Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Wine Movies

The wet and very stormy weather of the last week has kept us indoors for quite a few days. It's a time to catch up with pesky paperwork and postponed interior household jobs as well as a little reading and, of course, to watch a few movies.
I caught "Bottle Shock" (2008) on satellite which was an interesting tale of how the Californians in the Napa Valley 'beat' the French in a blind Cabernet and Chardonnay tasting competition in France in 1976. Based on fact (with a little bit of Hollywood fantasy thrown in), it was an entertaining couple of hours. California’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon were the actual winners. From a wine man's point of view, the vineyard and wine activities going on in the background were quite convincing. Even the laboratory analysis equipment in one scene was spot on.
For an accurate account of the event, the book by George Tabor, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine (2006) is suggested reading.
This got me to wondering how many wine based movies have actually been produced.
I can remember seeing a couple.
"A Good Year" (2006) is an adaptation of Peter Mayle’s novel of the same name. Russell Crowe plays a workaholic, British investment broker who unexpectedly inherits a chateau and vineyard in Provence. This was a funny romantic comedy which had great scenes of the beautiful French countryside, as well as great food and wine sequences.

"Sideways" (2004), adapted from Rex Pickett’s novel is all about wine. The plot has two friends going on a week-long road trip/bachelor party before Jack (Thomas Haden Church) gets married. Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a wine writer who loves wine, but Jack is into sex and partying. The movie is also about relationships and can be a bit confronting at times. Lots of interesting discussions about Merlot and Pinot Noir too. Rumour has it that Merlot sales dropped considerably for a while after the release. Supposedly the best wine movie ever made, it's on my favourites list.

"A Walk in the Clouds" (1995) is a romantic drama set in the 1940's in California.
It's a bit soap operaish but has beautiful scenery, great vineyard shots and lots of wine drinking throughout. Some of the technical references are cringe worthy but I like this one also.

There are a few others going back over the years which my research turned up.
"Year of the Comet" (1992) with Penelope Ann Miller and Tim Daly.
"Secret of Vittoria" (1969) with Anthony Quinn and Giancarlo Giannini.
"This Earth Is Mine."(1959) with Rock Hudson, Jean Simmons and Claude Rains.
"The Unholy Wife" (1957) with Diana Dors and Rod Steiger.
"They Knew What They Wanted" (1940) with Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard
I vaguely remember seeing " Secret of Vittoria" (1969) where an Italian town hides a million bottles of wine from the German army during World War II. This story is very similar to a book I read about the French hiding wine from the Germans called Wine & War: The French, the Nazis & the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure by Donald and Petie Kladstrup.

I would be interested to hear of any more from my readers.
Of course there have been a few documentaries including "Mondovino" (2004), "From Ground to Glass "(2006) and "Corked" (2008) but I am more interested in Hollywood's slant on the industry.

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