Professor Snape (a.k.a. Alan Rickman) stars alongside Captain Kirk (a.k.a. Chris Pine), Bill Pullman and Rachael Taylor in this tale about the great upset in modern wine production – the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Set at the beautiful Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley, Bottle Shock describes how a group of unpretentious farmers produced what may have been some of the best wine in the world. Alongside the lessons about wine production and agri-science is a coming of age story of a young playboy landlord’s sun and his pursuit of a hot, buxom wine intern, and his conflicts with his friend, the impoverished Mexican field hand.
Well, at least that’s how the film’s version of the story goes. Bottle Shock drew great controversy in part because of what some call an “insulting”, inaccurate portrayal of the tasting. While the film is an inspiring story that checks all the cliche movie points —the underdog winning against giants, an immature boy growing into manhood through trials and tribulations, and a happy-ending love story—the true story could not be further from the film.
The 1973 Chardonnay that won Chateau Montelena a spot in the Smithsonian was actually a mass-market wine intended to finance the production of its more expensive Cabernet Sauvignon varietal; Napa Valley was in fact already a serious contender on the world stage in wine, having rescued much of the old world vines in the 19th century during the Great French Wine Blight. In the same year as the judgement, Moet et Chandon, the famed champagne house, actually opened a vineyard in Napa to produce sparkling wine.
Historical facts aside, Bottle Shock is an entertaining, albeit unremarkable film. The plotline is not unique, as previously mentioned, and it doesn’t attempt to unravel any “big questions” about life or otherwise. The humor generally revolves around snarky and often sarcastic remarks by Alan Rickman (reminiscent of his role as Professor Snape) as well as the often laughter-inducing behavior of the younger Barrett as he attempts to mature. Sam Fulton makes the film a little more exciting at times, such as when she tries to flag down some car help by going topless. However, much like many wines, simply “checking the boxes” for the points that make a film good does not make it remarkable or worth watching—rather, the unique aspects of a film make it memorable, and the soul and emotion that a film conveys on its writers’ behalf make it truly heartwarming or inspiring. Bottle Shock unfortunately cannot be described as such.
For a wine enthusiast, Bottle Shock may be a movie best enjoyed with a glass of Chardonnay for its comedic and emotionally uplifting value; for the non-wine-enthusiast, Bottle Shock is just another “David-takes-on-Goliath” film.
Bottle Shock —United States. Directed by Randall Miller. First released April 2008. Running time 1hr 50min. Starring Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor.