Wine documentary galvanises Cannes
- Wednesday 19 May 2004
'Mondovino', a low-budget documentary by award-winning American filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter about the conflicts of the modern wine world, is generating huge interest in France, where many traditional wine producers feel increasingly beleaguered by the globalisation of wine taste. It is screened at the Cannes Film Festival this week.
Filmed in California, South America, France and Italy, the two-hour film traces the huge economic and cultural changes that have affected the wine world over the past 25 years. Nossiter examines the issues animating winemakers from giants like Robert Mondavi, Antinori and Frescobaldi, to the tiny domaine of the de Montille family in Burgundy.
He follows globe-trotting consultant Michel Rolland - whom he dubs 'the Spielberg of wine', because, according to Nossiter, he helps friends in 12 countries churn out bestsellers according to a formula - from Argentina to California.
Robert Parker, who critics claim encourages bland, fruity, unchallenging, ‘international’ styles, particularly in Bordeaux, tells Nossiter he is the democratic missionary of wine.
The film’s varied cast of commentators doesn’t mince words. The guardians of ‘real wine’ like Aimé Guibert of Mas de Daumas Gassac in the Languedoc, who was part of the successful campaign to block Mondavi's attempt to buy land in the area, says ‘wine is dead, and not just wine - fruits, cheeses as well.’
Neil Rosenthal, a New York importer of artisanal wines, argues the Californian wine industry is ‘infantilising’ wine and killing regionality.
‘In Bordeaux, the terroir is there, but they are destroying it’. He talks of ‘a battle between resistance and collaboration.’
Nossiter himself, who trained as a sommelier before making films, insists his film projects toleration as well as passion. ‘There are no good guys and bad guys,’ he says.
But he bemoans the trend since the 1980s to produce ever more technically refined wines, with less and less 'soul'. It is clear he sides with small producers who continue to produce traditional wine in the face of a growing standardisation of taste.
Mondovino was accepted at the last minute into the Palme d’Or competition at Cannes, which will be judged by Quentin Tarrantino on 22 May. It will be assessed alongside Michael Moore's powerful denunciation of the Bush administration, Fahrenheit 9/11 - the only other documentary in the competition.
Nossiter's previous films include 'Sunday', which won the prize for best film at the Sundance Festival in 1997.