Directed by Jonathan Nossiter, starring Hubert de Montille, Aimé Guibert, Robert Parker, Michel Rolland and Neal Rosenthal.
The possibility that a documentary about wine would be shown at a major cinema complex a couple of years ago, other than due to a prank or a mix-up with the reels, would have been remote at best.
However, filmmakers like Michael Moore (love him or hate him) have proved that documentaries can be successful at the box office. Of course a critical look at gun use in the US or a character assassination of George W Bush appeal to the general public far more than a two-and-a-quarter-hour-long assessment of the current state of the wine world.
That is because in this part of the world there is still the feeling that wine, and in particular discussion about wine, is an elitist pursuit. Director Jonathan Nossiter has said that it was this kind of opinion that he wished to change in his trawl across three continents.
He probably doesn't manage to change many minds on that score, but what he has conjured up is a fascinating look at some of the main players in the world's wine industry. The first hour or so is particularly riveting. Colourful characters like elderly French winemakers Hubert de Montille and Aimé Guibert give their interesting and insightful views, not just on wine but on the world in general. The documentary is at its best when it is dealing with the issue of the globalisation of the business, which mirrors the debate about the issue of traditional versus modern methods and whether the diversity that comes with globalisation is worth trading small local vineyards for.
Nossiter cleverly tells the story in a way that doesn't alienate those of us who, unlike the charmless man Blur sang of, don't know our claret from our Beaujolais. However, he indulges himself a little too much near the end and loses the non-wine people he had wooed so well earlier. If he had shaved 20 minutes off during editing we would talking about a seriously good piece of work. As it stands, it's well worth a viewing, but fails to resonate in a way that it could and probably should have.