Jessica on SWR TV in Germany!

4 Oct

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The Mosel Shortcut on OPB!

10 Sep

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The Mosel Shortcut; A Documentary Film by Jessica Pierce

4 Jul

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The Mosel Shortcut is a documentary film about the globalization of Germany’s Mosel told through the voices of the Valley, & the building of a mammoth bridge.

The Mosel Shortcut explores the affects of globalization on Germany’s historical wine growing region, The Mosel Valley. The film looks through the eyes of local people as they experience seemingly unstoppable changes to their land, lives, and communities. The Mosel Shortcut creates public awareness of the risks and challenges of globalization on one of the few agricultural regions in the world that has managed to sustain a harmonious balance with nature. 

How This Project Began

A passion for Riesling and an internship offer with one of the most exciting winemakers in Germany brought me to the Mosel Valley on January 14, 2013. I moved to Germany on the end of a yearlong intensive master’s program at Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences with an idea that I would learn more about making Riesling at the iconic estate of Dr. Loosen. I did learn all about Mosel Riesling, but during my stay, I was able to spend time with the local people of the Mosel Valley.

I realized after only a few weeks of living in Germany the stories of the people of the Mosel Valley are even more exciting than the Mosel Rieslings. These stories tell of a land and people who have held onto their agricultural way of life as the world changes in ways beyond imagination as a result of globalization. The German government is officially inviting globalization into the Mosel. They decided to build a bridge and motorway across the Mosel Valley under the guise of making the Frankfurt-Hahn airport easily accessible to the rest of Europe, promoting tourism, and creating jobs for the region. As an intern at the winery, I witnessed this incursion.

What I Am Doing

While I came to the Mosel for one reason, I decided to stay here for another. The bridge is only in the beginning stages of construction. The forest has not been clear-cut, and significant drilling has not started on the Ürzig side of the river. I will document the process and watch the changes in the landscape. I will record the thoughts of the people living below the construction zone. I will make sure everyone is aware of this epic disaster, if not only to protest The Mosel High Bridge, but to avoid a repeat of this mistake in other culturally significant regions.

As the younger generations seek to be a part of the global world that exists at the Valley’s horizon lines, the ageing agricultural population’s stories will be lost if not documented. The community is aware of globalization, what it is and how it has affected them from the outside in, but, now, its at their own doors. Globalization’s needs are endless, insatiable, and are spreading into the Valley, marked by the construction of The Mosel High Bridge. I am currently creating the documentary film that will share the Mosel Valley’s story.

The Mosel Valley Before and After Construction

Before the Bridge and Motorway Construction 
Before the Bridge and Motorway Construction
After the Bridge and Motorway Construction (CG Image) 
After the Bridge and Motorway Construction (CG Image)

Concerns and Effects of The Mosel High Bridge

  • Engineering issues are a major concern, and recent plans for The Bridge have not been released to the public. The government has sited industry secrets as one reason why the plans have not been made public record, but because of construction delays, there is speculation there are additional problems due to the unstable, brittle slate soils of the Valley’s steep slopes. The concrete posts supporting the bridge, piercing into the ancient vineyards soils, will provide an unstable and dangerous platform for the bridge.
  • The Valley is currently in danger of landslips because of the drilling and vibrations from construction.
  • The forest at the top of the vineyards will be clearcut. The natural irrigation system held by the forest will be forever rerouted by the motorway that meets the bridge. The microclimates throughout the vineyards will never be the same. The future of the forest’s survival is unknown.
  • The notch carved at the top of the ridge to allow for the bridge will also allow cold air from the Wittlich Depression to flow into the river valley. This will affect the microclimates of the vineyards around the Mosel bend.
  • Fumes from an oil-based, cargo trucking industry will be carried downstream. The pollution will permeate the plants and the water systems of the agriculturally-based region.
  • The bridge will create a massive financial burden in a time of economic uncertainty. The original estimates of construction costs were initially €270 million, but it continues to rise with every construction obstacle and delay.
  • Wine production in this ancient cultural landscape is one of the very few large-scale human industries that has managed to maintain a harmonious balance with nature. This has made The Mosel eligible for UNESCO World Heritage status, but the bridge construction will prevent the Mosel from ever receiving UNESCO site status.
  • The bridge will be a scar on the visual landscape, a mammoth structure towering over ancient vineyards and historic villages.
The Landslip Zone at Graach. The motorway which will connect to the bridge will be built along the top of this unstable section of vineyard land. 
The Landslip Zone at Graach. The motorway which will connect to the bridge will be built along the top of this unstable section of vineyard land.

