Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Film review: Bottle Shock (2008) by Randal Miller, ****

Synopsis

The build-up to the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris competition between French and Californian wines. Napa Valley's Jim Barrett (Lost Highway's Bill Pullman) has been plugging away for years with minimal success. A former attorney, Barrett runs Chateau Montelena with his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine, the Star Trek prequel's Captain Kirk), who would rather do anything than assist his stern father. Bo's co-workers include Gustavo (Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodríguez) and Sam (Transformers' Rachael Taylor), who long to produce the perfect chardonnay. 

Naturally, the young men compete for the favors of the beautiful blonde (the movie's least interesting angle). Across the Atlantic, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) struggles to keep his Parisian wine shop going (cheapskate American Dennis Farina is his only regular customer). Then Spurrier conceives a contest to attract customers.


Review

While based on a true story, the film takes some liberty at embellishing the facts with romance and family feuds, but this does not detract from it being highly instructive for wine lovers.

The title is a pun: the "bottle shock" is what may ruin a wine because of vibrations and temperature variations during protracted and unprotected transportation. It is also the result of the tasting, which shocked the wine world for what a bottle of California wine was able to produce.

The competition itself should have been given more time in the movie in my view, as it was the event that justified making the movie in the first place and changed the world of wine ever since.

Also, the movie does not make it clear that the competition was only for a few varieties, ie Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends, and as such can in no way be interpreted to be an overall match between Californian and French wines.

Finally, one can not help but notice somewhat of a pro-Californian bias in the movie, but this is perhaps inevitable given the nature of the real historical events. I would like to see a film of the 2006 rematch, which California, again, won hands down, in fact by an even greater margin.

See the book "The Judgement of Paris" which I reviewed in my personal blog.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Belgian vineyard at Chateau Bioul

A couple of months ago I visited one of the several up and coming vineyards in Belgium, and was surprised by a unique approach.





Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Film Review: A seat at the table (2019) by David Nash and Simon Mark-Brown , **


Synopsis

A New Zealand winemaking team enters the period known as Vintage when wine is made 24/7 for months on end. Sleepless nights, endless labor, time away from home means they must ensure nature, science and magic come together to overcome each challenge Vintage presents. (from imdb)


Review

A missed opportunity. The makers of this documentary had access to the whole process of harvesting at a large New Zealand vineyard but we learn very little in over one hour of watching this repetitive production. We hear a hundred times how hard the work is during harvest, and how awesome everyone in the multinational team of pickers is, but little else. 

Some information that one learns in this film: foreigners now own one third of NZ wine production, the French were the first to invest, in the 1980s. 

Biodynamics taking off.

Not so many rules like in Europe about controlled origins, allowed varieties, irrigation, chaptalization, so  NZ can experiment more.

One curiosity: lots of pigs apparently threaten the harvest at night, and even deer. As for birds, they try and do their share of eating but mostly cause botrytis, which is some parts of the world is welcome as it allows to make sweet wines, but not here.


Read my reviews of films about wine here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Film review: Disrupting Wine (2020) by Johan Rimestad, ***


Synopsys
 

Documentary about the founder of Vivino, Heini Zachariassen. Vivino has more than 43 million downloads worldwide and has its HQ in San Francisco. (from the film’s website) Of course: for wine just as for anything else innovation blooms in silicon valley.

Review 

Too much about the life of the founder and his family and not enough about the Vivino application, its features, its very useful role in the hands of wine lovers and sommeliers alike. While some facts about Heini would obviously be in order to understand the genesis of the app, this is not supposed to be about him but about IT, VIVINO! Also, one gets the impression that the creator of Vivino treats wines as if they were any other commodity, he could have made an app about different kinds of detergents. I feel that is not the case but Heini's passion for wine does not come through.

See my other reviews of films about wine here.

 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Film review: A Year in Burgundy (2013), by David Kennard, ***


Synopsis

The film follows Martine Saunier seven wine-making families in the Burgundy region of France through the course of a full year, and delves into the cultural and creative process of making wine, as well as its deep ties to the land. What lies within the rhythm of a year, from vines to grapes to wine? 

The film is in four season-sections, and plays out against that backdrop: spring showers, drought, heat wave, hail and storms, harvest moons and the damp cold of winter. Each vintage is a time capsule, a bottled piece of history of a very specific year, with its particular weather pattern, its crises and its triumphs. It all goes in, whether you want it to or not, and 2011 was full of drama. (from Ibmd)

Review

A bit of a disappointment. If you don't know anything about Burgundy you will certainly learn something. If you've been there a few times you will still get a few bits here and there but not much. Much of it is cliche. Brugundy deserves better. Still, if you have it for free on Prime and want an easy evening, go ahead an watch it, with a glass of Burgundy wine in hand of course.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Somm, into the Bottle (2015), by Jason Wise, ****

Synopsis

Sequel to the previous Somm movie of 2012, this documentary takes the viewer into the private world of famed producers (who open exceptional bottles for the occasion).


Review

A peek into cellars that most of us humans will never get into, and a good dose of self-irony about a profession that means different things to different people. Definitely recommended after the first.

We learn that the word "spirit", used for alcoholic beverages, comes from the fact that wine has been used in religious functions for a long time, it takes the "spirit" out of the body, especially when abused! Not sure it is true, but it sounds fun.

We also learn that Julius Cesar instructed his legionaries to drink at least a liter of wine a day, more before going into battle.

One somm opines that aging wine in wood is like adding salt to food: you may need it to exalt the flavor, but not too much. Some may not like it at all, of course. But if you do choose to oak a wine, beware: your barrel is going to be like a wife for your wine, choose well or your wine will pay the price for your mistake!

A few spoke about scoring wines. Some find it useful, some hate it as an oversimplification that is not reliable: no single somm will score the same wines the same way if given the same bottles blind over again.

View more reviews of films about wine.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Film review: Three Days of Glory (2018), by Scott Wright and David baker, ***

Synopsis

A documentary about the world's greatest wine celebration in the most legendary of wine regions during its most difficult season: Three Days of Glory offers a glimpse into aspects of Burgundy never filmed before. Burgundy is home to some of the most legendary wines on the planet. 

But it wasn't always that way. A series of difficult years in the 20s and 30s led to the creation of the events now known as Les Trois Glorieuses, or the Three Days of Glory. This is the story of that festival, its origins, and the small-estate winemakers of today who have faced a string of brutal years that threatens their very survival. (from IMDB)

Review

A peek into an otherwise impossible to join a gathering of producers in Burgundy, where secrets are revealed, deals are made and friendship cemented over open bottles. 

Burgundy is special because, unlike Bordeaux, most vineyards are still in the hands of small producers, often the same family since the beginning of time. Small realities which are threatened by climatic and economic upheaval.


View more reviews of films about wine.