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Wines make their mark in Hollywood films
By John H. Isacs

THE relationship between wines and movies has traditionally been quite superficial. Scriptwriters and directors occasionally use wines to create additional atmosphere or to add character depth. Unfortunately, the same detailed approach doesn’t extend to wines.

Inaccuracies and contradictions are common. Actors and actresses, particularly those in Hollywood movies lack even basic wine drinking skills and etiquette.

But perhaps I’m getting too serious about this subject as movies are about fun and seldom rich in culture or wisdom.

If you really want to learn something or experience true culture, then I suggest you pour yourself a glass of fine wine and read a book.

Golden oldies

Most of the classic or more memorable wine scenes in movies are in old films.

Wine featured prominently in what was perhaps the greatest movie of all, “Casablanca.” Throughout this wartime movie the principals we seen liberally quaffing wines, especially Champagne.

About the only time that Rick and his friends weren’t drinking Champagne was when they were swashing Cognac. Leading man Humphrey Bogart seemed to enjoy any liquor placed before him but his suave French pal Captain Renault was more discerning, recommending a bottle of 1926 Veuve Cliquot in one of the film’s more memorable wine scenes.

Another of the most unforgettable scenes features Rick sadly reminiscing about his days in pre-occupation Paris drinking a bottle of Mumm Corton Rouge Champagne with co-star Ingrid Bergman and uttering the famous line, “here’s looking at you kid.”

The prominence of Champagne throughout this movie proves once again that hard times necessitate good Champagnes.

The 1946 film “Notorious” by Alfred Hitchcock also has important wine moments. The film features screen legends Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman who spy on Nazis that have fled to Brazil.

Several scenes feature wines and some key moments were filmed in a cavernous wine cellar. Vino stars in this movie include a Premier Cru Volnay from Cote de Beaune Burgundy.

Made since the 1300s, Volnay AC wines are among the most elegant Pinot Noir wines in the world and a wonderful beverage to accompany classic movies. Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne is also featured in the movie. Drinking a glass of this good value Champagne is as fun today as it was in Brazil nearly 70 years ago.

Recent movies

Modern movies, like modern wines, are often shallow and undistinguished.

However, there are some entertaining exceptions where wines play a role. The James Bond series of movies is most famous for fast cars and beautiful women, but wines also play a part in portraying our favorite spy’s exciting and elite lifestyle.

Bond not only has a fondness for “shaken not stirred” vodka martinis but also for fine Champagnes.

In “Dr No” the protagonist cautions 007 that he should be careful with the bottle, “That’s a Dom Perignon 1955, it would be a pity to break it.” Bond replies, “I prefer the 1953 myself.”

Other Champagnes featured in Bond films include Taittinger Blanc de Blancs and Bollinger Grand Cuvee.

In “Casino Royal” a bottle of the sensational Saint Emilion Grand Cru wine Chateau Angelus steals one scene.

One of the more funny Bond wine scenes is when 007 identifies a double agent because the man could not be an Englishman because he ordered red wine with fish.

In general, I agree with Bond that this is bad form but I might take the secret agent to task if the wine ordered was a fresh young Pinot Noir or Barbera. Both reds have good acidity and moderate tannins that enable them to match well with many fish dishes.

“Silence of the Lambs” is famous for the demented genius Hannibal Lechter extolling the virtues of human brain and lava beans with a nice Chianti.

Unfortunately, the film watered down Hannibal’s good taste as the wine favored in the book was actually a more weighty and powerful Amorone del Valpolicella.

In the final scene he is seen on an airplane sharing brain with a young boy while savoring a bottle of the great second growth Saint Julien wine Chateau Leoville Barton. Evil and demented he was, but he did know his wines.

Other poignant silver screen scenes that feature wines include Meryl Streep smelling and sipping a 1917 vintage Chateau Margaux in “Sophie’s Choice,” the cultured Captain Picard sharing a bottle of Chateau Picard 2267 in “Star Trek Nemesis” and Anthony Hopkins portraying an English butler who laminates about breaking a bottle of Dow’s 1913 Vintage Port.

On the funny side, comedian Steve Martin in “The Jerk” tells a waiter after drinking a bottle of 1966 Chateau Latour, “no more 1966, let’s splurge, bring us your fresh wine, the freshest you have.”

A jerk indeed!


Released in 2004, “Sideways” was a rare movie that was thematically built around wine. College buddies Miles and Jack go on a wine trip prior to Jack getting married.

Miles is a wine snob and Jack a womanizer and together they exhibit great human frailties while drinking some exceptional wines. Miles is exposed as a lonely figure who can only be taken seriously when he drinks or talks about wines.

Ha-ha, I must admit I know a few people like him in real life. Jack mostly guzzles wines and flirts with women. Yes, I’m acquainted with a few people like that also.

A major contradiction in this otherwise mostly wine-correct movie is when Miles uses a profanity to comment on Merlot wines and lambasts a Cabernet Franc wine as “hollow, flabby and overripe,” yet also proclaims his dream wine is a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc.

Shouldn’t our win snob know Cheval Blanc is always predominantly a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot?

A good movie is always made better by a glass or two of good wine. In my experience, even bad movies can be fun when you pick the right wine.

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