An oenophile is a connoisseur of wine. A wino is someone who gets wasted on the cheap stuff. Most people fall somewhere in between, drinking wine to enhance a meal, reward a job well done, survive the holidays, toast the end of the day, chase away the blues, or simply to relax and unwind.
Wine is the elixir of life. The first glass is good for health, the rest of the bottle good for morale. Even better for morale: pairing a glass (or two, or three) with a movie that will indulge and celebrate those inclinations. If it’s wine o’clock, then keep calm, check out these wine-inspired movies, and pour on.
Two old friends, Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church), take a road trip through California’s vineyards to drink wine, whine about first world problems, and generally act like snobs.
Alexander Payne’s film is a brilliantly observed character portrait about a flawed man who just wants to drink wine. Like wine, Payne lets his dialogue-heavy scenes breathe, allowing their complexity to develop and hit the palate just right. Sideways’ wine nerdery was so convincing, its third character, pinot noir, increased in sales by more than 20%. In fact, pinot production in California has increased by 170% since the film was released, dubbed “The Sideways Effect” by winemakers. The effect cut both ways, though. Due to Miles’ disdain for merlot, sales of that wine were depressed.
‘A Walk In The Clouds’ (1995)
Paul (Keanu Reeves) has just arrived home from WWII to find the woman (Debra Messing) he impulsively married before enlisting isn’t who he thought she was. Disillusioned, he heads to Sacramento in search of work and meets up with Victoria (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), a grad student heading home to help with the harvest. Pregnant by her professor, Victoria is petrified of her father’s reaction, so Paul agrees to accompany her to her family’s vineyard and pose as her husband.
It’s not difficult to imagine these two falling in love against the beautiful backdrop of Napa Valley, even if one is pregnant with another man’s baby and the other is married to another woman. Of course, Hollywood likes to mix a little tragedy in with its romance, so the family vineyard catches fire, and the vineyard is destroyed, except for one small plant heroically retrieved by Paul, saving the family’s legacy. One of the writers, Robert Mark Kamen, owned a Sonoma vineyard and fire was his biggest fear, even though several associates assured him vineyards don’t burn. Not only did he keep it in the movie, he proved the naysayers right when his own vineyard indeed caught fire less than a year after the film’s release. ]
‘Wine Country’ (2019)
A bunch of girlfriends, including SNL alums Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, and Tina Fey, celebrate a milestone birthday with a Napa Valley girls’ trip. A bunch of middle-aged women and a nearly unlimited supply of wine? Hilarity will surely ensue.
The film’s enduring female friendships have seen many ups and downs over the years, but wine has flowed freely through all of them, soothing broken hearts, celebrating the births of children, encouraging dorky dance moves. Women don’t need alcohol to bond, and they should definitely be aware of the dangers of drinking. However, some studies suggest drinking wine with your friends twice a week could help you live longer. Cheers to that!
‘A Good Year’ (2006)
Max (Russell Crowe), an investment banker, inherits his uncle’s château and vineyard in Provence. He spent his childhood there learning to live a slow life and appreciate the finer things but has since turned ruthless in his pursuit of success. Taking one week to restore the château for a quick sale, Max contends with a feisty love interest (Marion Cotillard) and an oenophile (Abbie Cornish) who claims to be his uncle’s long-long illegitimate daughter.
Six years after Gladiator, Crowe and director Ridley Scott reunited for A Good Year. Fans of Gladiator were perhaps surprised to find this film to be a romance set among the vineyards of France, but there was a nod to their previous collab for avid viewers. Max rubs some dirt in his hands, inhaling it, presumably for the terroir. Terroir can literally be translated as land but in wine terms refers to the environmental factors, such as nearby crops, that influence the taste of the wine.
Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) dreams of becoming a master sommelier but his father (Courtney B. Vance) insists he take over the family’s BBQ joint. He splits his time between the two endeavors, attending sommelier school and studying for the exam, but family obligations still come first.
Uncorked is a great movie that can be turned into a fun drink-along game if viewers are thirsting for a challenge: all the wines mentioned in the film can be found and bought commercially. Viewers feeling particularly confident can even use the exam grid to give themselves a real test of their wine skills.
‘Bottle Shock’ (2008)
Based on the true story of the early days of California wine making, Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) owns Château Montelena in Napa Valley but is going broke trying to perfect his chardonnay. His son Bo (Chris Pine) is chronically unhelpful. Meanwhile, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), a sommelier from Paris, has come to Napa to find American win fit to compete.
Jim’s wine went on to win the blind wine tasting of 1976, known as the Judgment of Paris. Finally, California wines gained respect from the wine community, even if the French were salty about it.
‘Cement Suitcase’ (2013)
Franklin (Dwayne Bartholomew) may be the best wine salesman in Yakima Valley, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy. He knows his girlfriend’s cheating on him but doesn’t have the guts to confront her. Instead, he meets the other man (Shawn Parsons) and to his dismay, he’s a perfect sweetheart.
How many glasses (or bottles) of wine does it take to survive dinner with your girlfriend? How many glasses (or bottles) of wine does it take for viewers to deal with the second-hand embarrassment? Cement Suitcase is determined to find out.
‘Sour Grapes’ (2016)
There are several terrific documentaries about the wine making experience, but Sour Grapes is particularly thrilling, illuminating a corner of the wine industry most viewers won’t be familiar with. A counterfeiter infiltrates the elite circle of people willing to pay thousands of dollars for a bottle of rare wine and sells millions of dollars worth of fraudulent wine through the most trusted auction houses.
Rudy Kurniawan became the first person in the United States to be convicted of wine fraud. This documentary details how Kurniawan duped authenticating connoisseurs, but it also takes on the excesses of the affluent. The doc explores American billionaire Bill Koch’s wine cellar while reserving judgment for the viewer.
‘French Kiss’ (1995)
Kate (Meg Ryan) rushes off to Paris when she finds out her fiancé is cheating on her. Terrified of flying, she’s a mess on the flight and doesn’t notice when the sleazy guy beside her, Luc (Kevin Kline), is actually a smuggler who uses her as a mule, sneaking a vine cutting and a valuable necklace into her bag. When the bag disappears, they’ll spend the film scouring the French countryside and gnarling up their romantic entanglements even further.
Kline plays a thief, but his motives are pure: he gambled away his share of a family vineyard and just needs a big pay day so he can get it back. All the way to Cannes, Kate and Luc discuss wine enthusiastically and Luc even carries his own aroma sampling kit. Kate was charmed and audiences were hooked.
‘A Perfect Pairing’ (2022)
Viewers preferring a little cheese with their wine might enjoy A Perfect Pairing, a cheesy romance starring Victoria Justice as an ambitious wine seller who travels to Australia to secure a deal with a major client and ends up working on her ranch as a jillaroo and falling in love with her boss cocky, Max (Adam Demos).
Australia makes some great wine, which pairs well with motorbike rides through the lush countryside, bar brawls, sheep shearing, and hunky shirtless ranch hands. A Perfect Pairing proves that wine flies when you’re having fun.