My knowledge of wine is limited to what I can remember from the several wine tours I’ve been on with ExperiencePlus! and I’m confident that I would I would fail the “Davis test” (have a friend pour room temperature red and white wines into black glasses, or blindfold yourself, and try and identify which is which). However, I do enjoy drinking wine and would like to know more about it. So, when “A Year in Burgundy” popped up as a streaming option on Netflix, I hit enter.
This documentary features seven renowned wine-making families in the Burgundy region of France and follows them over the course of year. You follow the rhythm of the seasons beginning with spring and then in fall the production through to winter with guide Martine Saunier, a California-based importer who has known several of the families for 40 or more years. The movie was filmed during the 2011 season, which wine connoisseurs may remember as a nail biting year – made stressful by extreme weather conditions.
Each wine maker’s story and methods are different, though all are passionate about what they do. My favorite had to be Lalou Bize-Leroy, who owns Domaine Leroy and is the co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Lalou has a deep, spiritual connection with her vines, and expresses her disdain over a neighbors pruning methods: “It took them one hour to prune that vineyard. It takes me one day to do just one row”. You know in that instant that she is a force to be reckoned with.
The camera work is exceptional and Burgundy, through chief cameraman Jamie LeJeune’s lens, has never looked better. The vines exude green and freshness in spring, shimmer in the heat of summer, and burst with color in fall.
Though the narrative is sometimes stilted and sentimental, it can easily be forgiven because the film gives you access to places you would never otherwise be allowed to go. You learn a bit of history about Burgundy and share in wine culture as a guest of some of the world’s finest producers. They take you to dinner with family and lead you through planting, pruning, harvest, and production. I now know the importance of yeast in making wine, the horrors of hail damaged grapes, and have a better understanding of terroir. I can appreciate the craftsmanship of doing things by hand, and feel a sense of loss as things become standardized, mechanized, and computerized (as you might imagine Lalou has something to say about this as well!).
Though I wouldn’t quite give it the 5 star rating that Netflix indicated in my queue, “A Year in Burgundy” is certainly worth watching, and I look forward to seeing “A Year in Champagne,” the second installment in what will be a wine trilogy.