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This new documentary is self-described as presenting "10 stories about wine," and so it does, covering topics such as vintage, cost, and points. In each story, we learn to appreciate a different aspect of wine, wine making, and winemakers.
The film takes us to Europe, California, and Australia so we can develop an appreciation for some of the "hundreds of variables" that can affect how the wine is made and what it ultimately tastes like when it's finally poured into a glass.
Here are some of the things I learned:
- Medieval monks fined-tuned wine, perfecting the process and making much better wine than the Romans did.
- Vintages tell the story of the weather.
- Some European vineyards have detailed records dating back several hundred years and some have remained in the same family for dozens of generations.
- The World Wars wreaked havoc on the grape fields of Europe, and soldiers raided wine cellars so some very old vineyards have no wines from before the late 1940s.
- Wines from the New World (meaning everything outside of Europe) are exciting because they are not bound by tradition and by centuries-old laws.
- The cost of wines can reflect the amount of hand-crafting (as opposed to machines) or may just be a factor of reputation and demand.
- Wine is really made to drink, so enjoy it!
- There's a huge divide when it comes to the use of new vs. old oak for aging wine.
- The point system was originally conceived as a way to help consumers, but those numbers are so subjective that some people question their worth.
- So I understand that vintages reflect the weather while the grapes were growing, but in what specific way? How exactly will a dry year or a cold year affect the stuff I pour into my glass?
- Forget new or old oak, why oak in the first place?
- If the point system is unreliable, then where should the novice (like me!) turn?
- Robert Mondavi was indeed important for developing the California wine business, but I would have liked to have seen at least one other significant early winemaker from the region.
Recommendation? Somm: Into the Bottle is an enjoyable film for anyone who drinks wine or is interested in learning something more about the world of wine. Even if some of the subjects were treated a little superficially, the documentary increased my interest in trying new wines.