Sommelier and wine educator Charlie Arturaola and film directors Nicolás Carreras & Sebastián Carreras may just be putting together the most intimate wine movie yet made, and one that finally may have just the kind of reality-show crossover appeal to gain success among wine pros, wine geeks, and non wine-lovers alike.
At least, that’s the sense that I got from viewing the well-made trailer for El Camino del Vino (“The Ways of Wine” – with “Ways” taking on multiple nuances of meaning).
Like all promising films, El Camino del Vino starts with disaster and conflict, and promises to end with redemption. For wine pros and budding wine enthusiasts, the premise of the film is particularly terrifying (emphasis is mine):
“Charlie travels to Argentina invited to do tastings at the prestigious Masters of Food and Wine event at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Mendoza. Before the festivities begin at the Masters, Charlie is shooting a publicity spot for a wine and disaster strikes. The combination of the pace of the shoot and a red dye used to enhance the photographic contrast and deepen the color of the wine, provoke the complete loss of his palate.”
I imagine that the loss of Charlie’s ability to taste wine critically echoes a deeper fear for many, many people in the modern industrial working world: What do you do when you lose the very thing upon which you rely to make your living?
I’ve met Charlie and he is warm, friendly, knowledgeable and approachable – exactly the kind of guy to whom you wouldn’t want this sort of thing to happen. And it didn’t – not in real life, anyway. But based on the trailer for El Camino del Vino, Charlie puts in a convincing performance, especially for someone who makes his living on wine and not via acting. After seeing the trailers, I’m stoked to try to see this film when it gets released in August.
I caught up with Charlie last week (via e-mail and in-between trips for both of us) to briefly talk about the film and how he went about playing the part of himself. Check out the trailer and the short interview below…
1WineDude: Without spoiling too much of the surprises, tell us the overall story behind El Camino del Vino.
Charlie Arturaola: As a well known sommelier, I have been contracted by an Argentine winery to make a commercial for their new wine. While taping in Buenos Aires, I taste the wine and find that I have lost my palate. Distraught and desolate, I don’t know what to do. My palate is my life. I ask different people to help, Michel Rolland,the famous French wine consultant, Chef Di Sanctis, Versace’s erstwhile chef, Paul Hobbs, the famous California consultant who lives in Mendoza, winery owners and wine makers try to help me, but nothing works. I have lost my soul and must return to my roots for strength and renewal.
1WD: The story in the film seems quite powerful. Is it loosely based on your life, or an actual account of things that happened, or somewhere in-between?
CA: Thank goodness I never lost my palate, but there are elements that are taken from my life. For instance, my family in the movie is my real family; there are four generations of Arturaolas in the film and they really are my father, my son, my grandson and me.
1WD: I suppose I am not spoiling the ending by guessing that you did get your palate back. How long did it take before you felt comfortable again with tasting wine? What was going through your mind when you "lost" your wine palate?
CA: In el Camino del Vino, when I discovered that I had lost my palate, I was shattered, but this didn’t really happen. It takes about 3 months in the movie for me to recover. After visiting the whole Mendoza Wine country I staged at Norton, Dominios del Plata, Bianchi, Tempus Alba, Jean Busquet, Krontiras, Club Tapiz, and a “spiritual “ session in Clos de Los Siete. Each Bodega has lots to do with my wine career and childhood values.
1WD: It seems that the story of El Camino del Vino is not just about wine, but is also about the fear of losing something on which you rely to make a living – a deeper fear that many people in the industrialized world can understand. Was it a conscious decision for the film to tap into that fear?
CA: Originally, the movie was a document
ary loosely following my real life. When it was first submitted to film festivals, documentary competitions, etc., we got feedback that the story could be developed and we should consider changing the project to a fictional feature length film. Nico and Seba Carreras, the directors, were fabulous. I never worked from a script.(it was written) We would talk about each scene and what he was looking for and then we’d shoot, all extemporaneously. So, no, it was not a conscious decision to tap into our fear of losing something really important. That said, as the story and the characters grew, I did use that fear to focus myself. Remember, I am not an actor, this is all new to me. I’m a guy who grew up in in Uruguay, went to Spain as teenager and bounced in Puerto Rico and because of wine, I was able to travel around the world. If I lose my palate, I would lose not only my livelihood, but my identity, my passion for life.
1WD: Now that you have your "groove" back (at least in movie form!), what’s next for you and your career?
CA: I am crazy about wine and it really is my life, so I will continue to travel and speak about wine. I love teaching people to really enjoy and understand wine, not only the liquid, but also its rich history. The families behind this industry . Each grape varietal has its own tale of migration and I find those stories fascinating. As any sommelier that travels the world looking for his favorite “cepage.” I spend a lot of time tasting wines for importers, for insurance companies, for private collectors, for articles that I’m writing and also just to increase my olfactory memory bank and my wine knowledge.
There’s is talk of a television program, but I’m not sure I’m an actor, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m a wine guy.