October 10, 2014

French Friday: "A Year in Burgundy"

A Year in Burgundy is a beautiful, bilingual documentary (narrated in English with French dialogue and interviews, subtitled for non-francophones). The scenery in the vineyards, medieval wine cellars, and quaint Burgundian towns is so lovely, and the people are quite charming. The film follows, Martine Saunier, a Parisian wine importer, as she visit vineyards throughout Burgundy during the 2011 vintage year. Some of the vineyards are no larger than many people's backyards, yet they produce such exquisite wines that a bottle can sell for upwards of one thousand dollars. Each vintage is described as "a time capsule, a bottled piece of history of a very specific year, with its particular weather pattern, its crises and its triumphs." The winemakers are truly 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."

What I loved most about the film was how it followed the rhythm of the seasons -- a year in the life of both the winemakers and their vines: "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."

I once spent a day in Burgundy en route from Paris to Geneva. I stopped in the town of Beaune for a few hours to tour the Hôtel Dieu and to have lunch. I'm sure I enjoyed a glass of wine, but my knowledge and appreciation was very limited in 1994. After seeing this film, I would love to return. It has been a long time since I've been in eastern France, but the region has been developed since Roman times and I'm certain that it will be as historic and picturesque when I return one day.

Have you seen A Year in Burgundy yet? It was featured at this year's Milwaukee Film Festival, but you can also enjoy it at home. The film is currently the #2 best seller on iTunes and is also available on Netflix. It's Friday: Open a nice bottle of red and enjoy!