Wine Women and Friends by Jennie Kermode
In a quiet corner of Collias, Carole Leblanc and Jo Béfort run a vineyard together. Like many such couples, they began with a dream, with no experience whatsoever. Unlike most, they stuck it out, despite the huge amount of hard work involved. When there were things they couldn’t do – they both have back problems – they called in their friends. Against the odds, they have made their vineyard a success, producing a vintage that even the critics enjoy and finding a place for themselves in the local community.
This gentle, observational film drinks in the landscape like most wine documentaries but spends an unusual amount of time looking at the wine-making process itself, which makes it considerably more interesting than many. We follow the women through the course of a year as they tend their crop, harvest, ferment, process the liquid and the marc, arrange for it to be collected and bottled. Only at the latter stage do they run into difficulty; despite posters announcing their plans, a car has been parked in the way. Was it carelessness? Was it homophobia? Was it xenophobia? (One of the women is Canadian.) In some parts of France it can be difficult enough simply being a woman at the head of a business. They have their suspicions, but it’s hard to be sure.
This is a peaceful rural area and most of the neighbours are Catholic. But it’s not a big deal that the women are lesbians, one says, because “they don’t show it that much.” An understanding seems to have bee reached, a live and let live approach. The friendships built cross this cultural divide seem genuine. Of course, the wine may help with that.
Although we don’t really get to know the women as well as we might like, we get to know the business and the social circle that has developed around it; Cunningham Reid’s camera lets us feel like guests at their table. Her camera captures not just the beauty of the outdoor spaces by the intimacy of the interiors, and there are points where one can almost smell the wine. This is a modest little film but a very appealing one.
You can find this film on a double bill DVD with Crocadyke Dundee