A Year in Champagne a delightful documentary from director David Kennard tells the story of families from the champagne region of France and the year long journey to creating the perfect bottle of champagne. Everyone has been at a wedding or party where the bottle of champagne is brought out and the cork prised from the bottle in a spray of champagne; however, if you realized the amount of dedication, love, and soul that goes into every bottle then everyone would be drinking champagne in the hopes of filling themselves with those qualities.
In this documentary the struggles of some highly respected families of champagne take place over a year where weather and insects threaten to ruin their crops and their livelihood. A small region east of Paris, the wine produced in these parts is the only wine legally allowed to be considered champagne and therefore lends itself to families who work tirelessly to honor the tradition of the craft. In a country marred with history, this small region has bared the brunt of countless wars with its relatively flat land and geographic location made it a crossroads of conflicts over hundreds of years. With evidence of trenches from the First World War next to acres of vines the juxtaposition of death and life is unmistakable in the land. Some famous houses of champagne have been decimated by these wars, their lands ruined by trench warfare or their men becoming causalities of war. I don’t think its an exaggeration to say that these families have champagne in their veins and when they speak of their love for the drink it is obvious that the life they live is not an easy one but incredibly rewarding. From spending hours walking the miles of underground cellars meticulously tending thousands of bottles to hand picking hundreds of bushels of grapes in every type of weather this film captures every high and low that these people experience every year as owners of vineyards and producers of wine.
Expertly informing the audience about the process of making champagne and relaying the history of the region and the family, this film is more enlightening then most when it comes to understanding making champagne. I have a tendency to dismiss the entrainment value of documentaries because of the tendency to lecture to the audience about their subject matter. The narrative nature of this film as it relays the history of the champagne houses and the region of the whole is so engrossing and surprising that I was instantly captivated by the glamour and the grittiness that goes into producing the wine. Even though this film takes place over the year of 2012 it is so easy to become engrossed in the speculation that comes with growing grapes and by the end of the film I was praying that the grape crop could outlast the bad weather and parasites to make an incredible vintage. This film is full of so much whimsy and spirit that it was a joy to watch the stories of these families as they try to bring joy to so many people across the world.
See it October 3rd, 1:30 at Times Cinema or October 6th, 4:30 at the Oriental Theatre.