The Best Wine Movies Of All Time? You Be The Judge

Wine and film have had an uneasy history to this point. In fact, before the last decade the number of wine centric movies to ever have any element of critical success was incredibly low. I actually can’t come up with a single commercially successful wine movie before 2004.

Best Wine Movies
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images courtesy of marin/

All that changed with Sideways though.

Sideways is a complex story of two friends who take a week long trip to Santa Barbara wine country for a bachelor party of sorts. I won’t delve deeply into the plot since the movie is so well known, but the critical and financial success of the movie certainly made other movie makers willing to use wine as a central subject going forward. All four of the main actors in the film received award nominations for their performances, while the film itself was nominated for an Emmy, for the film of the year. The film was also a smashing success at the box office, earning well over one hundred million dollars in total, while having a total production budget of under twenty million.

Bottle Shock: Probably my favorite wine movie, especially from an aesthetic standpoint because it shows Napa Valley how I want it to be, rustic and undeveloped. The story revolves around the historic Judgment of Paris in 1976 which pitted a handful of California wineries against their counterparts in Bordeaux. California has been gaining some press and the Paris wine establishment wanted to show that in blind taste tests, their wines were clearly superior. Except they weren’t and the legend of Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in general were born. It’s a great story and one which is easy to get lost in as an American who enjoys California wine.

Mondovino: A look at the business side of the wine industry, as well as cynical effort to show how critics scores and press can be manipulated. If you’re someone who thinks that spending $50 or more on a bottle of wine is perverse, then this is a movie for you. It also explores the world of consulting winemakers and how they are driving different regions of the world to have exactly the same wine.

SOMM Documentary: The story of four people studying for the Master Sommelier exam, this is a recent release which many people within the wine industry thought would be as critically successful as Sideways. As you might expect, regular people don’t really think drinking wine and studying geographical maps of France is as interesting as a first run Hollywood movie, so SOMM has been a major disappointment. It is an interesting film if it only makes you think about the amount of time and effort that your Sommelier likely put in to that wine list, which you probably are only going to look at for a moment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the wine industry and the films about it. I have no doubt that we will continue to see more and more movies made about wine, after all people in America drink more wine than beer now for the first time in history.

Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club based just outside of San Francisco. Focused on delivering high quality wines from west coast vintners, he still can’t completely escape the allure of Hollywood having grown up in San Diego.

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