The Flight: Grgich Hills Estate California Chardonnay, Meursault 1er Charmes White Burgundy, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis California Cabernet, Clos du Marquis Red Bordeaux
Bottleshock is a fictionalized account of the factual events which lead to a Californian Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon outscoring Burgundy Grand Cru and Bordeaux First Growth wines at the Steven Spurrier organized competition now known as the “Judgment of Paris”. This, now mythical tasting from 1976, announced the arrival of quality New World wines and challenged the presumption of French wine dominance. Long is the list of historical inaccuracies that litter the movie’s plot including the complete omission of winemaker Mike Grgich, who was instrumental in creating the winning Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena, and in the introduction of Wine Sharking where winery workers dupe unsuspecting local bar patrons into betting against one’s ability to correctly guess the vintage, label and blend of a series of wines tasted blind.
The plot intertwines Spurrier’s conception of the tasting and trip to California to acquire the appropriate challengers with the strained father-son relationship of winery co-owner Jim Barrett and his hippy-living son Beau. Spurrier weaves the kooky world of 1970’s Napa valley winery personalities while father and son learn to communicate in an effort to save the beloved family business and succeed in Paris. Fairly formulaic.
The film suffers from a poorly paced and conceived script that would have been wiser to stick to the trials and triumphs of the actual events (as captured in the book Judgment of Paris by George M. Taber) rather than focus on made-up characters and wine hijinks like the aforementioned Wine Sharking. However, for wine lovers, watching Alan Rickman as Spurrier wax poetic about the intricacies and delights of a great glass of wine will save the film, mostly. He chews-up the scenery with his reserved and inherently snooty Britishness, pointed speech and elaborated diction – ok, I’m describing most Alan Rickman roles. Whatever. This one is about wine! Rent it and follow along with...
The Bottle Shock Drinking Game:
- Take a sip of California Chardonnay every time…The editor cuts to sweeping helicopter shots of vineyards in an effort to connect poorly paced scenes of the two competing narratives.
- Take a sip of White Burgundy every time…You see an iconic Citroen DS or a chain-smoking old man with a baret in a scene to reinforce the setting is in France.
- Take a sip of California Cabernet every time…The film overreaches with an awkward social comment on gender or race inequality in 1970's Napa Valley by way of its motley crew of society challenging misfits.
- Finish the bottle of red Bordeaux once…You realize that, despite the tittle of the film, the key, plot-moving wine fault is never attributed to the unsettling caused by the vibrations of transportation, aka actual “bottle shock”. Whoops!