Monday, December 12, 2016

Bottle Shock + Wine tasting

A few weeks ago I went to a screening at the Metrograph of Big Night which was introduced by the one and only Alton Brown and afterwards he did a little Q&A. When asked if he thought any other good American "food" films have been made since Big Night, he quickly said no, but mentioned that Americans are great at making wine films such as Sideways and Bottle Shock. I was honestly surprised he mentioned Bottle Shock since I attempted to watch it a while ago but got bored and never finished it. I figure I'd give it another shot so I invited my fellow wine and film lover friend over for a little wine tasting while we watched the movie (a streaming version is currently available with Amazon Prime).

Bottle Shock is somewhat* based on the true story of the blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris". Alan Rickman plays Steven Spurrier, a expat Englishman and wine shop owner, living in Paris who decides to hold a blind tasting to not only try and save his shop but to introduce the French to wines from other parts of the world. He travels to Napa Valley where he meets Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), owner of Chateau Montelena. Jim has no interest in being in the competition as he believes it's a set up to be laughed at by the French but his hippie son, Bo (Chris Pine), slips a few Chardonnay bottles to Spurrier and (spoiler alert!) they win the Chardonnay part of the competition. After the competition is mentioned in Time, requests for the Chateau Montelena wine grows and Napa Valley has been recognized.

The story itself is an interesting one yet the filmmakers didn't delve too much into details of the actual competition and its characters but instead introduced unnecessary (and most likely made up) sub plots such as a dull love triangle, and though Gustavo Brambila (played by Freddy Rodriguez) is a real person and did work at Chateau Montelena, it wasn't until after the events shown in the film.

Going back to the idea of "food"films, what makes a lot of those films interesting and fun is the actual food. Spanglish, as God awful as it was, was worth watching for the infamous sandwich scene, and Big Night's unveiling of the food and the guest's reactions are both mouthwatering and entertaining. There are so many films dedicated to food but not so wine and the filmmakers missed an opportunity to not just show the hard work that goes into wine making, the characters loving wine. The closest we get is a few short scenes with Dennis Farina's character visiting Spurrier's shop as he tries what the shop has to offer. The big competition scene itself seemed to only last a few minutes and was ladled with shots of snooty reactions from the judges as they try to guess which wine is from California rather than showing the judging process and close ups of the color and body of the wines against the sun. Oh the prettiness that could have been.

*After reading the screenplay, Spurrier criticized it's inaccuracies and considered it insulting.

Bagged and numbered

This photo is a bit out of focus but I will always take the opportunity to show off the Wisconsin shaped cutting board a friend gifted me. It also seemed appropriate since Dennis Farina's character is from Milwaukee

"palette cleansers" between wines aka any excuse to eat cheese and olives and pickled vegetables

We went with Savignon Blanc splits except one Chardonnay, which of course stood out like a sore thumb (neither of us are Chardonnay fans), but surprisingly, it scored about the same as the others. In the end #4, a Savignon Blanc from Rapa Nui winery won by one single point.

I made the handy dandy "wine mats," which are legal size and available to download here and we used this to help us score/rate each wine.

I think my next tasting will be beer while taking in a viewing of Drinking Buddies.


  1. I'm one of those I just showed up for the wine and cheese kind of girls but cheers on an excellent movie review of a movie I shall never see!

    1. lol! I don't blame anyone for showing up just for the wine and cheese.

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