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Mondovino and Remole

June 30, 2005

I saw Mondovino on Friday night. Sadly, I don’t have much good to say about it. The main message of the film was that the increasing globalization/commoditization of wine (he called it “Napa-ization”) is a bad thing, and destroys some of the characteristics that make wine unique. The director takes aim at so-called “flying winemakers”, Mondavi, and the Wine Spectator (in the form of James Suckling).

I don’t think any of the people in the movie came across particularly well. Michel Rolland (the flying winemaker) came across as an arrogant sod, as did James Suckling. Robert Parker was uninteresting at best. Too many of the aristocratic Italian set were pictured lamenting the good old days of the Fascist regime (!!!), and although the Mondavi family came across better than I expected, they weren’t presented in the best light.

I didn’t mind the segments featuring the smaller winemakers, particularly the ones in Burgundy. But by the end, I had lost track of the people and their arguments, and I just got bored. Several people actually walked out of the movie, and there was a whole lot of fidgeting going on around me.

This movie was too long, too shaky (the camera work was making me feel carsick) and in the end, it did little to attract people who aren’t passionately interested in wine. I love wine, and I agree with the director’s main point. But I got bored after half an hour, and I felt the movie would have been much better as a one-hour documentary with professional editing. The director’s obsession with every dog that came along would have been the first thing to hit the cutting room floor. Although to be honest, the most interesting character was Robert Parker’s flatulent bulldog (George), who apparently has a habit of ruining tastings with his (ahem) “presence”.

On the other hand, we poured some nice wine before the movie. I was given the unenviable task of pouring a boring Italian Chardonnay (Frescobaldi’s ‘Albizzia’ Chardonnay), but I also poured a wonderful Tuscan Sangiovese/Cabernet blend (Frescobaldi’s “Remole”).

It was a hit. All three bottles of the Remole disappeared in forty-five minutes. Admittedly, I was giving generous pours (leading to some repeat tasters), but it’s also an excellent wine. In tastings, and in conversations, I find that people here tend to shy away from Italian wines, with the exception of the big names like Valpolicella or generic bottles of Pinot Grigio.

I think it’s because most people are intimidated by the labeling system. As wonderful as a bottle of Nero D’Avola might be, most people seem to pass it by in favour of yet another Australian Cab-Shiraz. Same goes for Prosecco, Primitivo or any number of other excellent Italian wines. I’m guilty of the same thing myself.

Giving people the chance to try something different like Remole is an excellent way to help them get over their fear of the unknown. I lost track of how many people expressed surprise once they tasted it. And it’s nothing special, just a good Sangiovese blend with buckets of cherry flavour and enough tannins from the Cabernet to give it some guts. But for someone whose only experience with Italian wine has been Valpolicella or cheap Chianti, the Remole must have been a whole new experience. At $14-15 at the private wine stores, it’s worth it as well.

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