El Camino del Vino (The Ways of Wine) is currently making the circuit of the film festivals.
It tells a fictional story based on Charlie Arturaola, a Miami-based sommelier reputed to have one of the ten best palates in the world. Arturaola is a hard-charging devotee of the good life, and has become a fixture on the party circuit. He’s visiting Argentina to conduct tastings at the Masters of Food and Wine in Mendoza when disaster strikes. During a photo shoot, he has a reaction to a red dye used to enhance the color of the wine, and he loses the ability to taste and evaluate. Panic-stricken, he describes his plight to a professional chef who is a close friend.
“You haven’t lost your palate,” says the chef. “You have lost your soul.”
The chef tells him to get back in touch with whatever it was that inspired him to become a sommelier in the first place. Arturaola begins a journey through the vineyards of Argentina, trying to connect with his lost passion; along the way, he interacts with famous winemakers such as Michel Rolland and Susana Balbo, who play themselves in the film. He ends up rediscovering himself, slowly and painfully, by immersing himself in the world of the people who actually work the vineyards and tend the wine.
For a non-professional, this may not sound like a profound dilemma, but it’s something that strikes fear into almost every sommelier and professional taster. For them, even a cold can be catastrophic, much less a total lapse in the ability to smell and taste wine. The film handles Arturaola’s plight with a sense of drama, but also without pretension. We come to see it as he does—as a human dilemma that can only be solved by reconnecting with the sincerity of those who really make the wine world function at its most basic level.
El Camino del Vino tells an engaging story. In the process, it rises above most films on the subject by reminding us of what’s really important about wine in the first place.