Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Vintner vs. Vintner

Reason reviews "Modovino," a documentary about winemaking in the age of globalization.
"Let's be clear; wine is dead," Guibert declares amidst a damp row of vines. A hero of wine-antiglobalists, Guibert led the resistance against Mondavi, the Napa Valley giants, when they sought to move into Aniane, Languedoc. Like the other French and Italian winemakers Nossiter interviews, Guibert is a Millet masterpiece come to life, a wrinkled, aggressively authentic farmer railing against capitalism as he sweeps through his vineyard.

"It takes a poet to make a great wine," he says, apparently confident that he is that poet.

Against this bucolic decay, Nossiter posits the obscenely successful Michel Rolland, a wine consultant and a crass, comic-book villain. He is filmed either in his office or his chauffered car, making cracks about journalists into his cell phone, spitting streams of red wine between his yellow teeth, denouncing the anti-globalization "peasants" from behind a sterile glass desk, lording over a map that marks the places his business has penetrated. To Rolland, the wine racket is a high-stakes round of Risk. It's not poetry; it's conquest.

Rolland consults for men like Robert Mondavi, the world's most powerful winemaker and a symbol of Napa's ascendance. Filmed in their Italianate mansion, flanked by tour groups, Bob Mondavi and his sons shrug off Guibert's resistance. Next door to the Mondavi estate, another Polo-clad, phenomenally successful wine family shows Nossiter around its own adobe monstrosity.

"Every tree, every shrub, every bush we brought here," winemaker Garen Staglin says, "we created, out of nothing, the best of what Italy could bring." The dining room table is modeled after a Godfather II prop, Staglin's wife cheerily reports.



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