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Mondovino 28/04/2006 (TNB)

I finally got round to watching Mondovino the other night. For those who have missed the fuss, the film is about the conflict of traditional and modern (or perhaps artisan and industrialist or even progressive American and hidebound French) in the wine world. Very clearly on a small budget, Jonathan Nossiter seems to have gone round with one or two other people and a camera, mainly just letting wine people talk. I suspect the small scale is why everybody seems quite open and unguarded. How else can they have captured one of the Mondavi's egotistical speculation of how it would be great to make wine on Mars and one of the Frescobaldi family explaining quite seriously that Mussolini made the trains run on time.

The chief villain is Michel Rolland, shown being driven around the vineyards of Bordeaux and telling absolutely everybody to micro-oxygenate. Like all the best villains he seems very affable and as a friend of mine remarked, you almost get the sense that he is himself aware of the absurdity of it all. Perhaps he is badly treated by the film, possibly he encourages other estates to make wine quite differently, but he does convey the impression that he has not the slightest doubt - the Rolland way is the only way.

I had realised some time ago that I did not like Rolland's Clarets and have been very sorry to discover grand old estates like Leoville Poyferre being seduced by the rewards of following fashion. Rolland is Robert Parker's representative on earth - what he is particularly good at is producing wines in the style most liked by the great arbiter (and the less influential and less reliable Wine Spectator) and of course that means high prices in world markets. Even if this resulted in wines I liked, I would be (I hope) suspicious of the resulting monoculture. As it is, it makes me keener on a project that I half-jokingly suggested a while ago, of constructing an up-to-date list of the estates he is advising so that I can avoid buying them by accident.

Article added to Fine Wine Diary 28/04/2006   Return to top