Sideways by Alexander Payne (2004) A wine tasting road trip to salute Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) final days as a bachelor careens woefully sideways as he and Miles (Paul Giamatti) hit the gas en route to mid-life crises. The comically mismatched pair, who share little more than their history and a heady blend of failed potential and fading youth, soon find themselves drowning in wine and women (Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen). Emerging from a haze of pinot noir, wistful yearnings and trepidation about the future, the two inevitably collide with reality. This movie was the sleeper of the year in 2004 and was up for several Oscars
Mondovino by Jonathan Nossiter (2004) Mondovino takes a hard look at the world wine business, and the tension between the internationalists with their globalized approach and the craft wine makers. Nossiter’s movie has been characterized as the Fahrenheit 9/11 of the wine world in so far as he takes pot shots at well known figures including Robert Parker, the wine critic, Michel Rolland, the “flying wine maker” and Wine Spectator’s James Suckling.
Bottle Shock by Randall Miller (2008) A wine competition which came to be known as the Judgment of Paris was organized in Paris on May 24, 1976 by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant. In it, French judges carried out a blind tasting of top-quality chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines from France and from California. France was generally regarded as being the foremost producer of the world’s best wines at this time so it was assumed that the French wines would win hands down. However to the surprise of onlookers and the horror of the French wine industry, a California wine rated best in each category. The leaders of the French wine industry banned Spurrier from the nation’s prestige wine-tasting tour for a year, apparently as punishment for the damage his tasting had done to its former image of superiority. The tasting was initially ignored by the French press. However, subsequently both Le Figaro and Le Monde published articles describing the results as “laughable,” and that they cannot be taken seriously.” The Judgment of Paris resulted in a considerable increase in the prestige of wine made in the New World and led to substantial increases in production. It also resulted in some considerable soul searching by the French and a thorough review of their wine making traditions. Bottle Shock dramatizes the 1976 wine tasting and debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.
Red Obsession (2011) by David Roach and Warwick Ross This documentary looks at the Bordeaux wine trade’s relationship with the Chinese market. You are taken on an journey all the way from Bordeaux to Beijing – from the passion and art of the vineyard to the notorious counterfeit wine markets of the Far East and into the homes of billionaire collectors. Red Obsession explores the unlikely love affair between the traditional West and the seductive but unpredictable East. The demand is unprecedented, but the product is finite and the new client wants it all. Will the China market be the bubble that never bursts or the biggest threat yet to Bordeaux’s centuries old reputation.
SOMM (2013) by Jason Wise. This documentary takes the viewer into the mysterious world of the Court of Master Sommeliers and their extremely intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. The Court of Master Sommeliers is one of the world’s most prestigious, secretive, and exclusive organizations and since its inception, fewer than 200 candidates have reached the exalted Master level. The exam covers literally every nuance of the world of wine. Those who have passed have put their sanity at risk to pull it off. Access to the Court has always been strictly regulated, and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam, until now.