Many people would kill for Champagne’s reputation. It’s fancy, it’s expensive, it’s French, and the only acceptable drink for wealthy partiers, rappers, and Formula 1 drivers. A new documentary, Sparkling: The Story of Champagne, strives to give the audience the history of champagne from its beginnings in a monastery to its future across Europe. While it leans more dry than sweet, it’s as bubbly as its namesake.
Terrible Champagne puns aside, the documentary isn’t striving for anything abstract or new. It’s an incredibly straightforward look at how champagne started, featuring interviews with some of the biggest brands in France. It’s not hard-hitting journalism and it doesn’t pretend to be. Instead, you may find yourself googling brand names just to see how much these spectacular French wines go for as their brand marketing representatives espouse their history and value. Spoiler alert: they ain’t cheap.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the documentary is its exploration of why Champagne is so exclusive and expensive. It’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff. Just like true Neapolitan pizza can only be made with San Marzano tomatoes, Champagne producers were smart to ensure that Champagne only comes from Champagne, the region in France. But clearly, that exclusivity can’t last forever. Spaniards figured out they could call their sparkling wine Cava and Italians called their’s Prosecco. Slowly but surely, countries are figuring out ways to encroach on the market. And, to the horror of French winos everywhere, what happens to their beloved vineyards as global warming intensifies and—gasp—England becomes a viable place to make sparkling wine?
On that note, it’s fairly clear that the director hails from the islands west of France. Frank Mannion directs the film and serves as interviewer/host, bearing the difficult job of traveling the French countryside to try very expensive Champagnes. Still, the film spends its last act touting up-and-coming English sparkling wine with only brief mentions of those gargantuan wine producers further west in California.
Sparkling: The Story of Champagne gives you exactly what the title promises. It’s the kind of documentary you might find scrolling through Hulu on a boring weekday evening. And if you find yourself picking up a bottle of Champagne after sitting through an hour and a half of watching people talk about it, then the film worked, didn’t it?
*This film is available via theaters, drive-ins and VOD platforms.