There aren’t many bubbles in “A Year in Champagne,” an unfussy, unadorned infomercial for the product of that one magical region in France, the only place in the world that can produce sparkling wine that calls itself “Champagne.”
David Kennard’s documentary, framed by the 2012 growing and harvest season in Champagne, visits big operations such as Bollinger and Moet & Chandon, and smaller winers such as Maison Gosset. And he hangs out with Stephane Coquiellette, a younger vintner who leads him, and the viewer through the bare essentials of bubbly wine-making.
We learn how English tastes and English Industrial Revolution technology made champagne what it is today, how this northeastern corner of France, bisected by the Marne River, has been “bathed in blood” by centuries of invasions.
We see the threats to the 2012 grapes (chardonnay, blended with pinot noir and others, makes champagne), from chilly weather to constant rain (grape rot) and caterpillar infestations.
Most fascinating, other than the six miles of wine cellars the region boasts, might be the “rules” governing how vines are trimmed, how fermentation is achieved and how bottles are turned as the wine ages.
But Kennard’s film is never much more than Champagne 101, from its shots of the manufacturing process to the choice of trite classical music warhorse tunes (Boccherini, Straus and Mahler) to underscore the backlit scenes of grapes ripening on the vine.
“A Year” won’t tell aficionadoes anything new, and even novices may grate at its superficiality, a brief whiff of bouquet when more of a sip or two was called for.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Martine Saunier
Credits: Writte and directed by David Kennard. A Samuel L. Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:23