This film is the second in a trilogy of documentaries written and produced by David Kennard. Following on the heels of 2013’s A Year in Burgundy, the story takes viewers on a jaunt through the Champagne region of northeastern France during the 2012 growing season and harvest.
A Year in Champagne follows Martine Saunier through a handful of Champagne houses from early spring through harvest and into winter. Martine is an enthusiastic importer of some of her native France’s finest wines into the United States.
The Champagne region is unique in that all of the wines produced here fall under one appellation, or wine growing area. This makes it easier to define the “rules” for production of the sparkling elixir, in which there are many. Champagne making is very regimented so that quality is consistent. From harvesting to cellaring the wine to pruning the vines, the CVC (Champagne’s Big Brother) keeps tight regulatory control over everything.
Though I’ve personally done some studies on this region, I learned a lot while watching this lighthearted documentary. The material is presented in an interesting, unintimidating fashion. I didn’t even mind the subtitles, which is kind of a big deal considering I changed majors in college just so I could drop French.Coming off of an exceptional vintage in 2011, the 2012 growing season presented some challenges. It kicked off with a cold, windy, rainy spring, which threatened a crop of saturated or rotting grapes and a small harvest. At the risk of giving too much away, everything worked out in the end as the weather dried out in August. The harvest was indeed small but the grapes expressed magnificent quality with concentrated acid & sugars. After harvest and into winter, we get a glimpse of the blending process, which can be done with juice from other vintages to ensure quality. And then the second fermentation in the bottle with yeast and added sugar kicks off the actual creation of Champagne.
Champagne’s past isn’t all sex and rock & roll. The region has had it’s struggles over it’s storied history. As there are no mountains protecting the region, it has been a blood drenched battleground many times over. Thousands of soldiers have lost their lives where these vines now stand. From Atilla the Hun around 1500 years ago, up until World War I, this area has seen it’s share of conflict and strife. And the residents will never forget.
Viewers will be fascinated by the romanticism and pleasure projected by the Champagne producing community. The participants in the Champagne industry are very proud, hardworking people but have a sense of humor and know how to kick back and enjoy life. Drinking Champagne is all about pleasure. There’s an erotic side to it, that’s just natural. Champagne means it’s a party. There’s an element of seduction to it. One might even say it’s magical.
A Year in Champagne is a visual treat and a fascinating picture, even for non wine geeks. It’s available for download and in select theaters on March 6th. See links below.
Thanks for reading!