Wine Movies: Wine and Film Through the Years

From Hitchcock to Bottle Shock.

Most theaters won’t let you sip wine during the movie, but catching reruns at home can solve that problem. And what better movies for pairing with a favorite bottle than a film with wine in a starring role?

WE decided to take a look at movies featuring wine—either in a lead or a supporting role. From Hitchcock’s 1946 thriller Notorious with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman to the most recent vintage, Bottle Shock, starring Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman, movies cast wine as a lure to tap into America’s fascination with the grape.

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock hid the clue to the mystery in Notorious (1946) in a bottle of 1934 Pommard. Cary Grant accidentally knocks the bottle from its perch, smashing the bottle and spilling its contents of uranium ore on the ground, to nail the villain.

In This Earth is Mine (1959), a California winemaking dynasty is struggling to survive Prohibition. Claude Rains as patriarch Philippe Rambeau opposes selling grapes to bootleggers and it’s up to Rock Hudson and Jean Simmons to save the family vineyard.

Anthony Quinn’s portrayal of Italo Bombolini in the war-time mini-epic, The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969), almost looks like he’s playing himself. Routinely red-cheeked and wine-soused throughout the movie, Bombolini’s task is to find a way to hide the village’s millions of bottles of wine from the encroaching German army.

Year of the Comet (1992) pairs Tim Daly and Penelope Ann Miller in a breezy comedy about an upstart wine appraiser (Miller) who discovers a magnificent bottle of Bordeaux from 1811. A three-party villain-hero-villain chase ensues, with the vinous prize jostled from hand to hand.

A Walk in the Clouds (1995) has stunning landscapes, colorful festivals, and a serious plotline. Keanu Reeves plays Paul Sutton, a GI returning from the war, who falls for the beautiful Aitana Sánchez-Gijón (Victoria), daughter of a wine family in California. Her cantankerous father, played by Giancarlo Giannini, is the opposite of his father, Anthony Quinn, who plays the wise and all-knowing–while all drunken–patriarch.

Paul Giamatti tries in vain to add culture to Thomas Haden Church’s womanizing ways in Sideways (2004). Thought by many to be Pinot Noir’s ultimate manifesto, the movie mixes outrageous comedy with astute wine critique, served up by a superb cast that includes Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.

A Good Year (2006) tests whether Russell Crowe can balance machismo with winemaking. Max Skinner (Crowe) is a carnivorous Wall Street lion. He returns to French wine country after the death of Uncle Harry (Albert Finney) and is tamed by the romantic routines of the vineyard–not to mention the alluring ways of Fanny Chenal (played by Marion Cotillard)–to discover his new/old self.

Alan Rickman plays Steven Spurrier, a London wineseller, in Bottle Shock (2009) who decides to pit American wines against their French forebears. After trolling the California countryside, Rickman discovers that the “kids from the sticks” actually make some pretty good wine, so he teams with Maurice Cantavale (deftly played by Dennis Farina) to set up the competition. Based on a true story, this is a coming out party for American wine.

What's your favorite wine-centered movie? Leave a comment below telling us your favorites. 

 Planning on throwing an Oscar night soiree this year? See  Party Like the Stars on Oscar Night for recipe ideas and guidelines on bringing the red carpet to your home.

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