Many writers will be tempted to tap the barrel of winemaking analogies for their reviews of this film. And many will succumb… like I just did. But I’ll put a cork in it now (sorry).
This is the story, somewhat fictionalised, of how the snooty but moth-eaten old bird that was the French wine industry was knocked firmly off its perch in 1976 by the arrival of some fledgling Californians.
A struggling Paris-based British wine merchant (Alan Rickman) has an idea of comparing New World wines with French stalwarts at a blind tasting and heads to the Napa Valley to find lambs for what would seem to be an inevitable slaughter. There he encounters the prickly and nearly bankrupt Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and his groovy free-love son Bo (Chris Pine) of Chateau Montelena, who make great wine when they aren’t punching each other’s lights out in the backyard boxing ring.
This is a lusciously photographed but entirely predictable tale, saved from jingoism by Rickman’s turn as a snob with a sense of humour. But for a better film in the Californian Winemaking genre, watch Sideways. 6/10