Wine documentaries proliferate


There seems to be a vogue for wine documentaries at the moment. Alder recently wrote about the third instalment of the SOMM series, and another American project André: The Voice of Wine profiles the iconic American winemaker André Tchelistcheff, premiering at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater this coming Saturday, 7 April.

Meanwhile Burg-o-philes are catered for by the forthcoming Three Days of Glory, charting the challenges of the 2016 vintage, which follows on from the recently released Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine. Preceding that was A Year in Burgundy in 2014, the first of a trilogy that covered Champagne and port in subsequent years. Meanwhile, the British network Channel 5 has just finished broadcasting series two of The Wine Show.

Adding to this comes Wine Masters, an ambitious new project which aims to produce several series of wine documentary films, each focusing on a different wine-making country and the famous family estates making some of their most renowned brands. Each series features the contributions of several MWs. The first series, featuring Tim Atkin MW and Jeannie Cho Lee MW as resident experts, has just been released, and it covers the Hugel, Guigal, Boüard de Laforest and Drouhin families of Alsace, Rhône, Bordeaux and Burgundy respectively. (Disclosure: I was filmed for series two, currently in production.)

A common feature of all these ventures seems to be high production values with luscious photography (including the now obligatory drone flyover shot) and a cinematic soundtrack – as boasted by their trailers.

The level of access afforded to these film-makers is impressive, and while they tend not to ask too many awkward questions, there are enough insights to entertain any wine lover.

Incidentally, something that may explain the sudden increase in these films is the means of distribution. Whereas in times gone by the only route to market was to sell to a television network or a cinema distribution company, nowadays they can effectively be self-published. Wine Masters is available via their own website and on Amazon, priced at €5.99 per episode for a 48-hour rental, or €24.99 for a whole series for 14 days. A Year in Port can be rented via YouTube for £3.49 or bought for £7.99, and Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine is also available via streaming services (and also on DVD).

Whether such a model proves financially sustainable remains to be seen, but for the moment let it not be said that wine is under-represented on film.