The controversial wine documentary Mondovino is still inciting strong opinions a year since its release in French cinemas.
With the DVD released in France this month, the film’s participants have resurfaced to give their opinions.
The film left many divided as it pitted regional, small and independent winemakers such as Aimé Guibert of Mas Daumas Gassac against globalised wine corporations and powerful tasters, namely Roberts Mondavi and Parker. The basic premise was that the notion of terroir had been lost in producing globally acceptable, fruit-driven wines.
The Revue de Vin de France (RVF), one of France’s leading wine magazines, asked major players as well as industry experts to comment on the documentary with the benefit of hindsight. According to the RVF, wine globalisation was even more of an issue 12 months down the line.
‘This giants’ race gathered speed with Pernod buying Allied Domecq and Foster’s’ takeover of Southcorp,’ said the magazine.
Michel Rolland, portrayed as one of those responsible for the globalisation of taste, defended those looking to make money through wine.
‘You can’t reproach certain people for looking at the market to see what’s selling,’ said the oenologist.
Despite his portrayal, the flying winemaker did concede that even though some aspects of wine were badly represented in the film, the ‘essential thing was that it was talked about’.
Others questioned the film’s contention that the sense of terroir, or place, was being eroded.
‘No winemaker makes their wine without terroir,’ said Catherine Péré-Vergé of Pomerol’s Château Le Gay, and a client of Michel Rolland. ‘Wherever we are, we are obliged to respect what God, the weather and the terroir sends us.’
Some people, however, feel that nothing has changed.
‘It’s almost impossible to have an intelligent debate on wine in this country,’ said Etienne de Montille, whose father, Hubert, was featured prominently in Mondovino.
Many used the opportunity of the year’s anniversary to alter the perception filmgoers might have of them.
‘We also have a passion for our terroir of which we are the guardians,’ said California winemakers Garen and Shari Staglin, who were portrayed as moneyed, patronising new arrivals in Napa Valley.
Even the UK’s Jancis Robinson MW – who wasn’t featured in the film – joined the debate. She warned French winemakers that the film’s advocation of terroir should not make them complacent. The attitude that just being a French winemaker was enough to ensure superiority was ‘dangerous for the future of wine in France’.
Finally, some participants bought a sense of closure to the debate.
‘I don’t see a problem that 80% of wine is made in an industrial way,’ said de Montille. ’But leave the 20% who express their difference well alone.’
‘In my view, there’s a place for both visions of wine,’ said Château Palmer’s Thomas Duroux.
Written by Oliver Styles