A Real Film About Wine

by | Dec 31, 2005

If you enjoy wine, Mondovino, a documentary by Jonathan Nossiter, is a must see. The film has a fascinating cast of characters, and its central theme explores the mounting tension between local producers and global behemoths like Napa’s Robert Mondavi and Sons.

Aimé Guibert of Languedoc and Hubert de Montille of Bordeaux, both determined believers in terroir–the sense of place that gives wine its true character–are the clear heroes in the film. Michel Rolland, a wine consultant who espouses the values of modernization and the Mondavi family who value globalization are the villians.

Hubert de Montille told The Telegraph, “I am un partisan du terroir. But you have vin terroir all over the world, including the United States – wherever you have people who cherish diversity and individuality in wine. For me, the battle isn’t between Europe and the US. It is industrial wine against the culture of wine, that’s the real conflict. These big companies are so powerful and their ambition is so great that they may not keep a space open for vin terroir, for all wine that has a sense of place, rather than just a sense of marketing.”

Southern France’s Languedoc region is one of the places where this conflict was most recently fought. Mondavi had identified forested land in Aniane as suitable for making world-class wine, but citizens of the town with the aid of their Communist mayor rebuked their advances.

According to Wine Spectator, Mondavi had planned to spend about $8 million developing the vineyard and building a showcase winery, which would eventually produce up to 20,000 cases per year of high-end Syrah.

But the site they chose was on the 2,200-acre undeveloped massif, which is flanked by woods and nearly impenetrable bush (known as garrigue), and topped by 750-foot-high plateaus with sweeping views. Hunters, ecologists and naturalists fought against any development in the area, which they consider an environmental shrine.

Mondavi was in part attracted to Aniane because it is home to one of the finest wineries in southern France, Mas de Daumas Gassac, which makes a long-lived red wine in Aniane. But the winery’s founder, Aimé Guibert, criticized Mondavi for wanting to develop a winery on public land.