I love a good documentary. I just saw “Blackfish,” about the treatment of killer whales at Sea World and thought it was effective in taking an issue that I hadn’t really thought about, making me interested in it, and giving me some basis for forming an opinion about the issue (free the whales!). “The Cove” was similar in presenting the capture and brutal killing of dolphins in Japan; that documentary was gorgeously shot had a dramatic tension as the camera crew inserted themselves into the narrative. In that vein, Morgan Spurlock’s stunt of eating McDonald’s for 30 days in “Super Size Me” was a good way of getting at the broader issue of the health and fast food. More recently, my kids and I enjoyed the “The Short Game,” a Netflix original about competitive golfing among seven and eight year olds. Again, we don’t even golf but it had good arc and did raise the issue of how much is too much competition for such young kids as well as what it takes to succeed at an early age.
This is all a long-winded background to the fact that Decanter reports that a documentary entitled “Sour Grapes” is in the works about the Rudy Kurniawan wine counterfeiting story. They say that the film is being made by a British team with the full cooperation of Laurent Ponsot and will be completed by the end of this year.
While I look forward to seeing the documentary, I’m not sure a documentary is the best treatment for the material. The Rudy saga is terrific and it definitely has the ability to draw the interest of the casual viewer not really into wine. But to me it is a character-driven story that speaks to the larger themes of hubris, duplicity, gullibility and more. In other words, the stuff of Shakespeare more than policy issues, such as dolphin hunting, orca abuse, or nutrition gone off the rails. So I hope that this documentary treatment doesn’t crowd out what I see as the huge possibility of a fictionalized movie version, in the vein of “Catch Me If You Can,” which was based on a true story of check forgery and grossed almost $200 million. However, I’m not exactly sure who is working on such a treatment of the story so I guess we as wine enthusiasts will take what we can get in terms of further exposure to the story and the wine world.
Because having a blockbuster movie about wine might just be the best way for the Rudy saga to end, assuming it gets more people into wine generally and not just into ’45 DRC RC. Look where that got some people!
Such appears to be the logic of Duckhorn Wine Company, which has sued over the Duck Commander wines. The controversial Phil Robertson, who recently got suspended (or not really?) from Duck Dynasty, was not named a party to the suit. Trinchero Family Estates is a defendant in the suit, as is Wal-Mart where the wines are line priced at $9.99. Duckhorn Merlot sells for $54 a bottle.
What do you think: valid mark infringement through a case of customer confusion? Or is Duckhorn seeking to simply get it’s name out there during the discussions of the popular TV show? Read more…
CBS Sunday Morning ran a 10-minute segment on wine fraud yesterday. The full segment is embedded above.
It centers on Bill Koch, including having the CBS correspondent walking around his cavernous cellar at his Palm Beach home, discussing his various counterfeit bottles. The segment also mentions the Kurniawan trial, talks with Maureen Downey, and examines some anti-counterfeiting technology at Opus One.
While it is an important and interesting subject, the piece could have been stronger. Interviewing other collectors, auction houses, some of the three Burgundy producers who testified at the trial or a wine critic would have made for a stronger segment–while Opus One may be faked in China, Bill Koch does not complain of having fave bottles of it in his cellar, so it would have made a tighter segment to have one of the producers involved his his story.
At any rate, it’s good to see the story getting reaching a broader audience. I was at a Christmas party over the weekend where people were talking about the trial, so it’s good the story is getting out there. A lot of people said it would make a great movie and I agree–maybe one day it will reach the silver screen.
Wine is splashing on the silver screen: today, the documentary SOMM opens in New York and on iTunes.
It’s difficult to successfully capture wine on TV or movies. The medium is limited since viewers are not able to smell or taste. Further, the characters on camera risk sounding like the stereotypical wine doofus. Miles from Sideways was memorable in this regard, with tasting notes like “the faintest soupçon of like asparagus and just a flutter of a, like a, nutty Edam cheese.”
Given these hurdles, the fact that SOMM informs, educates and maintains a riveting pace is particularly notable. The documentary tracks four candidates for the Master Sommelier exam, a rigorous test that includes a theory portion, a blind tasting portion, and a service portion. It has such a miserly pass rate that there are only 201 Master Sommeliers around the world today. Nonetheless, wine directors from around the world cram, swirl and spit to prepare for the annual sitting of the exam.
