Directed and written by Jonathon Nossiter, Mondovino is a documentary about the impact of globalization on the world's different wine regions. The opening scene is set in Brazil where workers are harvesting coconuts from palm trees. After this non-sequitur, the film bounces around the globe from California, Italy, Sardinia, France, Argentina and New York. Yes, wine is a global industry, with families like the Mondavis and Staglins in Napa Valley partnering with some of the oldest vintners in Italy and France to create a global branding and distribution of their wines. The amount of revenue generated by these big wine producers is often to the tune of several hundreds of millions of dollars; some are even publicly traded. Nossiter exposes how Robert Mondavi has elevated himself from businessman and winemaker to self-proclaimed "philosopher."
In France we learn about the male dominated vineyard run by the de Montille family in Burgundy. In one scene, one of the sons, Etienne, chastises the workers for missing some of the premiere grapes during a picking, telling them "this is not a scene from a film." The daughter, Alix, works for a rival vineyard and compares her father, Hubert, to a good, burgundy wine: "he's a bit strong." Another, smaller winemaker, Aime Guibert, who refuses to partner with large wine producers like Mondavi, claims cynically in a Derrida-like moment that "Wine is dead. Let's be clear, wine is dead. And not just wine. Fruits. Cheeses..."
Nossiter then takes us to Italy where two of the oldest wine families in Tuscany, the Antinoris and the Frescobaldis, discuss their view on globalization. The former sold their precious jewel of a vineyard, Ornellaia, to the Mondavi family for $56 million while the latter became the Mondavi's distribution and wine-making partner in Italy, raising the eyebrows of more than a few wine pundits.
Despite the film's strong premise and interesting interviewees, its production quality is poor. Many of the scenes are shot in a shaky, hand held fashion. Often the shooter will focus on a worker in the background or a dog running around while in the midst of the interview. Perhaps the intent was comic relief, but to me it was tediously annoying. Mondovino is now available on DVD.