Review: A Family’s Wine Roots Explored in Back to Burgundy

After a succession of high-energy, dialogue-heavy comedies such as L'Auberge Espagnole, Russian Dolls, Chinese Puzzle, and When the Cat’s Away, writer/director Cédric Klapisch returns with something a bit more easy going and laid back—a family drama set in the heart of the French wine country.

Back to Burgundy Image courtesy of Music Box Theatre

Back to Burgundy tells the story of three adult siblings whose wine-making father has just died. The eldest, Jean (Pio Marmai) left the homestead unexpectedly many years earlier, eventually landing in Australia where he has a young son and wife who may or may not still love him. He returns home to say goodbye to his father, and he gets the chance to reunite with his younger brother, Jérémie (François Civil), and sister Juliette (Ana Giradot), who has became the de facto boss of the family winery after Jérémie got married and moved into his wife’s family’s estate, where they also make wine under the overly critical eyes of his father-in-law.

In fact, Jean has also entered into the wine business in Australia, but he’s determined to help his sister bring in her first solo vintage effort, so he stays much longer than he’d intended, leaving his wife to believe he’s abandoned her and their son. The deceased father has left his children equal shares of the business, including a hefty inheritance tax that they can’t pay without selling off parts of the vast property, which they would rather not do. These tough decision bring the siblings together as often as it pulls them apart, all the while they studiously attempt to harvest and process a vintage that must be among the best ever produced in order to earn Juliette respect in the wine-making community.

Director Klapisch throws us headfirst into both the production process and the endless headaches that come from this particular lifestyle, but also shows us what it was like for the siblings as young children to grow up with a father who judged them on their ability to follow in his footsteps. Because Jérémie had less of a palate than his brother and sister, their father treated him as if he had a deficiency, which carried over into adulthood, as he allows his father-in-law to openly insult him.

According to the press notes, the screenplay was developed with veteran actor Jean-Marc Roulot (who plays estate manager Marcel in the film), whose own real-life career as a top Burgundy winemaker was pivotal in choosing locations for Back to Burgundy and giving the film a truly authentic feel. It's not a work meant to bowl you over with plot twists or high drama; the film simply eases you into a lifestyle and profession that, like many others, is full of conflict as well as good times (the parties the winery throws after a completed harvest are epic). The children of the great wine maker come into their own during the course of the movie, and the entire experience is warm and embracive and will likely make you want to start planning a trip to east-central France.

The film opens in today at the Music Box Theatre. Following the 7pm showtime on Friday, April 13, Dablon Vineyards will host a wine tasting in the Music Box Lounge and will be pouring Estate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Unoaked Chardonnay, all made in the classic Burgundy style.
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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.