This week’s “Cogill Wine & Film, A Perfect Pairing” podcast on reVolver Podcasts celebrates the wrap up of the Oscar season, and the crazy end of the show, as well as Gary’s review of “The Great Wall.” Thankfully, we had a much better wine to pair with this sub-par film, the initial effort for wine production in China from Moet-Hennesey, Ao Yun. Though just the first release of this Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wine, it is creating quite a stir of celebration in the wine industry. More on both the film and wine below.
To listen to the show here, and click “Episode 37.” And be sure to subscribe through iTunes, Spotify, IHeartRadio, or Google Play Music.
The Film: “The Great Wall”
There is something funny and fun about watching Matt Damon act his serious socks off in “The Great Wall,” a big budget made in China spectacle that is a step down for both American star and Oscar level director, Zhang Yimou. Damon is forced to speak some of the worst dialogue this side of a Pauly Shore movie with a straight face as he is surrounded by monsters that resemble feral hogs on steroids with gills.
On the other hand, the Chinese nationalism expounded in “The Great Wall,” is a colorful thing to watch as “all for one and one for all” is taken to the next level. Damon is not here to rescue a foreign society but rather participate and help in the war against feral monster terror, and if he can escape with some black powder, then all the better.
“The Great Wall” is the most expensive film ever made in China with a reported budget near $150 million and has been a box office disappointment in the U.S. taking in just over $40 million. It’s raked in just under $300 million in foreign sales alone so don’t feel too sorry for Mr. Damon but it does put a wrench into future China-U.S. co-productions.
As a film, it’s technically adequate but emotionally empty and I long for a time when the politics of China can stop demanding nationalism in it’s art. It may work there but it doesn’t work here and the freedom to create is a powerful tool to let go and be your best.
I didn’t hate “The Great Wall,” I’m a sucker for legions of creatures trying to get over a wall so they can devour the human race but the film begs for wisdom and intelligence. Let’s try it one more time, possible with Brad Pitt rescuing the planet from a zombie apocalypse. Oh wait, he did that and much better in, “World War Z.”
The Wine: Ao Yun
Ao Yun, meaning “flying above the clouds,” from Moet-Hennesey, is the first effort to make wine in China for the company. Produced from grapes grown in the foothills of the Himalayas, with vineyards sitting at up to 2,600 meters (8,000+ feet above sea level) at the foot of the sacred Meili Mountain, in Yunnan province, near the legendary city of Shangri-La on the edge of the Himalayas. It took years to find the ideal location for the company’s first venture into China. But, always at the forefront of innovation and discovery, they eventually found their home in the country in 2002, planting roughly 900 acres of vineyards with Bordeaux varieties.
Finding the location was the most difficult part of their Chinese equation, especially considering that the company was tasked with the development of French grape varieties that, at the time, had never been grown at 2,600 meters. They found their ideal location in North Yunnan, on the banks of the Mekong. The region enjoys intense sunlight during the day, and very cool nights, given the altitude, creating a diurnal temperature shift upwards of 30-50 degrees some days, enabling Cabernet Sauvignon fruit to reveal the essence of this terroir. The fruit ripens during the day, yet maintains freshness and acidity thanks to the cool evening temperature drops. The perfect scenario for quality wine grapes.
The vineyards rise in terraces on the steep mountainsides, highlighting both the beauty and natural terrain of the region, always with a deep respect for nature, Ao Yun has been developed from small parcels of vines. Everything is done by hand in the organically farmed vineyards, from pruning to harvest to production by residents of the villages.
The estate’s first wine is the 2013 vintage, with only 2000 cases produced. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, with a touch of Cabernet Franc, the wine has received very high scores from some of the most respected critics, averaging well into the mid-90 points. The retail price is around $300, and if you have a chance to try it, please let me know your thoughts as I haven’t had the chance to yet. But, even without trying, I can promise it is well worth it, and much better than this week’s feature film.