The film succeeds because rather than turning the viewer off with snootiness, it brings the viewer in by inviting you to witness wine geeks in action. It’s a window on their world, watching them banter, taste and describe wines. As the star power of point-wielding wine critics has dimmed in recent years, sommeliers have seen their star power rise, making this inside look more meaningful. Also, people enroll in my (non-sommelier) wine classes because they want to be able to talk the wine talk; watching these wine gate-keepers up close provides viewers a good opportunity to pick up some tasting methodology and jargon that doesn’t have a flutter of pretentiousness.
The opening sequence is a succinct, word-free, appealing presentation of the course of life in the vineyard in a year. Director Jason Wise keeps the pace moving with a countdown to the final exam day. As the final results are read, there’s tension followed by rejoicing and sorrow.
Check it out: the movie will make you thirsty in more ways than one.
SOMM movie trailer at iTunes
In NYC @ Quad Cinemas at 34 W. 13th St for a one-week run.
UPDATE from Quad Cinema: “Q&A immediately following the 7:20pm show with DUSTIN WILSON FROM ELEVEN MADISON PARK AND LAURA MANIEC FROM CORKBUZZ on Friday 6/21. (They will also introduce the 9:50pm show).”
However, unlike most celebrity wines which are simply brand extensions and the celebrities wouldn’t know the vineyard that provided the grapes if they ended up there on a winery crawl, the Pitt Jolie duo actually live on their vineyard. Well, let’s not get too carried away: the peripatetic couple have been more-or-less residing on the 1,000-acre estate in Provence since 2008. They’ve decided to get serious about the wine and have started a joint venture with the Perrin family of Beaucastel to make a rosé at first, due out in a couple of months, with a white and a red to follow. Marc Perrin told Bloomberg that they tasted through several rosés and agreed on the style they wanted. The wines will be bottled under the Miraval label and will have “Jolie-Pitt and Perrin” on the back.
There has to be a joke in here somewhere, but the project actually sounds quite serious! Hopefully it will be more Fight Club than Se7en. And it won’t start off tasting old, like Benjamin Button. Or it will be good enough to be gone in 60 seconds…Argh, make it stop!
A wine story will be splashing on the silver screen this year: Samuel Goldwyn has bought the theatrical and digital distribution rights to “Somm.” The documentary, directed by Jason Wise, follows four candidates studying for the Master Sommelier exam. It will be released as a feature documentary some time this summer. The film got good reviews around the time of the Napa Valley Film Festival; while it’s not likely to knock off The Avengers, Part 56, from the top spot this summer, I, for one, am looking forward to it. For now, I’ll have to settle for the above trailer.
“Samuel Goldwyn toasts ‘Somm’ acquisition” Variety
It was just an aside from the podium during Danny Brager’s talk on the state of the wine industry. But the Nielsen wine guru said that wine is closing in on beer among viewers of the Super Bowl. According to their polling, 71% of viewers will have carbonated beverages (aka soda), 42% of viewers will have beer, 35% will have bottled water, 32% will have wine, and 22% will have spirits. I’m not a math whizz, but I think that adds up to a whole lot of bathroom breaks!
The survey info came out yesterday and included information on food consumed during the Super Bowl. As you might expect, it included many of our “impossible food-wine pairings.” So, from the archives, here they are:
* Chips and Salsa
* Buffalo wings
* Seven-layer dip
Bonus: “Betting wine for football”
Bonus bonus: “How and why did light beer come to be the choice of NFL viewers?”
“No one, but NO ONE puts ice in red wine!”
Such is the gist of the opening scene of a mostly tongue-in-cheek video about wine from 1990, “The Celebrity Guide to Wine,” chock full of 80s stars including Steven Seagal, Dudley Moore, Herbie Hancock, Whoopi Goldberg and more. It’s the brainchild of Bernard Erpicum, who was at Spago at the time.
Thanks to our friends at Eater for digging up this gem! A blog at the SF Chronicle picked up the item and posted screenshots to help navigate the 55-minute show with alacrity; the money scene is definitely Kelley LeBrock demonstrating to Steven Seagal how to open a wine bottle–between her legs. But then she doesn’t hold the glass by the stem! What kind of instructional video is this?!?