‘Bottle Shock’ Film

With the recent passing of Alan Rickman — which I talked a bit about in last week’s Quality Linkage column — I thought I’d point out one his lesser-known films that happens to be a favorite of mine: Bottle Shock.

In this film — very loosely based on a true story — Rickman plays Steven Spurrier, a somewhat-snobby British sommelier living in Paris in 1976. Upon hearing tale of the supposedly world-class wines coming out of California at that time (this was in the early days of Napa Valley wine), he decides to organize a blind taste test pitting American wines vs French ones.

As fascinating as I find this bit of wine history, you don’t have to care about that sort of thing to enjoy the film. The competition takes a second seat to the relationships between various characters, summed up nicely by one Amazon reviewer:

This drama/light comedy follows the true story of the travails of the winning white (Chardonnay) winery leading up to the competition. There is lots to enjoy here including a struggling small business story, an evolving father-son relationship, the comeuppance of an arrogant industry, and of course, a love triangle.

The father and son running Chateau Montelena, the American vineyard at the center of the film, are played by Bill Pullman and Chris Pine respectively. Watching their relationship evolve both with one another and with the vineyard itself, as well as Rickman’s character’s grudging acceptance of California in the wine world, is more endearing and entertaining than it sounds on the surface. The film has a surprisingly low score on Rotten Tomatoes, but I say ignore that and enjoy this charming film anyway. I know I did.

You can watch the film in a few different ways:

  • iTunes — $15 to buy, $4 to rent
  • Amazon Video (HD) — $13 to buy, $4 to rent
  • DVD — $5, though it’s temporarily out of stock as of this writing (Jan 21st, 2016).
  • Blu-ray (Region B) — $25
  • Netflix