The low-budget “Corked!” is a hilarious and unsparing lampoon on the wine industry
From the outside — say, the no-nonsense world of hearty beer swillers or the ersatz paradise of single malt lovers — there is a very thin, or possibly even non-existent, line between a wine enthusiast and a wine snob.
The elaborate rituals of drinking (decanting, swirling, holding up the glass to light), the quixotic persuasions of those engaged in viticulture and winemaking (the emphasis on terroir, the notion that its manufacture is more art and less technique), and the esoteric language of tasting notes (where critics may detect a hint of ‘barnyard' or ‘damp straw' as often as they do ‘honeysuckle' and ‘elderberry') make wine enthusiasm a fertile ground for ridicule and parody.
There is probably some money in this too. The film “Corked!” is designed to amuse wine drinkers as well as those who don't touch it with its unsparing lampoon on the wine industry in Sonoma Country, home to viticulture areas such as Los Carneros and Russian River Valley that produce the best Pinot Noirs in the region. The Californian wine industry has already been memorably represented in “Sideways”; it's probably no accident that the producer of the low-budget “Corked!” was a production assistant in the former.
Made in the style of a mockumentary, basically a format that presents fiction as if it were a documentary, “Corked!” exposes the conceit and foibles of all those connected with the business of wine. The bunch of characters includes an effete and mannered representative of a family-owned winery, a brash and impetuous young man who wants to make something of a vineyard acquired by his millionaire father, two brain-dead marketing executives who think up oddball schemes to sell their products, and a couple who visit Sonoma for the wine experience.
Some of it works very well — the set pieces on the couple for instance, whose idealistic ideas about picking grapes are smothered by the heat and hard work, are clever illustrations about the puncturing of romantic conceits. The representative of the winery, played by one of the directors, is brilliant in parts — pitched in exactly the tone that captures much that is effetely trendy in the wine industry. But the marketing executives, with their harebrained ideas about reaching out to sell their wares to the African-American community, are somewhat unconvincing. And the rich young winery owner loses the plot with a somewhat over-the-top performance.
Still “Corked!” is not a bad film at all and is enjoyable if one keeps constantly telling yourself that this piece of low-budget hilarity is a lampoon.
It is a reminder that at a time when people are laughing about the wine business, it is a good idea that it learns to laugh at itself.