The lockdown has given us time to catch up on a lot of movies, with a glass of wine in hand of course. These are five films we have enjoyed over the last two months.
Sideways | Director Alexander Payne
Arguably the most fun film about wine ever made, based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name (by Rex Pickett), this is a critically acclaimed road trip tale of two middle-aged best friends on a bachelor weekend away in California’s Santa Ynez Valley.
Recently divorced, failed writer and oenophile Miles, along with spoiled, juvenile and past his prime actor Jack (Thomas Hayden Church), head out of LA for a weekend of guzzling Miles’ beloved Pinot Noir and getting into a multitude of misadventures. Miles is more interested in the wine whereas Jack is determined to get into as much trouble with the locals as possible before he ties the knot.
Co-starring Sandra Oh (Killing Eve) and Virginia Madsen (Dune) and winner of the Academy Award (Oscar) for best adapted screenplay, at times hilarious, poignant and bittersweet, this is a true comedy classic and will have you pining for the rolling hills and sunsets of wine country (anywhere in the world).
Somm | Director Jason Wise
The documentary that spawned two sequels, a TV series and an online channel (Somm TV). The first instalment follows four hopefuls studying for the rigorous Master Sommelier exam, a prestigious test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world.
The film documents the intense study methods that the four go through to achieve their dream and also the immense amount of knowledge they need to retain in order to achieve the Master Sommelier accolade.
The tension is palpable as the exams draw ever nearer, and the candidates’ emotions of hope and fear are all laid out as you go on the journey with them. The film gives you a newfound respect and awe for the incredibly tough job of a Master Sommelier, the ‘locker-room’ bravado and one-upmanship on show makes it perhaps less about the love of wine and more about a relentless pursuit to be the best at a given subject.
The next time you are allowed to order wine in a restaurant, you may never look at the sommelier the same way again.
A Year in Burgundy | Director David Kennard
Produced by San Francisco based importer Martine Saunier of Martine’s Wines, (who followed this with 2015’s ‘A Year in Champagne’), the beautifully filmed and gentle documentary allows the viewer to spend a year (the 2011 vintage) following some of the top Burgundian domaines including Leroy, Perrot Minot, Morey Coffinet, Bruno Clavelier, Mortet, Michel Gay et Fils, and Dominique Cornin. As we cycle through the seasons, we witness the challenges and joys that each brings, in order to produce some of the most sought after wines in the world.
Lalou Bize Leroy steals the show, as the film offers a rare glimpse into the mind of this enigmatic and legendary grower. Really a must for Burgundy lovers, an insight into the lives behind each bottle on our tables.
Sour grapes | Director Reuban Atlas, Jerry Rothwell
The intriguing investigative tale of a vinous scandal based on the fraud committed by mysterious character Rudy Kurniawan who befriended and gained the trust of wine collectors in order to sell them counterfeit wines.
What’s most interesting about this film is the fact that some of the collectors still refuse to admit they were tricked. Kurniawan seems remorseless, and you cannot miss the scene when friend of Goedhuis, Laurent Ponsot gets on a plane to New York to stop an auction that claims to be selling his wines (that were not even produced in the stated vintage).
This film is ultimately a surprising, sometimes shocking rollercoaster ride of deception and revelation.
Mondovino | Director Jonathan Nossiter
It is certainly not an exposé or a thrilling ride like Sour Grapes, but as small vineyards are contrasted with production on a grand scale, it is a very revealing story.
The film makes the case through a series of interviews and fly on the wall observations that wineries around the world have chased a homogenisation of style based on the powerful Bordeaux blends that Robert Parker held in such high esteem.
Seemingly filmed with the camera resting in Nossitor’s lap, set on auto focus (so it focuses on things in the back or foreground but not the subject), and needlessly zooming in and out, this can induce motion sickness at times, but if you can stomach that, the content is very compelling.
Nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, the film has many revealing scenes and really gets under the skin of the business of wine, examining a world very few people see.
Perhaps a little out of date now as Parker is not as influential as he was, the wine world is moving back to winemakers who want to reflect their particular terroir and place, buying trends have changed (perhaps in some part to the influence of this film), and a new generation of vigneron has emerged.