Documentaries in the wine world can be something of a tough order.

Wine is, by its nature, rather boring to watch on a screen and infinitely more fun to drink. This is why I was curious to watch this new, short documentary directed by Xavi Herrero called, “Un vin dans les voiles” (a wine under the sails). You can view the trailer here.

It tells the story of Olivier Verdier making a wine up in the hills of Banyuls. This is an evocative area that I’m surprised more people haven’t used as a setting for pretty much anything that needs to be stunning visually with little effort. Banyuls is officially part of Roussillon but it’s more like the northern part of Empordà in Spain as it’s very coastal and windswept. It’s also a crossing point of cultures as shown in the film with people speaking: Spanish, French, and of course, Catalan, the original language of this area.

The ‘voiles’ part of the title comes in the form of Verdier taking the fully-fermented wine from amphorae in the ground and putting it into ‘travelling’ amphorae, sailing out to the coast of Ibiza and then aging the wine under water for several months before presenting it on the same boat in the harbor of Barcelona.

The format of the film is what I generally prefer in documentaries in that there are no talking heads narrating scenes. The director stays out of the frame and the story is allowed to unfold with seemingly little forced intervention. This however is one of the problems of the film in that it’s quite slow and at only an hour in length, I feel like there was a lot that should have been shot to fill out the story a bit more.

Why is Verdier making this wine in this fashion? Why does he have amphorae at the top of a vineyard? And most importantly, are these even his vines or is he stealthily “liberating” them given that everything about the initial harvest happens in the early hours of dawn with no one else around.

I’m left with a lot of questions that I feel like a little bit of narration by Verdier could have helped. There’s some of this nearer to the end when he’s on the boat with a glass of wine pondering out loud a little bit, but it’s really not enough. Plus, there could have been a great deal more “b roll” shot around the area giving more of a sense of place instead of this little wedge of the vineyard from which grapes of unknown ownership are sourced.

The presentation of the wine in Barcelona opens up other issues as there in the group is Benoît Valée and his wife, Núria Rodríguez who are the owners of l’Ànima de Vi, the first natural wine bar in the city and honestly, one of the only ones I’ll partake of.

As the discussion goes around (in French-accented Spanish despite everybody except Núria seeming to be a native French speaker?) they talk about how natural and true the wine is. It’s bit hard to swallow that after seeing that it’s a wine which resulted from some very primitive winemaking in the vineyard followed by dragging the wine across the Mediterranean for aging. In the ethos of non-interventionism (which is at the core of natural wine) this falls a great deal short and it could have been a point for inflection and indeed, yet another bit that allowed for more development in the film.

Instead it more or less ends with this, showing something of a lifecycle for an experimental natural wine. Given that I’ve tasted scads of these wines and I’ve been to Banyuls many times, I know very well that there’s a great deal more that could have been delved into and yet, wasn’t, which unfortunately left me with a very unfinished taste in my mouth when the film was over.

But this is of course me and being what it probably over demanding. For anyone else who wants to see this relatively unknown region framed nicely and witness a quirky story, you might very well enjoy it.



One response to “A review of “Un vin dans les voiles””

  1. Philippe Garmy says:

    Seems to be another headline grabbing ego trip for the ever bored rich and, yawn, famous…all I can say is, KISS: keep it simple stupid!

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