Review | Stephen Fry narrates ‘Sparkling: The Story of Champagne’

Sparkling: The Story of Champagne | Dir: Frank Mannion | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

It took me a while to work out why an Irish film director would be making a film about champagne that would be included in the British Film Festival. Then, as the documentary unfolded, it become a claim from the other side of the English Channel from Champagne that the English have played an important role in the success of the “spirit of good times and happiness”.

Mannion starts his doco by visiting the major champagne houses in France letting the French wax lyrical about the history of their legendary drink that has been credited as being invented by Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon. The monk did create a wine for the church to use in mass and selling some on the side to important people in the region including the reigning Grand Duke, but it was a still wine.

Apparently, the direction of the documentary was dictated by the Covid lockdown and that meant Mannion couldn’t continue to go round France sampling champagne. The filmmaker had to look at the increasing popularity of the English Fizz (that has beaten some Champagnes in blind tastings) and unearthed many claims that they had invented the sparkling wine.

It was the English who produced a glass that meant that the bottles would no longer explode and now the impact of climate change seems to be making England the favoured place to grow grape vines. Pommery and Taittinger have actually acquired vineyards in southern England as the climate in the Champagne region has become increasingly hotter.

Narrated by Stephen Fry, the film exposes many myths about the bubbly wine that have been exploited by marketing gurus, but Winston Churchill famously said “It’s not just France we’re fighting for – it’s champagne”. It is easy to see the success of the marketing in Australia as well.

Sparkling: The Story of Champagne screens as part of the 2021 British Film Festival that runs from 3 November until 1 December at Palace Cinema Raine Square, Luna Leederville, Luna on SX and Windsor Cinema.

Log onto your favourite cinema or britishfilmfestival.com.au for more information.

Lezly Herbert


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