If you’ve ever been in a tasting room when they are pouring Merlot, you have inevitably heard some joker in the crowd repeat the line, “I’m NOT drinking any f*%*^#@ Merlot!”
What the heck is with that guy? Well, aside from thinking he is hilarious, he just happened to watch the movie “Sideways.” In this 2004 movie, starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church, the main character takes his buddy on a wine tasting trip and they share a week full of adventures, as well as a lot of Pinot Noir. I’m not a fan of what I still prudely call the “f-word,” and this movie is littered with it. In spite of that, we found the movie entertaining and the wine references well researched. There is actual market research to show how the sales of Merlot dropped, and sales of Pinot Noir rose in the years following the release of “Sideways!”
No doubt movies, films, and TV shows are influential on the wine industry. They can be a great marketing tool for a particular region, educational for those who hunger for more wine knowledge, or pure entertainment about food, travel, wine and culture.
Most evenings I cook a meal from scratch and hubby picks out a bottle from our modest 200 bottle cellar (a.k.a. basement closet) to pair with it. He opens and pours the wine in another room while I dish up our plates so I can do a quick blind taste (with vastly varying results!). Then we take our dinner and wine and settle in front of the TV to watch a wine show, reminiscent of “Mystery Science Theatre 2000” critics.
We were first drawn in by the 2015 TV series “Uncorked”
We had already been watching shows like “Beer Geeks” and “Brew Dogs” so when we saw a series devoted to wine, we were curious enough to DVR it. Soon we were obsessed with it, recording each episode and feeling the angst along with the sommeliers striving to pass their final exams. The show was very well done, easy to follow and full of nuggets about tasting wine. We learned something new every time we watched the repeats. They are no longer showing them on TV, but you can buy the series and stream it on Amazon Prime.
Feature Length Films
Our favorites, the “Somm” movies are similar to the “Uncorked” series, in that they follow a few candidates for the Master Sommelier designation through their courses of study and final exams. The first “Somm” and the second “Somm: Into the Bottle,” are both full length films that let you really look into the world of those who pursue wine as a career. Sommeliers, restaurant owners, mentors and instructors in all things wine are featured. They taste through flights and discuss the details of winemaking, wine regions and grape varietals. I haven’t met a wine enthusiast who doesn’t geek out over these movies! We are eagerly awaiting the third Somm film to be released this fall. The first two are available on Netflix, so I would suggest you watch them now so you are ready for the third!
Short and Fast-Paced
Once in a while we just want something short and fast-paced to watch, instead of a feature length film. There are several shows with multiple short episodes (between five and twenty minutes) that we have watched and enjoyed on Amazon Prime. Two of these are narrated by Colin West and follow his adventures both in Australia and North America. We enjoyed them because we learned a little something new with each one and they are produced professionally. Check out “Wine Ram” and “World of Wine.”
The jury is still out on “The Wine Van” with Ian Chapmann. It says it is made for millennials. Maybe that is the problem. We are so NOT. Just when you think he’s going to get into some good info, Ian abruptly changes direction or the annoying rock-a-billy theme music signals the end of the show. Entertaining, but a bit empty.
“Wine-Oh TV” is another professionally made series with some great content and interviews from a journalist’s viewpoint. These are fun to watch, even though I’m not a huge fan of host Monique Soltani. We have learned a lot from the show, in spite of the host’s vociferous ramblings. She mainly interviews people at wine industry events in the first two seasons of short videos. In the third season, the episodes are a little longer and she gets closer to the vineyards and winemakers, visiting exotic locations like Sicily and Sardinia.
Focused on Food and Wine Pairings
We really enjoy wine shows that naturally and effortlessly pair food segments with their wine content. “Tasting Notes” with Patrick Capiello is a favorite of ours. He meets up with chefs in their kitchens where they prepare a dish together and he pairs it with a wine. These shorts are each five to ten minute segments that pack a lot in! He reviews some wines, highlights a particular grape or showcases pairings that make your mouth water. They are well done, educational and entertaining. Plus, Capiello has a really cool rocker vibe about him that I found endearing and credible.
Other Rockin Films
Speaking of rockers, there is a film on Amazon Prime called “Blood Into Wine” that is all about a winemaker in Arizona who just happens to be Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of the rock band, Tool. Now I admit, we chose this show for the info on the Arizona wine industry as I had never heard of Keenan or his rock bands. It was a fun movie to watch as he intertwines comedy and music in his wine story. Most importantly, it made me want to explore the little known Arizona wine region and taste what is being created there!
Well-known wine regions are covered much more regularly in film, so there are several to choose from that highlight France, Italy, California and Australia. Sid and Mary Lee Nolan are a retired couple who travel to their favorite wine regions and self-produce films that are packed full of scenery, people who live and work there, tasting room experiences and other adventures along their road trips. The two we have watched are “Exploring French Wine Regions” and “Vines Down Under.” These documentaries are full of footage from the international wine regions that we have not visited, which makes them worth watching. Their content is interesting and informative, even if the films are not as well produced and the narrators are a snooze fest.
Top Series Picks
Probably our favorite new series is “V is for Vino.” It is also available on Amazon Prime, and sadly there are only three half hour episodes and one ten minute episode, so far. Written, hosted and produced by Vincent Anter, this series would lead you to believe that he has a whole production team behind him. I recently messaged Vince to let him know we were enjoying the show. I was blown away to find out that he does everything except operate the camera for his show! In each episode, Vince travels to a wine region, talks with the winemakers, then meets up with a local chef and pairs wine with whatever amazing dish they are cooking up. He also has a great “wine nerd” segment where he teaches an object lesson about wine facts. Vince told me he plans to make more episodes, hopefully within the next six months, and we are eagerly awaiting their release. In his own words, “I wanted to find a way for people to learn and understand more about the wine in their glass without having to pick up a book.”
Netflix has another gem that wine geeks will enjoy. “Sour Grapes” is the story of the biggest scandal in the history of the high dollar wine industry. Spoiler alert: Rudy Kurniawan is serving a ten year sentence for counterfeiting expensive wines and selling them at auction. It is fascinating to see how he bilked savvy wine collectors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars just by inserting himself into their circles.
We subscribed to Hulu for a couple of months just so we could watch all the episodes in the two seasons of “The Wine Show.” This is a British wine show that we really enjoyed. It is full of beautiful wine, beautiful scenery and beautiful people (a.k.a. Joe Fattorini, Amelia Singer, Matthew Goode, Matthew Rhys and more). We learned new things with every episode, increased our thirst for Italian and French wine, and sincerely hope they make a third season! For now, the first two seasons have moved to Ovation TV.
Finally, and most influential on our wine education, was the “Everyday Guide to Wine” available on Amazon Prime. You can purchase the episodes there, or subscribe to the Great Courses: Signature Collection Channel for $7.99/mo. We did this for two months and watched all 24 episodes in that time. The course is instructed by Master of Wine, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan. There is actually a course guidebook you can download or order online to follow along, which would add even more to your experience. Because the videos are meant to be an online course, they are not as entertaining and fast moving as other wine videos. However, they are packed with detailed information about various grapes, wine regions and techniques for tasting and learning wine. I can’t recommend them highly enough if you are serious about wine.
Whether you are serious, or just curious, use your “search” function on your favorite TV app to find all things “wine.” You will find gems, and you will find duds. Explore and learn and soon your friends will be asking for wine advice from you!
What to Watch, Where to Watch It
Updated July 19, 2018