about my film and I'm sure that made some changes. But what I can tell for certain is than some friends didn't believe in bio-dynamics, but after watching my movie they started to try it at some of their estates...

Do you have plans to make another film about wine after this one?

Actually, my next movie should be a mountaineering film in Peru, but I'm working on it at the same time as working in the vineyard so it takes time. Making "La Clef des Terroirs" was the best experience of my life because I had to work hard to get it. Now, I truly explain my philosophy to produce wine and I hope that many people will change their point of about farming as a result…

Written by Vanessa McMahon

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