Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Wine is dead," announces the old French farmer and then explains in considerable detail the reasons why.

Basically, it's what you think and know and sense in the roof of your mouth: globalisation equals the end of small vineyards and the rise of conglomerates. Wine has been hijacked by money, like everything else. Surprised? Don't be.

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For those who drink the stuff and care about their palate, this is not funny. A documentary in the Michael Moore style would have nailed the culprits, but Jonathan Nossiter is a cinematic waffle bag and in two-and-a-quarter hours you are left confused about whether the invasion of the Californian pirates into the soft heart of Europe is a breath of fresh air or the crucifixion of ideals.

Nossiter shoots from the shoulder, like a tourist with a camcorder, snooping and probing and zooming in on an object of interest, before moving jerkily on. By the end, you pray for a talking head, because at least they are less likely to wobble.

The subject matter is fascinating, the old world versus the new, as technical advances clash with hide-bound romantics, who care so much about their grapes they talk to them. Does it matter that Michel Rolland manages scores of vineyards, increases profits and changes the individuality of labels to suit the whim of supermarkets? Does it matter when a critic - in this case, Robert Parker - has the power to make, or break, a new wine?

Nossiter goes everywhere, meets everyone and the final outcome is a kaleidoscope of views and opinions. Rolland orders that barrels should be "micro oxygenated", whenever a problem arises, as if Mr and Mrs O Joe from Nebraska have a clue what that means. Parker's beagle is called Hoover, after Edgar J, and there are signed photographs of The Gipper on his walls. A fat, golden lab lies on the wooden floor of a French winegrower's kitchen, chewing at a truckle of cheese. An aristocrat in Italy has lost his family business to the sly and efficient invaders from Napa Valley and talks like a man who has been raped by stealth.

What this film needs is a good editor and an opinion. What it provides is a home movie by a dog-loving wine buff, who has no idea when to shut up.

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2004
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New world technical/ marketing advances versus old world craftsmanship in the world of wine.
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Director: Jonathan Nossiter

Writer: Jonathan Nossiter

Starring: Hubert de Montille, Aime Guibers, Robert Parker, Michel Rolland, Neal Rosenthal

Year: 2004

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Argentina/France/Italy/US


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