Header image: The Secret of Santa Vittoria - Turner Classic Movies, 1969
As autumn slowly creeps up on us and the evenings start drawing in, there’s nothing quite like uncorking a bottle of wine and curling up in front of a good film.
So we thought it would be a good moment to combine the two and list a few of our favourite films where wine plays a prominent role. From a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the world of professional sommeliers to modern high-stakes drama and touching classic comedies, this list will hopefully have something for everyone.
The first in a series of three documentaries looking at the world of the sommelier, or professional wine waiter. The first instalment follows the trials and tribulations of four would-be ¨somms¨ as they frantically prep for the highly prestigious but notoriously demanding Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Watch the tension mount as the candidates try to cram in as much wine information as possible in readiness for the final blind tasting which will decide who gets a pop at a job in a top restaurant and who will have to try again next year. Available to watch via subscription on the Somm website.
A Good Year (2006)
With Ridley Scott in the director’s chair, Russell Crowe takes the lead in this enjoyable tale of arrogant, workaholic city slicker Max Skinner who inherits a Provencal chateau and vineyard from his Francophile uncle – a charismatic performance from Albert Finney – and, as his bucolic surroundings take hold, starts to re-assess the important things in life. It’s all beautifully shot, and with some polished cameos from Tom Hollander, and Marion Cotillard - who provides a little Gallic romantic interest - it’s an enjoyable watch that might just persuade you that jacking in the day job and buying that vineyard is your life’s calling.
The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
Based on the eponymous novel by Robert Crichton, this is one for all fans of historical romps or Anthony Quinn fans. The film is set in the village of Santa Vittoria in northern Italy just after the death of Mussolini and the fall of fascism. Quinn stars as Italo Bombolini, the erstwhile village idiot and old soak who unwittingly gets himself proclaimed mayor and becomes a hero as he foils the withdrawing German troops. As the thirsty soldiers try to get their hands on the village’s prized cellar of 1,184,611 bottles of delicious wine, Bombolini devises a plan to squirrel away the treasure in the Roman caves under Santa Vittoria. It’s all beautifully acted with a superb performance from Quinn, ably supported by Anna Magnani as his long-suffering wife in one of her few performances in English.
Known as “Entre Copas” in Spain, this delightful comedy-drama stars the excellent Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church as two unlikely friends, Miles and Jack, who embark on a week-long road trip through California's wine country, ahead of Jack’s wedding. The wine is not the star of the show, but it weaves a thread throughout this touching and funny study of friendship, middle age and dealing with life’s failures. Miles’s discourse on why he is such a fan of Pinot is a great piece of unconscious self-analysis. And look out for one of our favourite ever movie quotes: “quaffable, but far from transcendent.”
Drops of God (2023)
OK, we haven’t actually seen this TV mini-series from Apple TV, but it’s definitely on our watch list. This French production of a Japanese story centres on a contest between two characters – Camille (French) and Issei (Japanese) who must battle through a series of wine-related tests to inherit a wine collection worth nearly $150 million. The collection belonged to famous wine critic Alexandre Léger. The twist is that Camille is his estranged daughter and Issei his protegee. Both possess exceptional talents for tasting wine – but whilst Issei is analytical and precise, Camille relies on emotion and feeling to relate to wines. The result is a luxurious look at family strife, personal growth, and some wonderful wine-tasting scenes (or at least the clips we’ve seen are!).
So there you are – a few wine-related film options to help you while away a Sunday afternoon. If you have any other favourites, let us know and we’ll list them in a future newsletter.