The Plan

I am compiling oral histories and historical research in order create a film that will both discover and document the changes in the cultural landscape of the Mosel Valley. I am inspired by the works of Carl O. Sauer and his ideas about a peoples influence on their environments. Like Sauer, I look at the ways that humans control nature and develop their culture out of that control; I ask questions about how present landscapes were shaped over time by people and by natural processes.

I use an ethnographic approach that allows me to view the Mosel as a cultural landscape, not just a geographic location. I am interviewing wine growers, cellar masters, restaurateurs, hydrologist, geologists, historians, and local business owners to capture many different perspectives about the Mosel Valley. I document their daily lives, capturing their stories about their connections with the land, and their relationship with the landscape.

These unique perspectives about the past and future of the region will help us better understand the panorama of the Mosel Valley, and the changes defining the landscape: governmental reorganization of the vineyard land, employment of machines in the vineyard, two world wars, post-war production of sweet wines, and a generation of young people fleeing agricultural work. These changes are all necessary fragments of the Mosel’s portrait, but attention will focus on the most recent, and largest impact on the cultural landscape, the construction of the new Mosel High Bridge.

Standing over a frozen lake, discussing the water reservoir held by the forest with Geologist Roswitha Temper 
Standing over a frozen lake, discussing the water reservoir held by the forest with Geologist Roswitha Temper

A Peek at Some Pre-Production Interviews

I am in contact with people all over The Mosel Valley–since arriving in Germany over 4 months ago I began searching for people with interesting and informative connections to the land.  I have taken hours of test footage with my little Bloggie camera to get a sense of the potential of this project. After collecting over 9 hours of video footage and countless hours of oral histories, the project’s continuation showed itself vital. The picture below is a link to a Youtube video of some rough cuts of test interviews I have compiled. Contributors so far are Reinhard Löwenstein, Rudi Trossen, Ernst Loosen, Alexandra Künstler, Markus Reis, and the Junglen family.

(Click picture for video) Wine tasting with some local friends in Zeltingen-Rachtig 
(Click picture for video) Wine tasting with some local friends in Zeltingen-Rachtig

A Short History of the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport

The Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, located just east of the Mosel Valley, was an important NATO air force base during the Cold War. Directly connecting the air base with the North Sea harbors would have been advantageous for transporting tanks and weapons across Europe. This could be possible by building a bridge, allowing the B50 highway to cross directly over the Mosel Valley instead of going around. Plans were drawn but the project did not get approval and lay waiting for the occasional group to pick up and again abandon the bridge idea over the years. Reasons for putting off the building of the bridge range from structural issues, lack of traffic, and increasing costs. Also, it seemed unnecessary to go ahead with the plan since the Cold War had ended and other roads and bridges have been added to the infrastructure of Germany over the many years since the plan was first imagined.

The German government turned Frankfurt-Hahn into a commercial airport in 1993. A major investor, Fraport AG, took on the development of Hahn with hopes that it could be used to relay some of the traffic from the larger Frankfurt am Main Airport. Hahn is situated in a remote location and does not have access to a train connection. Because of this inconvenience, the airport has served as a hub for discount airlines like Ryan Air. The airport was not profitable and Fraport, the largest shareholder of the airport, did not get the return on their investment that they had hoped for. In 2009, Fraport sold its 65% of shares to the Germany federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate for €1. The state also assumed the airports €120 million of accumulated debt along with the purchase.

