Mondovino Jonathan Nossiter

If you can't think of anything you'd rather do less than watch people talk endlessly about wine, be advised that the beverage is merely the medium for the message of this fascinating and provocative film. Globalisation is its real subject, pitting French and Napa Valley mega-wineries against powerless peasants and punchy, "in your face" flavours against the subtle nuances only finely-cultivated wine can provide. Like everything else, the craft seemed to start falling apart during the Reagan era, when the embarrassingly tacky critic Robert Parker began espousing a rich kind of wine often found in California. Within 25 years, Parker had become the Roger Ebert of wine, with vineyards messing with their processes in order to garner his lucrative approval. A bizarre cast of characters awaits you in this film, including the supremely arrogant consultant Michel Rolland, (who espouses an artificial aging process known as "anti-oxidisation" and brushes off small-time opponents as "hicks and bumpkins") and various defenders of tradition trying desperately to maintain their individuality in the face of crass multinationals (such as the Mondavis of California, who employ financial skulduggery and then claim jealousy when their victims cry foul). Like Michael Moore, Nossiter can resort to cheap shots and "gotchas" that one could easily live without. Unlike Moore though, he generally stays on issue and constantly sharpens a very cogent argument. Novices will find the collection of strange faces and arguments captivating, and those who have watched film culture crumble in roughly the same period will experience serious deja vu. Extras include a commentary track by Nossiter, which reveals some interesting background detail while being ever so slightly pretentious, and "50 minutes of extra footage" that's actually an episode of the ten-part television version that's even more specific than the feature. (Th!nk)