I’m a sucker for wine movies. Fact or fiction, drama or documentary – if it’s even remotely related to the world of wine, sign me up. However, even though I will watch most anything about wine – I’ll also know within ten minutes whether I’m going to keep watching it . . .
So when a few minutes into my first episode Marcel Guigal talked about how his father, winery founder Etienne, saw his family’s future on the steep hillsides of Côte-Rôtie, I knew that I was all-in on Wine Masters. Wine Masters is a cinematic documentary series that aims to tell “the stories about terroir, taste and tradition through the experience of some of the most prestigious wine producing families from each wine region.” Currently shooting their second season in Italy, with Spain already chosen for the third season, the producers plan to shoot a total of seven seasons for the series (fingers crossed for a Pacific Northwest season!)
The producer of Wine Masters, Klaas de Jong, provided me with a complimentary screening link to watch the first season of the series in exchange for an independent and honest review. My thoughts are as follows (spoiler alert: I enjoyed the series so much that I ended purchasing it so I could watch in the future when my temporary link expired!).
The first season of Wine Masters covers five different wine regions in France: the Rhône, Loire, Alsace, Burgundy and Bordeaux. In each episode, a local wine producing family is featured who share their winemaking stories – including their family’s history, plans for the future, unique styles of wine and challenges faced. The series does an excellent job of taking wine regions that are rather intimidating (Burgundy and Bordeaux – I’m looking right at you two) and making them more approachable through these winemaking families. These are very recognizable names like Guigal, Trimbach and Drouhin. Families who truly ARE Wine Masters.
Although each family is unique, a major overarching theme is the relationship between the generations and the passing of the baton from one to another. This was probably my favorite part of the series – the interaction (and sometimes subtle conflict) between the traditional/formal older generation and the more experimental/innovative younger one. While the younger generation is focused on issues like internet sales and online presence, the older concentrates on – as Bordeaux winemaker Hubert de Boüard de Laforest so eloquently puts it – “keeping the soul” of the winery.
One of the great things about Wine Masters is that in order to enjoy the series you don’t need to know anything about wine. This is thanks in large part to two very important supporting roles featuring Tim Atkin and Jeannie Cho Lee. In fact, since this IS Oscar season, let’s just go ahead and give these two – and others – their awards…
Live! From the Red Carpet – Outwines is proud to present the Wine Masters Oscars!
Best Supporting Roles.
In addition to the winemaking families, two Masters of Wine are present in each episode to help guide the viewer along the way: Tim Atkin and Jeannie Cho Lee.
These two MWs help set the scene of each region by discussing its location, varieties grown, climate, food pairing (particularly interesting in the Alsace episode!) and more. They also add various anecdotes throughout the series – my favorite being that Napoleon’s troops used to salute Le Montrachet when they went by the famed vineyard (who knew?!).
Tim and Jeannie’s commentary not only make the regions come to life a bit more, but they also explain concepts on a level that even a relative wine newbie can understand (Hubs can attest to this!). From the myriad of soil types in Sancerre to the rather confusing sweetness levels of Alsatian Riesling, the MWs do an excellent job of analyzing these issues in plain English.
The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous throughout the series. I’ve only been to two of the five regions (Rhône & Burgundy), and the scenes very much reminded me of being there – particularly Côte-Rôtie. And for the three regions I’ve yet to visit, the producers did a VERY good job of making me want to go there.
The score was beautifully done as well. For the majority of the series, it was a lovely, melodious part of the background. Except for that one cooperage scene at Guigal – have your volume button on the remote handy for that one.
And now for some other Awards . . . and yes, I realize these sound more like High School favorites than film categories:
Best dressed. Marcel Guigal is the consummate gentleman. Especially with his jaunty beret and suit jacket traipsing through his vineyards alongside his more casually dressed son, Philippe, who was sporting a Seattle Mariners baseball hat. Which of course gets major props from this Washington native! 🙂
Best line. Hubert de Boüard de Laforest on why Cabernet Franc makes up such a large percentage of their blends: “it makes your mind more happy.”
Most Athletic. The entire Bourgeois Family. There’s a scene where they’re tasting and evaluating their wines – and their beautifully accurate projectile spitting was flat-out impressive. I still have to have a cup literally RIGHT in front of me, and even then there’s the occasional dribble.
Best Foreign Language. Many of the older generation. So unless you’re fluent in French, make sure to have your subtitles turned on so you understand what they’re saying (something I unfortunately figured out once I was well into my first episode).
Most Likely to Succeed. Anne Trimbach. Well aware of the challenges that Riesling has on markets due to lack of clarity as to how sweet the wine will be, Anne discusses implementing a “sweetness scale” on Trimbach bottles in the future. Something like this will definitely help consumers embrace this often misunderstood variety.
Best Scene. Family dinner with the Drouhins where they open their bottling of a 1978 Grands Échezeaux. Seeing some of the family member’s expressions of pure delight after sipping this wine is . . . well, delightful. They’re sharing a simple meal of cheese and bread with a bottle of wine that would cost well over $1,000 in today’s market. Just enjoying an afternoon and each other’s company – and isn’t that what wine should be all about?
I’m already looking forward to seeing what Wine Masters has in store for their second season in Italy. If you’re a fan of wine (if you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming the answer is yes!) – check out the Wine Masters documentary series. To conclude, in the spirt of Sally Field on her Best Actress acceptance speech: you’ll like it, you’ll really like it!