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Film uncorks details about our favourite bubbly

A Year in Champagne is a behind-the-scenes documentary about the Champagne region of France and its most famous wine.

We spoke to senior producer, director and writer David Kennard, about the film.

Why did you make a film about Champagne?

Only sparkling wine produced within the boundaries of the Champagne region is truly “Champagne”. At first glance, the region is not an obvious source of romance. Champagne’s history is grim and bloody, swept by war and destruction from Attila the Hun to the filthy trenches of the First World War and the Nazi depredations of the Second World War. The environment for winemaking is desperately hard — northerly latitude, chalky soil, copious rain, frost, rot. Yet it’s these difficulties that help make the wine unique.

Can you tell us about the six Champagne houses profiled in the film?

From the outside, the Champagne Saint-Chamant operation looks unassuming, but underneath it is an extensive labyrinth of cellars, over a mile long and packed to the brim with Champagne bottles that date back to the early 16th century. An ardent believer in ageing Champagne and in completing every part of the process by hand, it is in these cellars that Christian Coquillette keeps watch over hundreds of thousands of bottles. Stephane Coquillette is a fourth-generation winemaker tucked into the small village of Chouilly. Just like his father before him, when he was ready to become a winemaker, Stephane was sent out to create his own estate instead of being brought into the family house. Stephane makes Champagne under his own label, S Coquillette.

Two well-known winemaking families came together in the marriage of Xavier Gonet, a young champenois oenologist with well-regarded and established Champagne vines, and Julie Médeville, a superb Sauterne winemaker at Chateau Gilette. Together, this husband and wife team founded the Gonet-Médeville label in 2000 when Xavier inherited his share of the family’s estate. The union is unique in that their winemaking portfolio stretches across three prime wine regions of France. The Diebolt-Vallois house is steeped in family tradition. Jacques Diebolt, who took over the family estate at 17, learnt the trade at his grandfather’s side. He made his first bottle of Champagne in 1959. The next year, Jacques married Nadia Vallois, who brought along her own small plot of chardonnay. Now, Isabel and Arnaud, their son and daughter, work alongside their father.

Gosset is both one of the smallest Grande Marque Champagne producers as well as the oldest winemaking house in Champagne, founded in 1584. In the 16th century two wines vied for the place of honour on the king’s table — the wines from Ay in Champagne and the wines from Beaune, located further South in Burgundy. When technological breakthroughs brought bubbles to the wines, the Gosset family too evolved and became known for consistently superb Brut Excellence. Under the current guidance of winemaker Jean-Pierre Mareigner, the Gosset label focuses first and foremost on creating consistent and high quality wines.

Founded in 1829, Bollinger has grown through six generations of leadership into one of the most emblematic houses in Champagne and a global brand. Bollinger’s production methods are rooted in tradition. They continue to ferment their wines in wooden barrels, all kept in shape by the house tonnelier. In the Bollinger cellars, you will find 650,000 magnums which age for five to 15 years or more before being used in a blend.

•A Year in Champagne screens Sunday at 3pm at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Reserve tickets by calling 294-0204 or visiting the Oceans Gift Shop.