On Nov. 10, 20th Century Fox will release A Good Year, a film directed by Ridley Scott and based on Peter Mayle's 2004 novel of the same name. The movie tells the story of Max Skinner (played by Russell Crowe), a thirtysomething London investment banker who inherits a Provençal vineyard and its run-down château. It was filmed in the Lubéron area of Provence during September and October 2005, when much of the region was absorbed with the grape harvest.
After scouting locations all over the region, Scott, who grows wine grapes on his own Lubéron vacation property, found the perfect setting at the historic Château La Canorgue, a 125-acre organic domaine that produces red, rosé and white wines under the Côtes du Lubéron appellation.
"Ridley loves their rosé," said location manager Thierry Zemmour. "And the owners were just wonderful."
Because 70 percent of the film would be shot at the estate, the choice was an important one. Scott chose La Canorgue, he said, not because it's just five miles from his own home, but because it had almost everything he wanted: a gorgeous 17th-century Italian-style house, a pool, sweeping views and row after row of vines.
Although the location satisfied Scott's vision, Nathalie Margan, who runs the vineyard with her father, Jean-Pierre, said the family was hesitant when first approached. "The harvest is the result of an entire year of hard work," she said. "So better, we thought, to concentrate on the wine. But we knew the shoot would be an adventure, and so it became kind of a challenge."
The experience of 20 enormous equipment trailers and 200-plus cast and crew swarming all over her property, Margan said, was strange but also thrilling. "We had to have badges to get into our own house!" she laughs. "We were asked a few times how a real winemaker does things or what various technical terms were--that was exciting. Overall, it was a great cohabitation. They did a good movie without disturbing us too much, and we did a good wine without disturbing them."
To accommodate the crew, the Margans and their team adjusted their work schedule, beginning earlier in the morning and working late into the night. In the film, the Margans appear with their crew as background in a number of harvest shots.
|Russell Crowe stars as Londoner-
turned-vintner Max Skinner.
Even though he owns a home there, Scott said that three straight months in the Lubéron gave him more of a chance to visit quite a few top vineyards--and he was impressed with what he saw. "This was never considered an important region," he said. "But the improvement has been spectacular."
"Twenty years ago, it was vin very ordinaire indeed," said Mayle, who lives in the Lubéron year-round. "But newcomers have spent huge money bringing vineyards up to scratch, and it's stunning to see what they've done. The results are in the bottle. These days I buy only local wines."
So will A Good Year do for Côtes du Lubéron what Sideways did for Pinot Noir? "You never know," Mayle said, "but the film is absolutely ravishing and also really good fun. I'd like to think the effect on the Lubéron will be positive, and if that rubs off on wine sales … great."
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