Never mind SIDEWAYS: If you want the real scoop on what goes on in the wine world and how the success of the California wine industry has affected the production of some of the oldest vineyards in Europe, you could hardly do better than filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter's (SUNDAY, SIGNS & WONDERS) hugely entertaining, globe-trotting documentary. Structured very much like the mondo movies of old, Nossiter trucks his camera from the thick forests of Brazil to the hallowed hills of Burgundy and the sun-kissed slopes of Tuscany, only to find that the once-wide world of wine is shrinking by the minute. The culprits are many but, Nossiter argues, it all comes down to good old globalization and the insidious way in which American values creep into even the most rarefied realms. The phenomenal success of Napa Valley's Robert Mondavi Winery, a massive conglomerate that pulls in half-a-billion dollars a year in sales, and the ever-increasing influence of American critics like Robert Parker and the reviewers at Wine Spectator magazine have amounted to a kind of American revolution. Parker clearly delights in his role as the gadfly in the ointment of some of Europe's most aristocratic vintners, but his preference for the ripe, oaky flavor of California wines has made it the taste that sells. To compete on the international market, many European vintners now hire Parker's good friend, world-renowned wine consultant Michel Rolland, who counts more than 100 wineries in 12 far-flung countries as clients. Despite the diversity of locale and types of grape, Rolland's prescription always seems to be the same: more micro-oxygenating! It's a running joke throughout the film, but it speaks to the fear that imposing a single dominant viewpoint will lead inevitably to the homogenization of a once-diverse world. And this Americanization extends beyond mere cultural imperialism: Many of the interviewees see Mondavi's attempt to acquire a sizeable chunk of land in the Languedoc region of Bordeaux as the first step in literal colonization. The U.S. invaders were eventually repelled by the locals, but failure in France only prompted the Mondavis to set their sights on Tuscany, where they were greeted with open arms. Sometimes rambling but never dull, Nossiter pulls the story together in a manner that makes this exclusive world accessible and even exciting. Nossiter has a reporter's instinct, but the filmmaker in him can't resist lingering on a pianist in New York as she reapplies her makeup between sets, or a pair of dogs busy romancing each other on a Sardinian sidewalk.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Never mind SIDEWAYS: If you want the real scoop on what goes on in the wine world and how the success of the California wine industry has affected the production of some of the oldest vineyards in Europe, you could hardly do better than filmmaker Jonathan… (more)