"Where wine goes, goes the world," says filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter. His own pilgrimage to many of the world's great wine regions supplies the material for his documentary Mondovino. The film is scheduled to first appear in American theaters in March 2005.
Mondovino doesn't try to explain how wine is made or what it tastes like. Instead, Nossiter focuses on the culture of wine, by talking with the producers, merchants and critics who make up the global wine industry. In interviews ranging from a humble Argentine Indian who makes only a few bottles a year to the aristocratic Frescobaldi and Antinori families, who have been making wine in Italy for centuries, Nossiter shows passion for wine on every scale and how the wine industry reflects the world at large.
Nossiter, 43, invested four years and more than 500 hours of film in the project. This is his fourth film, but it reflects his first love. "I've always loved wine, and I've worked in the wine business since I was 16," Nossiter says. "I was curious to explore the human intensity of wine. To me wine is beautiful and interesting precisely because it is a reflection of human beings and their culture."
The film's many subjects include California's Mondavi and Staglin families, wine consultant Michel Rolland, Burgundy's Hubert de Montille and his winemaking children, wine critic Robert Parker and Wine Spectator's James Suckling. "Wine people [have] the natural intensity of great actors," says Nossiter.
The documentary, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last spring, has generated controversy in Europe. Critics have noted its sympathy for "terroir-ists" who fight to maintain the individuality of their small-production wines, and its attacks against big companies who are accused of the increasing globalization and homogenization of wine.
"It is a polemical film, a subjective film, definitely a very personal film," Nossiter says. "The film tries to put the human face on globalization and understand that it's a complex issue. I tried to present a fresco of those incredibly complex, contradictory and sometimes self-contradictory people."