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Monday, June 8, 2015

A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE: DVD review, First Run Features

A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE (First Run Features, 2014, 82 minutes, FRF916554D, $31.48 CAD, cheaper in US and at Amazon) has been written and directed by David Kennard, who is now in the midst of his wine trilogy. Previously, he had done A Year in Burgundy and is now involved with filming A Year in Port, to be released early next year. Overall, it is a fine doc, rated 6.7 at IMDB (which seems low to me for it is not an instructional video but rather a POV doc). It apparently may be coming to DevourFest, the food film festival held every November in Wolfville Nova Scotia (they had showed A Year in Burgundy last year). The video shows the process and the vintners of Champagne, assisted by the presence of Martine Saunier, a wine importer from the US. I remember her being more involved, though, in the Burgundy film. There is a description and actual viewing of the process and rules in Champagne, a very heavily regulated major industry that really has no competitors since it is both unique and a Protected Designation of Origin. The video does go into its uniqueness but not into its PDO status. As I said, this is a POV doc not an instructional one. Throughout the world, it is the brand name that is important in selling and marketing Champagne. There are good descriptions on the region's chalky soil, its northernmost position, frost, rain and rot. There is a brief history, from Attila the Hun through WWI which showed the impact of invasions and wars, and the need for deep cellaring. There are about one billion bottles in the cellars of Champagne. Kennard chose a diverging range of producers and vineyards to visit; thankfully, none was really commercial or a co-op: Bollinger, Diebolt-Vallois, Gosset, San-Chamant, Stephane Coquillitte, and Gonnet-Medeville. The 2012 year began as a grim one with moist bad weather and pests. But as August opened, the sun came out and the crop was saved – down in quantity but up in quality. Kennard does not explore the Champagne label for what is on it, and thus did not remark on the five or so designations that are part of the Champagne rules. The two that affect us the most are RM and NM, for grower and negociant champagnes. There is also no talk of the varieties allowed in Champagne, although Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are noted as well as the one mention of Pinot Meunier. Apart from the narration, it is all in French with English subtitles. If you turn on the subtitles, then you'll also get the English narration in written English. Bonus tracks include deleted scenes and there are biography scripts. I would have picked better music for the beginning (Why Blue Danube? Why not some Piaf? Keeps it French....), but this is still a worthwhile video that I enjoyed very much. Quality/Price Rating: 88.


Dean Tudor, Ryerson University Journalism Professor Emeritus
Treasurer, Wine Writers' Circle of Canada
Look it up and you'll remember it; screw it up and you'll never forget it.
Creator of Canada's award-winning wine satire site at

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