One of the redeeming qualities of the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is its capacity for colossal cargo airplanes. Its military design makes the airport a perfect place to land some of the largest cargo in the world, and it holds a world record for doing so. But what good is it to ship cargo to the middle of Nowhere, Germany? So in 2008, the Mosel High Bridge idea was revived by the German government with the intention of making Frankfurt-Hahn easily accessible to the rest of Europe, while also helping Germany build its way out of a financial crisis through major construction projects. Now that the government had assumed control of Hahn as well as its debt, it would make sense that they would want to take advantage of the cargo shipping capabilities. Building a bridge and motorway succeeds in globalizing Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, but at the cost of destroying more than it will create.

A row of cranes on the horizon 
A row of cranes on the horizon

Where Does Your Money Go?

I know what you are thinking, “Will she be doing special effects explosions or helicopter chase scenes? That’s a lot of money”.

I need filmmaking tools: a camera and sound equipment. The Bloggie camera I’ve been using is great for indoor interviews, but it is nowhere near professional grade. On some shoots, I will need to rent a second camera and an assistant. I will be hiring a professional to help me with post-production and editing work; I want the film to look and sound great, and I just don’t have those skills. The more money I have, the more professional contributors I can involve, and the quality of the film will benefit enormously from their efforts. I must reach my goal, if not exceed it. This project has already started, but I need your help for it to continue.

The actual videography of the project will take place from August 2013-December 2013. Post production work alongside a professional editor will take approximately 2 months, and the film will release in Spring 2014. I am currently looking into film festivals and social media releases for The Mosel Shortcut.

The little staircase in the steep Erdener Treppchen vineyard 
The little staircase in the steep Erdener Treppchen vineyard
A dark cloud over The Mosel Valley at the construction site 
A dark cloud over The Mosel Valley at the construction site

Thank you to everyone who has helped make this possible so far!

Special thanks to Sarah Washington, Knut Aufermann,Terry Theise,Thomas & Ernst Loosen, Bernard Schug, Stuart Pigott, Carl & Blinda Pierce, Julie Kantor, Reinhard Löwenstein, Rudi Trossen, Markus Reis, Alexandra Künstler, and Harald, Anne, Jannik & Marius Junglen.

And here are a few links to some great press about the film project.

If you would like to support The Mosel Shortcut documentary film project, please use the Paypal donate button. Your money will go directly towards  the production of the film. 

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or comments and check out The Mosel Shortcut Facebook page to keep up with the project’s progress. 

Thank you for your support!
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Luigi Veronelli Nebbiolo Tasting

1 Jun

Last week I had the opportunity to taste some amazing Nebbiolos from the cellar of Luigi “Gino” Veronelli (1926-2004). “Gino was an Italian journalist, philosopher, gastronome and intellectual. He is remembered as one of the central figures in the appreciation and promotion of Italy’s gastronomic heritage. Veronelli was the first to express views that would later achieve general currency and the protagonist in battles for the preservation of diversity in the fields of agriculture and food production. To this end he contributed to the development of Italian appellations of origin, fought alongside local administrations and offered his support to retail producers. His wine collection was an impressive 80,000 when he passed away.”

Here is the line up from the tasting and my notes.
1967, Gaja
1970 Riserva, Produttori del Barbaresco
1971 Riserva Santo Stefano, Castello di Neive
1978 Santo Stefano Riserva Speciale, Bruno Giacosa
1964 Giacomo Conterno
1970 Monprivato, Mascarello Giuseppe e figlio
1974 Brunate Riserva Selezionata, Rinaldi Giuseppe
1978 Bricco Bussia Vigna Cicala, Aldo Conterno

1967 Gaja Barbaresco
On first inspection the wine was full of fine black sediment with a low intensity maroon core and a caramelized peach rim. More brown than orange. The fragrance is initially black licorice and rich balsamic and after a swirl bitter cocoa and stewed mushrooms with the nuttiness of malted barley in a brewery. The nuttiness changes into almost a Nutella spread. My first sip was brilliant with the acidity of a tangerine dried in potpourri my tongue feels like I just ate cinnamon candy. The tannins are still vibrant, but well incorporated and it finished with a candiesque almost bubble gum sweetness. The acid is really intense, almost blowing everything else out and the alcohol is lingering in the finish. My mouth taste and feels like I just ate a handful of really acidic earth and that continues for at least half a minute.

