With their turbulent East-meets-West history as an invaded people, Georgians have often struggled to find reasons for which to raise a glass. Yet it’s a birthplace of winemaking, with a valued fermenting method at least 8,000 years old.
In the documentary “Our Blood Is Wine,” filmmaker Emily Railsback and sommelier Jeremy Quinn visit the former Soviet republic with an iPhone and a healthy curiosity, discovering a reawakened viticulture that honors individuality and authenticity over homogenization and ambition. The initial stars are the country’s massive, handcrafted clay pots, called qvevri, that keep the harvested, crushed grapes (including seeds and stems) sealed underground until ready to drink.
These Neolithic vessels are beautiful to behold, and when seen strewn around a yard look like sleeping beasts of burden. There are fascinating characters too, among the proud, small-scale family winemakers, some ready to experiment and grow as the world becomes more intrigued by natural, offbeat wines, others happy to produce for friends and family.
But the movie is choppily constructed, with a preference for jarring region-hopping and touristy positivity over vivid mini-portraits or informative dives into the process/taste details of Georgian wine.
Quinn is a friendly enough guide, but a generalization sets in, leaving the names, wine types, people and histories to blur together. “Our Blood Is Wine” boasts a fascinating subject, and a commendable desire to redefine the romance of winemaking away from European-bred elitism; unfortunately, it’s a haphazard tasting.
‘Our Blood Is Wine’
In English and Georgian with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica