A review of “Mondovino” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language and alcohol consumption

Run Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes

 

 

The fine art of vino gets the in-depth treatment in this amusing documentary that speaks to a genuine love for the grape.

From the French Pyrenees to Sardinia and the Napa Valley the participants sing the praises of wine – unique, endangered, imported and just plain quaffable.  Mondovino’s commitment to its subject ranges from the religious relationship between man and nature (culminating in an appreciation approaching worship) to the cutthroat philosophy of global marketing.

There is a lot to dissect when it comes to wine, an enduring symbol of

Ancient and Modern civilizations.  Tradition goes head-to-head with industry while progressive societies’ vintners and purveyors seek a higher form of grape analysis and dissect the nasty pursuit of micro-oxygenating. Not to mention wagging cabernet-stained tongues over the sobering tale of the Mondavi Affair.

Cranky French viticulturists foretell of the doom of the grape alongside smooth California operators and international importers who move effortlessly from vineyard to vineyard in chauffeured limousines with cell-phones pasted to their ears.  A lone American critic makes or breaks years of backbreaking effort with a simple sip and spit.

Accusations utilizing thinly-veiled insults (Communists! Socialists! Ayatollahs of Terror!) are hurled with abandon.  Vineyard philosophers wax prosaic on the history of drink and the palate. All in the name of a higher purpose: bringing the cultural soul of a good meal to a table near you.

Filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter injects his tasty documentary with intoxicating humor, poking fun at the egos and the dynasties that are the core of the effervescent wine trade.  Several natural climaxes come and go rendering the last quarter of the film unnecessarily repetitive.  But for that unfortunate loss of focus Mondovino is insidious fun for the oenophile and teetotaler alike.