The most surprising thing about the movie “Sideways,” arguably the most famous of the recent “wine movies” is that its star, Paul Giamatti, doesn’t drink wine. “I’m more of a Schlitz guy,” he told me when the movie came out.
Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are two friends, Miles and Jack, on a trip through California wine country. Miles is a connoisseur. Jack is not.
When Jack tell Miles the two women he has arranged a double date with want to drink Merlot, Miles is unimpressed, to put it mildly.
“No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving,” he yells. “I am not drinking any f**king Merlot!”
It’s an amusing line in a funny movie, but it wasn’t really meant to denigrate the grape.
“The funniest thing about that line is the only reason it is Merlot is that we tried all these different wines and that was the only one that was funny… was the word Merlot,” Giamati said. “For some reason that sounded funnier than chardonnay.”
What wasn’t so funny was the effect that the line had on sales of Merlot, which, according to Vinography.com writer Alder Yarrow, took a dive after the movie became a hit.
“I never would have guessed the movie would have had such an effect on the U.S. wine industry. Not in a million years,” he said.
No laughing matter for vintners perhaps, but just one in a line of winecentric comedies.
Based in a real life Parisian wine tasting from 1976 which pitted French wines against their Californian cousins, Bottle Shock stars Alan Rickman as a wine merchant who sees himself as “a shepherd… whose mission is to offer the public another form of great art and to guide its appreciation thereof.” In other words he’s a wine snob, but one with a purpose. He wants to show the French that good wines are available beyond thier vineyards. He does have limits though. “I don’t foresee the imminent cultivation of the Chicago vine.”
In the Meg Ryan romcom “French Kiss” Kevin Kline co-stars as Luc, the son of a French family of vineyard owners. The action begins when he sneaks a grapevine into Kate’s (Ryan) bag to be smuggled into France.
Best wine lines?
Luc: First, you must take some wine. Can you describe it, the taste?
Kate: It’s a nice red wine.
Luc: I think you can do better.
Kate: A bold wine with a hint of sophistication and lacking in pretension.
Kate: Actually, I was just talking about myself.
Then there’s Lesley Caron’s “Gigi” which not only features a song called “The Night They Invented Champagne”–but also some solid, but humorously delivered advice on how to enjoy wine. “You have to fully enjoy the aroma,” Gigi’s aunt explains. “On your first sip, hold it on the roof of your mouth for a moment and breathe through your nose. Then you will feel the flavor… A bad year will be sharp. A good year, which this is of course, will waft.”
Finally, also worth a look is “Corked,” a mockumentary about four wineries competing for the Golden Cluster Award and “Year of the Comet,” a funny action adventure movie from William Goldman (the pen behind “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) about international intrigue and one of the world’s rarest bottles of wine.
Do you have a favourite wine film?