Pop open a bottle of Pinot and celebrate Amy Poehler’s “Wine Country!” The film hits Netflix streaming this weekend and follows a group of ladies who take a trip to Napa Valley for a birthday extravaganza. Starring Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and more, the Netflix original comedy is a drunken trip. Wine is an understated accessory in film, one that goes unnoticed at times. When a story revs up the palette for it, the film can be delicious viewing. In today’s Top 10, AwardsCircuit raises a toast to wine in film through its fictional and documentary efforts.
10Bottle Shock (2004)
dir. Randall Miller
Based on the 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting, “Bottle Shock” follows the story of California wine making, and the lead up to the mythical upset of French wine standards. In what became an unprecedented turn of events, wine culture was struck as French judges blindly favored two of Napa Valley’s blends over home French wineries. The film stars Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier, a French wine merchant. The film also stars Bill Pullman as Jim Barrett, a lawyer and owner of a debt riddle vineyard. A simple underdog drama, “Bottle Shock” serves up a sharp cut of interest in its narrative and characters, all whom would be moving parts of the fictional historical event.
9A Year in Burgundy (2013)
dir. David Kennard
Spending a year in the Burgundy regions, David Kennard’s documentary whisks audiences away into the time and effort of the industry in a calendar year. Through decadent camera work on the vineyards, the film follows San Francisco-based wine importer Martine Saunier and her seven wineries in a year’s worth of pruning and harvesting. Throughout the film, audiences indulge in a piece of home only recognizable as a wine enthusiast’s muse. It’s imprinted across generations and “A Year in Burgundy” does the delicacy a great service, much like Kennard’s other wine docs.
8A Year in Champagne (2014)
dir. David Kennard
“It’s a passion, it’s a puzzle,” one winery merchant describes it. Champagne, the bottle of celebration, is rooted in more than just a graduation pop. David Kennard’s ongoing chronicles of the wine industry is a vibrant, appetizing trilogy. What goes into the production, harvesting upkeep and sales of the business comes from the passion of millions of wine connoisseurs. From deeply rooted histories of the land to current affairs, the documentary continues the trend of dazzling wine secrets.
7Red Obsession (2013)
dir. David Roach, Warwick Ross
“Red Obsession” is probably unlike any other film on the list. Sharp and well paced, it documents the industry’s rapidly growing supply and demand, especially in the Chinese market. What was once thought as a domestic obsession has become a worldwide phenomenon. David Roach and Warwick Ross direct this engaging lens on the business behind the scenes and what makes people flock to the cellars. The documentary is narrated by Russell Crowe.
6Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
dir. Audrey Wells
It’s not so easy to escape the awe-inspiring beauty of Italian villas. The countrysides are vast and warm under a beaming summer sun. In “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Frances (Diane Lane) embarks on an impromptu vacation to Tuscany, Itay after finding out her husband’s cheated on her and is taking ownership of their properties and assets.
Frances, who at first sulks at the idea her lesbian friend (Sandra Oh) goes on about, decides to give this venture a chance. Soon Frances finds herself making an offer on a beautiful, run down villa on the fields. The late Audrey Wells makes a toast to life’s findings through Frances’ journey. Her character’s infectious desire for joy and renewal seeps into the viewer, thanks to the Golden Globe nominated performance by leading lady Diane Keaton.
5A Year in Port (2016)
dir. David Kennard
Kennard’s series of wine documentaries have trickled their way down the list. He’s submersed himself into the landscapes of Champagne and Burgundy, and now rests comfortably with another crisp focus, “A Year in Port.” Among Portugal’s Douro Valley, the acclaimed birthplace of Port wine, over 30 different strands of grapes wait to be harvested every vintage year. In many of Britain and Portugal’s historical partnerships, the business of Port is just one of those many. Kennard’s film embraces the culture of its vineyards, its mix with British alliances and producers, and wine lovers enjoy and reap the benefits.
dir. Brad Bird, co-dir. Jan Pinkava
Surprised? Well, the Chateau Cheval Blanc makes an appearance or two in Brad Bird’s 2007 animated feature “Ratatouille.” The story about a rat chef directing the expertise of a clumsy garbage boy, Linguini, is what animated comedies were made for. They seek to impress famous food critic Anton Ego (a frequent wine drinker because what means high status more than an expensive bottle?), as a means to salvage the restaurant. After suspicions about his excellent overnight cooking, he’s questioned as to how, with a few glasses of red. The Pixar film is a genuine crowd pleaser. Who knew wine and food would look so good in animation, anyway?
3El Camino del Vino (The Ways of Wine) (2010)
dir. Nicolás Carreras
Charlie Arturaola is an established wine sommelier hailing from Uruguay. He’s traveled and studied the vineyard craft through Europe and back home to Miami. He became a founder of the Masters of Wine Festival and when it came down to taste the selections one year, Charlie had to cancel the event. In “El Camino del Vino,” Charlie looks to regain his sharp palette for the delicacy after suffering a short hiatus from it. In the face of uncertainty, Charlie will always decide to fix things with a glass of wine first. Filmed partly in Argentina, in one of the world’s prominent wine cities of Mendoza, Nicolás Carreras directs this documentary of one man’s journey back to his roots and pride for the art of wine drinking. It’s both an effervescent tale of a man’s passion and a delightful flick for curious wine lovers.
dir. Alexander Payne
“Only when somebody really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential, can they then coax it onto its fullest expression,” says Miles, a middle aged divorcée and wine aficionado. Still feeling the effects of divorced life, he takes his soon-to-be-wed buddy Jack (Church) on a week trip to wine tastings and quality golf. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church star as two middle-aged men looking to cruise through California’s wine country ahead of a wedding.
What they didn’t expect is that they’d dive into double date romps and hilarity. Well, maybe Jack always had this in mind. After all, his womanizing traits make his character purely one-dimensional. Alexander Payne’s film has its best scenes when Giamatti is at the helm. Seeing Miles’ psyche from a wallowing divorced man to a mellow optimist, and back to hysterically drinking out of spit bowls, is a finesse only Giamatti can nail.
dir. Jason Wise
The Master Sommelier exam is considered one of the toughest to pass. It’s recognized as the highest achievement in the wine community and in Jason Wise’s “Somm,” four sommelier friends attempt to pass and garner the prestigious diploma. The exam weighs on participants, testing them in taste down to winery producers and grape growing. Take the best parts of a documentary and dip them into a nice bottle of Merlot; that’s what you get with “Somm.”
The documentary features crisp photography and a narrative of real life determination, all while complementing the wine that drives it. As much as it is an appreciation of wine, “Somm” pays its focal attention to the tenacity and skill it takes to hone an underrated certification. Grounded in the oenophilia, the disciplined obsession of wine, “Somm” is a documentary worth seeking, if only for its indelible appreciation of the pour.