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Despite a shared ability to transport audiences to different parts of the world, there are precious few great movies about the world of fine wine. Sideways remains the most celebrated wine movie, but it and other romantic dramas such as A Good Year and A Walk in the Clouds are likely more prized for their visually arresting cinematography than keen sense of story. Even bad wine movies can be viewed these days with a more charitable eye given their ability to whisk us away to picture-perfect vineyards, rustic cellars and bustling restaurants (remember those?). But there are some wine-themed movies and television programs, including the four recommended here, that offer more than escape and amusement. They have something useful and interesting to say about the world and wine’s place in it.
The latest installment of the popular Somm documentary series strikes me as the best of the bunch. The first film followed four friends who are preparing for the gruelling master-sommelier exam and the second, Somm: Into the Bottle, traversed the globe to relay the magic and dedication that goes into producing wine. Somm III centres around respected wine experts Steven Spurrier, Jancis Robinson and Fred Dame coming together to share the bottles of wine that helped launched their storied careers and offer insights on how those wines helped to shape the world of wine today. The personalities featured and the stories they tell are so engaging, Somm III is sure to resonate with wine lovers as well as the uninitiated.
Available on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube
The Wine Show
This entertaining British series is hosted by Joe Fattorini, who instructs actors Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys (who is replaced by James Purefoy in the second season) about the how, where, why and what of wine appreciation while savouring the setting of picturesque wine estates in Italy and Provence. It’s the rare wine education show that gets the balance right – not too geeky, not too simple, and with a fast-paced approach that keeps viewers engaged. The soon-to-be-released third season sees the crew joined by actor and director Dominic West, taking Goode’s place as aspiring student, broadcasting from Quinta do Noval in the Douro Valley. In the meantime, you can catch the informative, albeit less visually stimulating, weekly broadcasts of The Wine Show @ HOME from Fattorini’s attic via The Wine Show’s YouTube channel.
More info at thewineshow.com/uk
Loosely based on the life of DLynn Proctor, a featured personality in the Somm films and director of Fantesca Estate & Winery in Napa Valley, Uncorked follows one man’s dream to break free of his family’s barbecue joint and become a master sommelier despite all odds. Admittedly it’s an uneven drama, but thanks to Proctor’s role as associate producer, this film knowingly depicts the rigour and attention to detail required to succeed in sommelier studies.
Available on Netflix
Vintage by Villa Maria
Vintage is a documentary that offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the 40-day cycle of the 2019 grape harvest at Villa Maria in New Zealand. Made as a promotional piece, it nevertheless presents a realistic look at the unrelenting demands of the annual grape harvest, particularly detailing how the initial hope and enthusiasm at the start inevitably turns to dudgery and exhaustion during the long, round-the-clock process. The vistas of vineyards in Marlborough and informative overview of how wine is made at a thoroughly modern, large-scale operation make it worth a watch.
Available on Vimeo, iTunes and Google Play