Tasha Brandstatter on January 8, 2017 0 Comments Wine makes a perfect subject and backdrop for film: you have photogenic vineyards, often located in the most scenic places on earth; you have the glamour and mystery of winemaking; and you have the appeal of wine itself, an endless source of learning and fascination for everyone from casual wine drinkers to dedicated oenophiles. With the advent of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, there are dozens of movies and documentaries about wine and winemaking at your fingertips. But which ones are worth watching? The following are a few of our favorites. 1. Bottle Shock (2008) Available on: Netflix and Amazon Prime IMDb: Bottle Shock Based on the infamous 1976 Judgment of Paris wine tasting, in which California wines soundly beat the best wines in France, this movie focuses on Stephen Spurrier, one of the organizers of the tasting, and the relationship between Jim and Bo Barrett, owners of the Chateau Montelena Winery. The real reason to watch this movie is entirely due to Alan Rickman, who plays Spurrier and gets allll the lines (which is as it should be). Chris Pine is also charismatic as the rebellious young Bo Barrett. While the film’s hardly historically accurate, it does an excellent job of capturing the excitement and atmosphere of California wine country in the ‘70s. And the scenery doesn’t suck, either. 2. Somm (2012) Available on: Netflix IMDb: Somm Have you ever wanted to become a sommelier, or wondered what it would take to become one? This documentary follows four people in their quest to become a MS, or Master Sommelier, one of the most difficult degrees to obtain in the world. Although you might learn a lot about wine while watching it, it’s really about the people in the film and the passion for wine that fuels them on this truly intense and challenging (not mention expensive) journey. Plus, there’s something of a twist at the end that’s not only unexpected, but thought-provoking. 3. You Will Be My Son (2011) Available on: Netflix IMDb: You Will Be My Son With the scope of a Greek tragedy, You Will Be My Son pits Martin against his father, Paul, a Saint-Emilion winemaker and genuinely awful person. Martin is desperate for his father’s approval and wants to take over the family winery someday, but his dad thinks he’s a loser. Enter Philippe, Martin’s childhood friend and head winemaker at Francis Ford Coppola’s California vineyards. Paul thinks Philippe is the hottest thing to hit wine since oak barrels, and decides he — not Martin — is the one who should inherit the family business. That’s when this movie turns from family drama to thriller. Dun-dun-dun! (Note: This movie is in French with English subtitles.) 4. Somm: Into the Bottle (2015) Available on: Netflix IMDb: Somm: Into the Bottle From the same filmmakers who brought you Somm, this is a follow-up documentary that focuses more on the wines sommeliers love than on the somms themselves. While the criticism that this doc needs more focus is valid, it’s still very informative and perfect for wine geeks. The best parts are watching super-rare bottles opened and tasted in the wineries where they were made, such as the 1969 Dom Ruinart (only 18 left in the world — or 17 now, I guess) or the 1966 Mondavi, the first wine Mondavi produced. Since this documentary is probably the closest most people will ever get to tasting such wines, it’s worth watching just for that. 5. A Year in Champagne (2014) Available on: Netflix IMDb: A Year in Champagne While the narration could use a little more oomph, you can’t beat the gorgeous cinematography in this documentary. It’s packed full of information on everything Champagne-related, from how they put in the bubbles, to the strict laws governing the winemaking process, to the social structure of the area itself. Even if you think you know a lot about sparkling wine, you will learn something from this film. Plus it’s just fun to peek into the lifestyle of a place where people drink Champagne as a matter of course, like water. “Everyone in Champagne is happy,” one winemaker tells us. And it’s no wonder. 6. A Year in Burgundy (2013) Available on: Amazon Prime IMDb: A Year in Burgundy Like A Year in Champagne, A Year in Burgundy is buoyed by incredible cinematography and unprecedented access to some of the most renowned winemaking families in Burgundy, including the elusive and fierce Lalou Bize-Leroy, owner of Domaine Leroy and the so-called “Queen of Burgundy”. The film does occasionally feel sentimental bordering on clichéd, and the narration is sometimes frustratingly obscure (“These are their most expensive grapes, they will be sold to the Hotel de Beaune!” Okay?), you can’t beat the human touch director David Kennard gives to some of the most exalted wines in France. 7. Blood Into Wine (2010) Available on: Amazon Prime IMDb: Blood Into Wine Did you know heavy metal musician Maynard James Keenan (Tool, Puscifer, etc.) also owns a winery? Called Caduceus Cellars, it helped revive the near-ghost town of Jerome, Arizona, and is one of the stars in Arizona’s northern wine region. Even though Keenan is the draw here — well, that and seeing Milla Jovovich drinking wine — the film is really about the Arizona wine industry as a whole and how, even though the yield in this state is by necessity small, the wines from here are excellent expressions of terroir and winemaking as both an art and craft. Plus the Arizona scenery is just cool. 8. Mondovino (2004) Available on: Amazon Prime IMDb: Mondovino A surprise — and controversial — hit when it was first released, Mondovino explores “the world of wine,” particularly the effect of globalization in the wine industry on various wine regions of the world. It aggressively questions the business practices of the big winemakers, but the real reason to watch is because unless you actually live in the places director Jonathan Nossiter visits, you’ll never get a better understanding about the inner workings of the wine world and all the human drama that goes with it. Plus you get to “meet” major figures in the industry like Michelle Roland, Robert Parker, and Jan Schrem. (Note: Amazon Prime’s version is an extended series of the original documentary.) 9. Cement Suitcase (2013) Available on: Amazon Prime IMDb: Cement Suitcase One of those quirky quarter-life, seize the day comedies, Cement Suitcase is unique in that it takes us out of California wine country (a Hollywood favorite, for good reason of course) and into Yakima Valley, Washington. Franklin has what many would consider a dream job, working in a winery tasting room. But Franklin takes no joy in his job, not to mention: he’s about to lose his house and his girlfriend is cheating on him. Luckily he meets up with quirky Aussie, Jackford (no last name), who shows him how to get more fun out of life. While not a perfect movie, Cement Suitcase is an enjoyable “anti-romantic” comedy with great scenery of the Yakima Valley. 10. Boom Varietal (2011) Available on: Amazon Prime IMDb: Boom Varietal Is Malbec, Mendoza’s signature grape, a fad variety or here to stay? After the longest opening credit sequence in history, Boom Varietal attempts to answer this question by talking to winemakers, industry insiders, and exploring the history of the grape in Argentina and abroad. The major detractor in this documentary is the soundtrack, which is overblown and completely distracting. But if you can get past that, you can learn a lot about a relatively new (to Americans, anyway) grape variety that looks like it’s here to stay.