“F” is for films about wine

It’s fair to say that if it wasn’t for films I probably would never have got into wine.  Not because I watched a film and had an epiphany that a career in wine may be my future, precisely the opposite actually. Working in IFE providing movies to airlines meant I travelled a fair bit, and it was during trips to places as far flung as Auckland, Los Angeles, Melbourne and Cape Town that I was exposed to wines and producers I’d never heard of let alone seen before and my love of wine was born.

But I digress, apologies I do have a habit of doing that from time to time, but then hey at the moment I don’t imagine anyone reading this has a lot else to do?!

So, onto films about wine.  There have been many films made over the years, Hollywood is littered with films that either have wine in the name Days of Wine and Roses, had wine as a central theme: Sideways, Blood and Wine, Bottle Shock or were educational documentaries: Somm, Mondovino, A Year in Burgundy, to name a few.  Some are good, some are great, and well, yes, some are awful.

As we have all this spare time on our hands (thanks COVID-I9), in between doing the DIY we’ve been putting off for years I though it would be good to recommend a few films that are worth a look to while away a few hours.

My top wine film of all time just has to be Sideways (2004). This Academy Award winning rom-com/drama has just about everything: great location (filmed in and around Santa Barbara in California), brilliant one-liners, an excellent script and brilliant performances – the film kick-started the careers of Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. The premise is of a soon-to-be-married man who heads off to wine country with his best man for a few drunken days of debauchery basically. Jack just wants to have fun, but his best man Miles, an uptight, self-confessed Oenophile, is determined to teach him something about wine, in particular the joys of Pinot Noir.  Things don’t go to plan however, and the pair end up in various scrapes. Totally brilliant.

Interesting fact: Following the release of Sideways, where the central character has an undisguised hatred for everything Merlot and waxes lyrical about Pinot Noir, sales of Merlot in the USA dropped 2% compared to a 16% rise in sales of Pinot Noir.

Bottle Shock (2008), starring the inimitable and greatly missed Alan Rickman, this comedy/drama is loosely based on true events of 1976, when a British wine lover working in Paris (Steven Spurrier) after hearing about ‘new’ wine from America, decided to put together a blind tasting in France, pitting a selection of wines from America against the best France had to offer.  Known as the Judgement of Paris, the result was to resonate around the world, as yes, you guessed it an American wine won.  Filmed on location in Napa, including at Chateau Montelina (a great winery by the way that I’ve visited a couple of times and can highly recommend) this film genuinely has the feel-good factor.

A Good Year (2006) starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard is a comedy romance that is a bit of a fish-out-of-water tale of an investment banker who inherits a vineyard and Chateau from his uncle. Although he’d spent time there as a boy this hard-nosed banker just wants to sell and make some money, that is until he arrives back in Provence, meets the woman of his dreams (as well as a possible illegitimate cousin) and undergoes something of a redemption turning full circle with his plans. Well it is Hollywood!  The Provençal scenery is gorgeous though.

If more intellectual fare is your thing then a couple of good documentaries are worth looking out for:

Somm (2012) – as the name suggests this documentary looks at the weird and wonderful world of the wine sommelier, in fact four wine sommeliers as they take on the notoriously difficult global Master Sommelier exams (the Sommelier equivalent to the Master of Wine but with even fewer successful students).  The success of the film spawned further films with wine (of course) as the central theme.

Sour Grapes (2016) – an expose of the exploits of a young Chinese-Indonesian Rudy Kurniawan working in the fine and rare auction market.  Rudy was not what he seemed and this true account of a hugely successful (at least for a time!) counterfeiter, who made a lot of money befriending the rich and successfully duping them into buying millions of dollars’ worth of fake wine before being finally caught is an intriguing tale.

All the above movies are available now on Amazon Prime.

Right there you have F for films about wine, I’m off now to re-watch Sideways with a bottle of Pinot! Tomorrow G is for Gewürztraminer.

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