Vineyard Blog

Pairing films with English wine

SidewaysOK, so it’s more usual to pair food and wine, but in between the eating and socialising of the festive period, I think there’s something rather nice about curling up on the sofa with a good film. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of English wine at the same time, so here are my thoughts on a couple of films I’ve just watched…


First up was Sideways. I know it’s not new, but it’s a bit of a seminal film of the wine genre and probably the best known. Jack is about to get married and heads off for a last week of freedom in California wine country with his old college buddy Miles. Jack-the-lad is determined to have one last fling while Miles is, depending on your own point of view, a wine aficionado, geek or bore. They are now 30-something with, one suspects, rather less in common than when they were at college and the story takes them through a range of highs and lows as they learn about wine and women.

Gusbourne Pinot Noir

Gusbourne Pinot Noir 2011

It’s a moderately entertaining jaunt, perhaps less hilarious for the number of blokey road trip movies that have followed. I found it a perfectly acceptable light entertainment, but the quote from GQ on the box “The funniest film of the year” seems way overblown. There are, however, some great lines; I was particularly taken with a wine being described by Miles as “Quaffable, but far from transcendent”.

Wine pairing for Sideways:

it has to be Pinot Noir, so if you can run to a bottle of the Gusbourne Pinot Noir 2011 we tried recently at Wine Pantry, that would be my top tip. Failing that, Kenton Vineyard produce a Pinot Noir Précoce 2011, which I haven’t tried, but which won a Silver UKVA Medal in 2012, so should be good. If you can’t cope without fizz, how about Camel Valley Sparkling Pinot Noir Brut 2011? The last of these was, coincidentally, how Christmas Day started around here (thanks, Susan!)

Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock

The second film was Bottle Shock, based on the France vs California tasting of 1976. Alan Rickman is brilliant as Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant struggling to make a living in Paris. He takes British eccentricity well into the realms of parody, but just manages to remain within the bounds of credibility (you know someone a bit like that, admit it!) In the tale, Spurrier goes off to the States to find some wines worthy of putting up against his favourite French wines in a blind tasting. The scenery of California wine country is beautifully filmed and it’s a delightful story well told, whether or not you are particularly interested in wine – this means it’s perfect to watch with friends or partners who don’t fall on the wine aficionado / geek / bore spectrum and not just because of the “Daisy Duke” style moment of the intern cleaning out the wine press…

It would be easy to be a bit sniffy that the film trivialises what was an important event in recent wine history, but I’m not snobbish about things like that. It was a really enjoyable film – if you want to just take it at that level, fine, if it makes you want to go and read more about the real story, that’s even better. At this point, it’s worth noting that both films are certificate 15, but Bottle Shock would be absolutely fine as family entertainment; Sideways rather less so.

Spurrier’s final words: “You mark my words, we’ll be drinking wines from South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, China; this is not the end, this is just the beginning. Welcome to the future!” would have been even more perfect had England been included, but notwithstanding that, it’s a film I’d happily recommend to almost anyone.

New Hall Chardonnnay

New Hall Chardonnnay 2010

Wine pairing for Bottle Shock:

It’s time to go white with a Chardonnay. My pick would be Skye’s Chardonnay 2010 from Hush Heath, as tasted at the Vineyard earlier in the year, but it was a one off and you’ll be lucky to get hold of a bottle, so how about New Hall Chardonnay 2010? That’s one I haven’t yet tried, but judging by the other New Hall wines we tasted in East Anglia, it’s well worth a go. A fizz option would be a blanc de blancs of which there are many fine English examples, how about Balfour Blanc de Blanc 2010 or Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2009?

As ever, check the vineyard directly, your local wine merchant or Wine Pantry to buy.

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