Leandro Manini Williams takes a look at movies about Argentine wine.
Wine is something we love to have with someone or even alone. Something similar can be said about movies. A nice bottle and a good lm make for an excellent night in, especially if we just want to relax on the couch. While swirling a full glass, let’s take a look into cinematic productions that have Argentine wine as their core idea.
Hollywood discovered with the famous Oscar nominee “Sideways” that you could get many smiles from wine related movies. After this story of two friends going through the wine lands of Santa Barbara, other movies like “Bottle Shock” – about a wine competition in 1976 between Californian and French wines, proved that you could make good stories related to wine. A couple of years later the British production of “A Good Year” with Russell Crowe as a city trader lumbered with a French estate showed that other countries were able to make successful movies around this idea. It wasn’t long before Argentines decided to jump on a project with local avor.
“El Camino del Vino” (The Wine Route) is the story of a renowned sommelier who loses his taste buds. As he happens to be in Mendoza surrounded by wonderful wines, his wife encourages him to visit places so he can re-discover his passion. It is worth mentioning two things that make this movie unique. To begin with, many famous people of the wine world act in the movie. The man who plays the part of sommelier is Charlie Artuarola, a remarkable Uruguayan sommelier. Many owners of wineries are shown in the movie. For instance, the two times president of Wines of Argentina and owner of Dominio del Plata, Susana Balbo, advises Charlie to focus on the land and the fruit in order to get the real taste of what he’s drinking.
One of my favorite parts it’s when the sommelier, without anybody knowing, nd his ways into the wine cellar of the Norton Winery to taste the best and oldest wines (to recover his palate, of course). An English speaking person walks in. Charlie mistakes him for a tourist who has lost his way. Later, he nds out that he’s Gernot Langues, not only the owner of Norton but also the head of the Swarovski Enterprise. Another famous person of the wine world is Michele Rolland, a very well known wine consultant.
El Camino del Vino” is also a true story. While they were shooting the lm, Artuarola had some family issues that ended up being recorded by the camera and helped the lm look very realistic. At one point you can even see his wife asking the cameras to leave. Also, Catena Zapata, Domaine Bousquet and Clos de los Siete, plus the Hyatt Hotel, were used as locations to lm the movie. It is an amazing lm that will remind us that there are always ways to recover our passion. Furthermore, it would give you many expressions to use when you are speechless in front of a wine.
“This wine…is a poem!” is de nitely my favorite.
“Vino Para Robar” is also a very easy going movie. Although the movie was made with comedians instead of wine experts, you can still breathe the atmosphere of wine. “Robar” is Spanish for “steal”, but the title plays with the two meanings of the word “Vino”: it could mean “wine” or “he came”. Daniel Hendler performs the part of an international robber who travels from BA to Mendoza to steal something very precious, a bottle of Malbec ordered by Napoleon III in the 19th Century. In the meantime, he meets Andrea Bertucceli, who plays another international thief that is looking for the same valuable item. Later, they are kidnapped by a gangster and they will have to work together, falling in love in the process.
Filmed in 2015, the movie caused a stir amongst Mendocinos. The robbers had to steal the famous Malbec from the “Banco Hipotecario” –nowadays the Secretary of Culture, located in the middle of the city. The production not only closed many city streets but also recruited many locals as extras.
The lm showcases the most beautiful Mendocino locations such as Espacio Julio Le Parc art gallery, Cacheuta Hot Springs, General San Martín Park, the Hyatt Hotel and San Martin square. Of course, wineries couldn’t be absent. You can see O.Fournier and Septima, as well as the interiors of Salentein.
According to the myth around this particular bottle of Malbec, those who drink it will nd eternal love. That’s why my favorite part is when – spoiler alert! – the two lovers open the bottle and make a toast at the end of the movie. Different to what it would have happened in a romantic movie, while the credits are displayed you can see the rejection faces that anybody would have when trying a 170 years old Malbec.
Wine documentaries are experiencing a boom. “Somm” is a movie about four wine sommeliers who are training to get to the pinnacle of wine appreciation and pass Master Sommeliers exam. As crazy as the exam may be, you end up learning a lot about wine descriptors and regions in different countries. Another documentary I strongly recommend is “Red Obsession”. Russell Crowe as narrator guides you through the Chinese wine push that has made this country one of the largest wine producers and importers in the world.
But all that glitters is not gold. Documentaries like “Bitter Grapes – Slavery in the Vineyards”, directed by the Danish lmmaker Tom Heinemann, pointed out the poor workers conditions in South Africa.
The most famous negative wine documentary is Mondovino where American lmmaker Jonathan Nossiter wants to show two different kind of wineries: the Coca-cola style operations that are just concerned about producing millions of litters, with a standard avor that will allow many sales, or the ones that stay loyal to their traditions and go for a more unique style, even if these implies to less sales.
In a country like Argentina with many foreign investors and external wine consultants, Nossiter couldn’t avoid visiting the lovely province of Salta, in the north. The movie team visited the Etchart Winery, in the Cafayate region. This was the rst winery in the country to work with the assistance of Michel Rolland, who features prominently in the movie, not always in the most favourable light.
You can see the global debate between globalization and local terroir in an Argentinean segment. On the one hand, you have Arnaldo Etchart. He was the owner of the Etchart winery, at least before the French company Penrod Ricard bought it. He praised the changes that Rolland had introduced to the wine country, which allowed Arnaldo to export his production. He appears
to look down on the natives of Argentina, because in his opinion they are lazy and illiterate. Alternatively, the movie team interviews a poor man from the community of Tombolón. He shows his one hectare of Torrontés he owned, which he had cultivated with passion even if he didn’t receive a lot of money (only enough to survive). In response to the controversy the movie provoked, Etchart claimed his words were taken out of context.
Another documentary “Boom Varietal” was released for the pleasure of Malbec lovers. Knowing that this variety was taking off, Kirk Ermisch – President of the Southern Wine Group, and the director Sky Pinnick, joined forces to create this documentary about how and why the French grape Malbec seems to have found its right place in the land of gauchos. Oremiered at the Oregon Festival of 2011, it was the movie with the largest audience, and has won many awards since.
Ermisch had witnessed the rising of the Australian Shiraz and when he realized that Malbec was going on the same route, he thought about making this movie, trying to catch as accurately as possible the expansion of this varietal. Also, he wanted to educate people all over the world about this lovely grape.
I think the movie is everything you need if you want to be a Malbec expert. From the origins in France until its modern development, it shows you how a single grape has changed the wine culture of Argentina. Let’s not forget that this country used to consume more blends than single-varietal wines in the past.
The director had already seen Mondovino before making Boom Varietal, and you can tell how he wanted to do something knowledgeable but also entertaining and more beautiful. Be ready to enjoy the marvelous scenery of the Andes while some of the main characters of the Argentinean wine metamorphosis – like Santiago Achaval, the rst Argentinean wine producer to achieve ve stars in the Decanter Magazine – are interviewed about the crucial years of this transformation.
It doesn’t matter if you want to become a wine expert or just laugh with a glass of wine next to you. movies about wine do both.