French filmmaker Marie-Ange Gorbanevsky didn’t know much about wine before she started filming her fifth documentary, L’Âme du Vin (The Soul of Wine). But she figured out pretty quickly where the action was: “I had the feeling that wine was a mysterious world with no limits.” Gorbanevsky told Unfiltered via email. “As I wanted to film the greatest winemakers, rapidly I realized that I must go to Burgundy.” And not just anywhere in Burgundy: The closest thing in wine to a holy site, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
The documentary focuses on winemakers working with biodynamic practices, and DRC's painstaking organic approach has become part of its legend. Another is its equally lofty prices, which range from around $5,000 to $500,000 a bottle, but Gorbanevsky aimed to highlight the more humble human element in wine, training her lens on the winemakers and other craftsmen (someone’s gotta make the barrels, too). There have been documentaries about Burgundy and biodynamics before, but few can boast landing DRC boss Aubert de Villaine. Gorbanevsky films the Burgundy big man in the cellar, sampling his wine; he’s careful not to waste a drop. “With this Romanée-Conti, it’s always a special experience when you taste it,” he says, “but it’s always a little worrying too because you know a delicate wine, which is all finesse and elegance, can also be moody.” Gorbanevsky hears similar sentiments from top winemakers in Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Meursault and Volnay.
“I think there are many similarities between a filmmaker and winemaker’s work,” Gorbanevsky told us. “We have two different jobs but the path is the same. There is an indefinable alchemy which is intangible.”
In the final scene, restaurateur Hide Ishizuka and chef Ryuji Teshima sit across from each other to taste a Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 1945. The two Japanese men stare at each other after the glasses are poured by a young somm. “Do they really mean '45?” Ishizuka asks. “Yes,” Teshima responds. They are flooded with emotion: excited, nervous, reverential. "I don't know what else to say except that it is extraordinary," Teshima says. The film was just released in theaters across France, and Gorbanevsky told us it would be available online with English subtitles in the near future.
Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.