Cold winter nights are ideal for binge-watching movies and documentary films — even better if you can snuggle up with some popcorn and that special someone in front of a roaring fire. It goes without saying there should be a great glass of wine, too. (BTW, pair popcorn with champagne!)
Over the last decade, several films have put wine in the role of the protagonist. But instead of simply listing some of my favourite wine-related films, the idea was to take the subject of this column and kick it up a notch by presenting wine and movie pairings – sharing with you the perfect wine(s) to try as you watch the perfect wine films.
In no particular order, here are a few of my picks for wine and movie pairings to get you through the next month and a half, until the official start of Spring:
Admittedly, this is a bit of a bro film, but it’s got heart. An aspiring writer and wine enthusiast takes his engaged friend to wine country on a quasi bachelor road trip/single-guy bonding experience. Miles wants to relax and enjoy some wine, while Jack wants a last fling before his wedding. Soon, Jack connects with Stephanie, while her friend Maya gets together with Miles. When the women find out Jack is getting married, upset tempers leads to disarray and the usual hilarity ensues.
Wine pairing: Without spoiling the plot, you’re going to want to drink Pinot Noir for this. Or Merlot. Or both, in that order, so you can see the difference. Don’t worry which one you choose, just make sure it’s a decent California Pinot Noir and/or a California Merlot. If you like trivia, note that this movie had a massive impact on North American wine sales. I can’t say more without a spoiler alert!
This is a documentary rather than a Hollywood movie, but it will keep you enthralled and riveted for an entire 1 hour and 33 minutes. Following four aspiring Master Sommeliers, along with numerous thought leaders in wine, the film takes viewers on a humourous, emotional and illuminating look into a world that most people know little about. The Court of Master Sommeliers is one of the world’s most secretive and exclusive organizations and, since its inception almost 40 years ago, just 230 candidates have reached the exalted Master Sommelier level. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest those who have passed the grueling examination have risked it all — their personal lives, their well-being, and often their sanity. Somm takes you on an exclusive tour into a world of obsession, friendship and wine.
Wine pairing: I think the only one for this movie is dry Riesling. And it has to be a great quality producer — if you can find it, try Dönnhoff, Schaefer or Lauer. Make sure it’s well-chilled then, sit back, relax and prepare to be amazed.
Russell Crowe is not high on my list of favourite actors. Still he somehow manages to charm his way through this movie, where he plays a British investment broker who inherits his uncle’s decrepit old chateau and vineyard in Provence – a place where he spent much of his childhood. Through romance, nostalgia and even some high jinx, he discovers a new, more relaxed approach to life, as renovation folly ensues.
Wine pairing: Château La Canorgue is the real-life estate where this film was made, and where wine is also produced. It’s in the Luberon AOC, tucked into the very southeastern corner of the southern Rhone Valley. If you can’t find an actual wine from Château La Canorgue, seek a close second — something from the Côtes du Luberon. These red wines are made predominantly of Grenache and Syrah so, even if you don’t have any luck finding the previous two suggestions, you’ll be safe with a good-quality Côtes du Rhone.
If you are inclined to take a deep dive into the ethos of life in Burgundy, A Year in Burgundy is a documentary not to be missed. It’s a poetic look at the winemaking region over four seasons through the eyes of a half-dozen winemakers, noting how their personalities and approaches impact the flavour and style of the wines. Throughout the film, there is little doubt about the deep and storied history of the area. The documentary exposes the pull between modern and ancient winemaking in action as winemakers do their utmost to capture the best terroirs in bottle.
Wine pairing: It can only be Burgundy. If going white, pick Chablis for something bright, crisp and lifted with lots of minerality. Choose something from the Côtes de Beaune (Meursault for example) for something with some richness and body. If going red, you have to pick from the Côtes de Nuits – say, Gevry-Chambertin or Morey-St.Denis. If you’re a contrarian and have a great wine merchant, go with the rare Saint Bris (Sauvignon Blanc) or Bouzeron (Aligoté).
The fevered pitch amongst the Chinese for red wine from Bordeaux has, admittedly, died down recently due to changing economic pressures. But that doesn’t mean this documentary doesn’t have critical lessons to impart. Wine, and especially low-production, high-demand, exclusive Bordeaux has made the move from luxury item to investment vehicle. Narrated by Russell Crowe (I’m sensing a theme here!), Red Obsession is a documentary that takes viewers through the history of this wine-producing capital, its vulnerabilities due to things like weather and economic fluctuations, and the challenges it now faces in the context of rising prices, market demand, and commodification.
Wine pairing: The natural fit for this documentary would easily be a first growth Bordeaux, say Chateau Margaux or Chateau Lafite. But, given that these wines are the very subject of the documentary and therefore not easily available or affordable, go for Bordeaux on a budget. Pick up something from Graves or Pessac-Leognan. Both are considerably more affordable and will impart a sufficient impression from the perspective of terroir and winemaking quality. Plus, they’re delicious.
Two additional picks to be excited about:
Somm: Into the bottle was released right about the time Rustik went to press. It’s on the top of my ‘to watch’ list. The exciting follow-up to Somm promises to be just as spellbinding, informative and entertaining. Can’t wait!
Saint Amour: Similar in plot to Sideways (see above), only Saint Amour has a notably French take on the ‘bro road trip’ genre. Gerard Depardieu stars as one of two men who leaves his daily grind to go on a tour of French wine regions. You can probably figure out that folly and hilarity ensue. In that sense, it promises to be fun and entertaining. Plus, there are pairings to be determined – what’s more fun than that?