1970 Produttoi del Barbaresco
No sediment in this glass. The color is surprisingly almost identical to the 67 Gaja. The nose is quite different with an intensity of a room used to cure salami. I smell chorizo and bressaola still hanging with all of its mold and sweat. And thick slices of mortadella. The wetness of a forest floor after a rain in autumn and dried hay that sat in the barn all season. Cocoa and cola peeks out after a swirl and a gentle kick of caramelized alcohol resonates from the glass. When I put the wine in my mouth I am assaulted with tannins and an almost quinine/tonic flavored strawberry jam fills my mouth and on swallowing my mouth tastes of menthol. With the exception of the tannins the wine feels light weight in my mouth and the overall flavors are all very naturally earthy and pleasant. And the acidity is certainly prevalent leaving me salivating and wanting more.

1971 Castello di Neive
There is a medium amount of fine dark sediment just in the bottom of the glass and the color is spot on with the previous two with one huge difference. The wine is really cloudy, like an unfiltered milky cloudiness. The nose is of those brandied cherries from Spain and cinnamon sticks with some black licorice and sweet roasted carrots. There is also a meatiness to this wine but of roasted hen stuffed with tons of rosemary, tarragon, and sage. And a sweetness to the nose of a toasted honeycomb and star anise. A little touch of raspberry jam and strawberry leather are peeking out from the savory herbs. The initial sip is rich with the brandied cherries, but way more brandy than cherry. A lovely black licorice is carried through the mid palate and it finishes with dried apricots and peaches. There is a sweetness to the fruit that is accentuated with an overwhelming amount of alcohol. The tannins and acid are both in check but overwhelmed by booze.

1978 Bruno Giacosa
No sediment and I am looking at a maroon core with a bruised peach rim and overall hue of brownness to the wine. There is an aftershave cologne alcohol and menthol redolence, combined with cigar tobacco and cola. The wine reminds me so much of how my dad smells that it is almost overwhelming. After swirling for a bit I get hints of smoked wild spicy turnip and radish greens and orange Cointreau. When the wine is in my mouth it feels like I licked the inside of the cigar box I was smelling earlier, and the only thing I can think is how the hell are the tannins still so huge?! This wine is fighting back. Brambles and stemmy raspberries on a sprig of violet potpourri show themselves and cola and caramel are intense. I am searching for saliva for minutes.

1964 Giacomo Conterno
Tons of sediment, red sediment! And a caramel color from the core to the rim. A fruity and piquant Serrano pepper rolled in bitter cocoa is initially jumping out of the glass. Rich saba and caramel candies are followed up with fresh white flowers and baby powder perfume. These are the softest, velvetiest tannins so far and my mouth taste as if I just ate a chocolate covered cherry. There is hint of turned earth, milk chocolate, black licorice and a menthol freshness which all falls off the palate almost immediately. Those few seconds were really nice.

1970 Mascarello Giuseppe
Loads of black sediment! And a rich earthy brown color throughout the wine. There is an intense perfume of Easter lilies and blooming roses with soapy lilacs and fresh eucalyptus, and then more rose. There is a nuttiness of roasted hazelnuts still in their shell. It tastes of cherry juice and cinnamon with rose and bergamot. I could as well have been chewing rose petals with baking spices, and there is a bit of earthy white truffle sliding through my palate. The cherry fruitiness is juicy and fresh and the acidity is cleaning up all of the tannins previously left on my palate. It feels so refreshing. This is the wine of the night!

1974 Rinaldi Giuseppe
Large and small chunks of sediment are mingling with bits of cork all swirling around a slightly maroonish brown core. It smells of rich buttery caramel corn that has a few burnt kernels mixed in the batch. After a swirl, I can smell brandied cherries and strawberries in cream. There is a hint of earthy truffle and wafts of blueberry and raspberry fruit. It taste like dried berries and raisinated grapes and prunes. Almost like licking the inside of an empty box of dried fruit. Dried apricot notes and cinnamon tannins last for almost a minute. Again the acid is juicy and intense but so are the tannins and the alcohol. The fruit is all still in tact.

