I do hope that people who watch A Year in Champagne have seen this production company’s last feature, A Year in Burgundy. This Champagne film is like a Part Two in terms of wine education. It assumes a certain amount of wine knowledge.
Drinking champagne is fun, glamorous, exciting. And it’s great that there’s a new film about this stylish beverage. But I wish there were more content here about champagne’s illustrious history (was Dom Pérignon even mentioned?) and about the process of making champagne. For the viewer, this film raises as many questions as it answers.
A Year in Champagne begins with famous Burgundy wine dealer Martine Saunier being “introduced” to Bollinger Champagne. Really? She’s French, she spends her time brokering wine in the neighboring region of Burgundy, and she doesn’t know Champagne? Especially the renowned, ultra-premium Bollinger? And why is she here, anyhow? This appears to be an attempt at having a host for the film, but it never coalesces.
In other sections of the film, aspects of champagne production are referred to but not elaborated on. Chardonnay is mentioned, but I didn’t hear anyone clarify the fact that this grape is a major component of champagne. Another time, the phrase “no sugar added” is mentioned offhandedly. This is incredibly misleading: do people think that there’s a no-sugar-added “diet champagne” option, like diet soda? There is not. Actually small amounts of sugar have been a traditional element in the champagne-making process for centuries – but I didn’t learn that from this film.
My feeling is that the filmmakers, David Kennard and Martine Saunier, wanted to make a story with heart, like their appealing Burgundy film. To that end they did talk to some small, family-owned champagne growers and producers. But a big part of champagne’s allure comes from centuries of being marketed by large, well-branded Champagne Houses like the aforementioned Bollinger, as well as Veuve Cliquot, Moët & Chandon and others you’ve heard of. The Champagne Houses make an industrial-sized amount of bubbly and promote it for elegant celebrations and chic upscale consumers. There are two competing facets of Champagne production today: the famous label business and the small grower-producer. Unfortunately, both are presented incompletely and they essentially cancel each other out in the film. Potential conflicts are glossed over. We just don’t have a great story line to follow.
An attempt is made to create tension with the poor climate and weather conditions during the year this was filmed, but once again, the story arc is incomplete. In terms of cinematography, we do see some beautiful countryside here – but what wine region isn’t picturesque? Having looked forward to the release of this film for some time, I’m disappointed. I guess I’ll just have to go drown my sorrows in champagne…and maybe watch Burgundy again while I wait hopefully for next year’s release of A Year in Port.
FILM INFO: Directed by David Kennard, A Year in Champagne is the second in a series of three 90-minute wine films for general release, created by InCA Productions and Executive Produced by RTR International, Inc. and distributed in North America by Samuel Goldwyn Films.