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Champagne making a year of suspense

Raising balloon.
Raising balloon.
© InCA Productions

If you like to drink Champagne, you’ll want to see a documentary film about how it is made.

A Year in Champagne poster.
© InCA Productions

The film, A Year in Champagne, will be screened during the 2014 Palm Beach International Film Festival at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, at the Muvico Parisian 20 at CityPlace 1.

It follows wine importer Martine Saunier through a year spent with six Champagne houses, sharing their bad-weather concerns, a birthday balloon flight over the region, and finally the success of the harvest. Four small and two large Champagne houses are mentioned, and the film shows many of their magnificent buildings.

The Film

IMDB (The Internet Movie Database) offers this anonymous synopsis of the film:

“Martine Saunier returns as our guide in the second installment in a trilogy of wine films. Here we get a rare glimpse behind the scenes into the real Champagne through six houses, from small independent producers to the illustrious houses of Gosset and Bollinger. In the vineyard, 2012 threatened to be 'the year of all our fears.' But most Champagne is not just the product of a specific year and its weather. Signature house styles are creations that happen behind closed doors and in the miles of cellars beneath Champagne. Pull back the curtain and see how the people of a cold, tough land with a grim history triumph in producing the drink of joy, seduction and celebration.

A Year in Champagne is the second documentary on French wine country by David Kennard, senior producer, and director and writer. In 2013 he released A Year in Burgundy.

A Year in Champagne begins with Saunier joining Xavier Gonet and his wife Julie Medeville, proprietors of a small independent Champagne house, Gonet-Medeville, and their family to celebrate his 40th birthday with balloon ride over their estate. The views are incredible, a travel invitation to the region.

From this high point the dialog follows a year of too much rain and too little sun until the very end. The listener is prepared for a sad conclusion. Finally the sun shines, and the harvest is accomplished with help of migrant workers from Turkey and Africa who come to help pick.

Everyone joins in. The owners’ teenage children come home from boarding school to pick. Their photogenic daughter seems to know what she is doing.

Champagne grapes are grown, harvested, and made into the sparkling wine we know as Champagne under rules and regulations that would discourage most American agricultural interests. The rules prescribe the growing conditions for the grapes in the vineyards, when and for how long they can be picked, how much juice can be extracted, how many extractions (two) and much more.

History of the region

David Kennard and his writers have a large audience – everyone interested in Champagne – so they included images from World War I battles fought through the region, and the loss of many young men. For young people who have little or no knowledge of WW I, this is a nice touch.

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