1978 Aldo Conterno
Large chunks of black sediment settle into the base of the glass. A peachy brown rim flows into a maroon center and I can smell chanterelle mushrooms from a foot away. The aroma of the dusty old couch that sits in the basement blows of after about a minute and the richness of a caramel and peanut sundae with intertwining red and black licorice envelopes the glass. And then all I smell are over ripe strawberries. Tannins, acid and alcohol all fight for attention and the fruitiness of strawberry pie, fresh kiwi and tangerine are bursting on the scene. Cinnamon candies finish, with some stewed apricots and truffle lingering for almost a minute. All of the fruit is so vibrant and fresh and so is the booze.
Aldo passed away last night, and as I type this note, I cant help but feel emotionally overwhelmed by the importance of these wine makers and their wines. Even though I did not know Aldo, I feel like I had an experience with his wines that made me understand his philosophy. He was brave and innovative in a time when no one else stepped out of the box. Thank you Aldo.

There was a bit of shock and awe when I finished tasting the Nebbiolos. I was amazed at how well they held up over the past 40-50 years. The Barbarescos were overall more earthy and secondary while the Barolos held much more fruit. None were lacking in acid and the tannins we shocking in some. The 1970 Mascarello Giuseppe was a knockout and I can almost still taste it if I close my eyes.

This was a day I will never forget and I want to thank the wonderful producers who made these wines with such attention and intention in a time where their wines were not held in the regard that they are today. They made these wines because they loved the land and the grapes. Making wine was a lifestyle and it was in their blood. And thanks to Gino for seeing the importance of Italian food and wine early on and lovingly preserving these bottles. I would not be in Italy if you had not fought.

This is why I moved to Italy

24 Mar


Starting in 2012, the Master in Food Culture and Communications will be divided into three streams, each focusing on a different set of themes related to gastronomy. All three will share a common core of course work, complemented by specialized material unique to that stream. Each, however, is designed for international students seeking an innovative approach to the study of food and foodways and the ways in which they are discussed and represented today.

The program offers a wide mix of in-class lessons, exercises, guided tastings, projects, and study trips in Italy and abroad to provide a multiexperiential understanding of both high-quality artisanal and industrial food products, as well as the necessary knowledge and expertise for communicating the history, ecology, technology, and social and cultural meanings of the food phenomena.

Instructors include internationally recognized scholars, journalists, and other gastronomy experts, including: Carole Counihan, Barny Haughton, Eric Holt-Giménez, Corby Kummer, Stuart Franklin, Anne Noble, Fabio Parasecoli, Carlo Petrini, Colin Sage, and others.

Through an approach that merges anthropology, history, ecology, food policy, tasting sessions, communications, and a wide range of other subjects, students acquire the tools for developing new conceptualisations, communications, and educational strategies within the realm of high-quality gastronomy. Graduates emerge ready for careers in community-based project management, education, marketing and public relations.

In addition to this breadth of study, each stream of the master also includes a distinct academic focus, falling into the following themes. (Note that the three streams of the program each have separate start dates.)

  • Master in Food Culture and Communications: Human Ecology and Sustainability
    (starting March 21, 2012) The Master in Master in Food Culture and Communications: Human Ecology and Sustainabilitywill address the importance of social, economic, and environmental sustainability in food production and consumption networks, and especially the relevance of the human ecological approach for understanding how traditional knowledge shapes both small-scale production of high-quality local food and bio-cultural diversities and heritage as well.The human ecology area of the programme will focus on environmental studies, ethnobiology, and food polices.

    This area will analyse in particular how a deep understanding of traditional knowledge, beliefs and practises related to the natural environment is crucial for implementing a community-based and sustainable management of local resources as well as fostering good practices of production and consumption of organic local foods.

    The master will address also the role of women in local food systems, the concept of food sovereignty, the dynamic nature of local ecological knowledge, ethnobotany, agro-ecology, organic agriculture, migrants’ food systems, and the relevance of all these in modern public health and nutritional policies.

    The scientific Director of the Master in Food Culture and Communications: Human Ecology and Sustainability is Professor Andrea Pieroni and the faculty of the Master’s program includes some university professors, experts in the field, such as: Lisa Price, Rick Stepp, Ina Vandebroek and others.