Mondovino

"Weak"

Mondovino Review


More is less in this vineyard of excess. Documentarian Jonathan Nossiter would have been well advised not to use every frame of his extensive interview footage from seven countries as though they were perfect grapes.

Nossiter, described as a trained sommelier, wine writer, and oenophile proves it by his obvious access to some of the biggest names in the international wine industry as well as to the virtually unknown proprietors of tiny boutique domains and appellations. In tracking these folks down for interviews, Nossiter builds a thesis that the world of wine is undergoing crucial changes. Tradition, he suggests, is colliding with modern commerce, though it might be more to the point that traditional marketing has been superseded by the farther reaching and quicker distribution techniques of the conglomerate.

In any event, the issue is articulated by a somewhat unknown cast of characters who, though rarely in the public eye, have no problem pontificating on winemaking, wine marketing, competitive forces, and the power of a good rating. Their geographical range and frames of reference amply justifies the film's title.

The cast includes Michel Rolland, a crucial element in the industry as a much-traveling wine consultant; the De Montille family, headed by father Hubert; the Mondavis: Robert, Michael, and Tim, the elephants in the wine business closet who have turned into global superpowers; the Frescobaldi family of Florence, Italy, in business with the Mondavis; the Antinoris; the Etcharts; the co-CEOs of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux; and a number of farmer-landowners hanging onto family honor.

Then, of course, there is the master trendmaker of them all, Robert Parker, wine critic for his Wine Advocate magazine that has the power, with a 90+ rating, to determine the next stars of the vintage or, with lesser scores, to filter out the posers and losers. He is a figure of greater significance to these many vineyards and owners than they will admit, and he'll be the first to tell you so. Critic James Suckling of Wine Spectator plays his lesser but still influential role in the court of ratings.

But, with all the references to wine style, "terroir" (the importance of the soil), and the culture within each vineyard, there's little content on actual winemaking. When Alix De Montille accuses her father Robert of taking a harsher approach to his wines than she prefers, she mentions acid content. But the words "sugar" and "tannin," "sulfides" and "skins" -- prime balancing elements that determine a winemaker's decisions and vinicultural methodology -- pass no lips here.

Far worse than that is the camerawork. The professionalism of the subjects is in bothersome contrast to the amateurism of the jiggly, zoomy, dizzying lenswork -- about as bad as I've seen in a distributed film. As for length, the repetitious, belaboring 165 minutes make you want to scream, "Put a cork in it!"

Which is not to say the film doesn't mix in some virtues. Nossiter seems to be on an intimate level with most of his interview subjects, which is a highly positive factor. But, as though to honor his relationships, he seems determined not to cast anyone in a critical light. The primary value of his approach is in introducing us to people in the business who we don't usually get to see. Soul and dedication are repeated so much you'd think some of these winemaking people have doubts about it.

Though it may still be interesting to wine lovers, this "commerce of wine" roundup is not likely to send anyone home with a greater appreciation for the miracle of fermentation than that which they already possess.

DVD viewers will get a surprise: There's nearly an hour of additional footage available on the disc -- so if you haven't had enough discussion of Juan Perón and shots of random animals and aircraft passing through the filming (plus an odd visit with a plastic surgeon, completing an analogy about oak and wine), now's your chance to get more. Watch it again and you can get Nossiter's commentary on the entire thing.



Mondovino

Facts and Figures

Run time: 135 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 3rd November 2004

Distributed by: ThinkFilm Inc.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 54 Rotten: 21

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Contactmusic


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