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A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE

90-min documentary film on Champagne, released 2015 by Samuel Goldwyn Films, created by InCA Productions

The exploding cork. Endless tiny bubbles floating up and up in the glass. An indulgence. A celebration. A seduction. A triumph. This is the essence of Champagne, isn’t it?

But it’s not just bubbles in a glass that makes the wine, or the mystique. Only sparkling wine produced within the boundaries of the Champagne region is truly “Champagne.” At first glance, the region is not an obvious source of romance. Champagne’s history is grim and bloody, swept by war and destruction from Attila the Hun to the filthy trenches of WWI and the Nazi depredations of WWII. The environment for winemaking is desperately hard — northerly latitude, chalky soil, copious rain, frost, rot. Yet it’s these difficulties that help make the wine unique.

With renowned wine importer Martine Saunier as our guide, we get a rare glimpse behind the scenes into the real Champagne through six houses, from small independent makers like Champagne Saint-Chamant, where each and every bottle is still turned by hand in the cellars, to the illustrious houses of Gosset and Bollinger which have been instrumental in shaping the image of Champagne around the world. In Champagne, they don’t sell Appellations, they sell Brands, many of which have been famous for 200 years.

In the vineyard, 2012 threatened to be “the year of all our fears,” as one eminent Champagne wine-master put it. Cold. Rain. Insects. Wind. More rain. The sun had gone away and looked like it might stay away forever. What happened at the last minute, to help chase the nightmares away? What saved Champagne from ruin?

Happily, unlike other great wines, non-vintage Champagne is not the product of a specific year and its weather. Style is the driver, and a signature house style is as much a creation as a movie star. Natural assets are just the starting place, and as the French say: “il faut souffrir pour etre belle,” one must suffer to be beautiful. The magical transformation happens behind closed doors and in miles of cellars, cities beneath cities, which hold literally hundreds of millions of bottles.

The blender of the wine works like an alchemist, mingling the brightness of one year’s summer with the difficulties of another year’s spring to create a better vision, and a taste experience that is true to the house’s style; then creating the bubbles in just the right amount, so the bottle won’t explode. After all, as customers we don’t even consider the fears of the winemakers. We crave the fantasy: the special zing of our favorite bubbly, when we push out the cork, the first tingle of bubbles on the nose, the taste explosion in the mouth, the thrill of the moment when you swallow pure gold… For more visit http://www.ayearinchampagne.com/

 

A Year in Burgundy

90-min documentary film on the Burgundy region and winemakers, released 2014 by FilmBuff, created by InCA Productions

What lies within the rhythm of a year?

The vines bud and grow leaves and tendrils, and are trained, cared for. They make grapes, and a small, diligent army of hands comes to carry them away. The stripped vines die back, dry and brown, and turn to brush. The brush is burned, going into the wind as a curl of smoke and into the ground as ash. This is a year in Burgundy.

Experience the year with French wine importer Martine Saunier as your guide. The film is in four season-sections, and plays out against that backdrop: spring showers, drought, heat wave, hail and storms, harvest moons and the damp cold of winter. Each vintage is a time capsule, a bottled piece of history of a very specific year, with its particular weather pattern, its crises and its triumphs. It all goes in, whether you want it to or not, and 2011 was full of drama. 

In the film, we get to know our half-dozen wine-makers: they are artists, whose personalities shape the flavor and style of the wines they lovingly craft. There is joy, fear, anxiety, triumph, and laughter in their experiences. With the Morey-Coffinets, we meet three generations of wine-makers, and little two-year-old Celeste, the first of the fourth generation. In Lalou Bize-Leroy, we meet the uncrowned Queen of Burgundy – now in her eighties, still involved in every detail of her winemaking, creator of some of the best-renowned and most famous wines on earth.

We get a sense of the deep history involved. Though they use many of the latest equipment and techniques, the secrets of winemaking in Burgundy and the discovery of the best terroirs (and how to exploit them) have been developed since Roman times. Indeed, the Cistercian monks kept the art alive during the Dark Ages (500-1000) and developed a whole industry in the Middle Ages: their central wine-making HQ, Clos de Vougeot, still exists, and is the location for one of the central scenes of the film: a great mid-summer banquet. 

Burgundy is exquisitely beautiful. Even if it had no vines, it would be a favorite destination. Its ancient villages, its gentle hillsides, valleys and streams give the impression of a fairy-tale land. Yet it's here that we find what is arguably the most valuable agricultural land on earth: tiny vineyards no bigger than many people's backyards produce wine that sells for thousands of dollars a bottle...

This is a year that went into the bottle and onto film. This is our capsule. The grapes grow. The grapes die away. What is left always in the frame is a way of life. For more visit http://www.ayearinburgundy.com/