11 delicious films about wine you need to watch now

Posted by Matthew Stibbe

Watching movies and sipping a glass of delicious wine is one of life’s great pleasures. So much better if you’re watching films about wine. There are some great documentaries about wine and a couple of entertaining movies – we’ve watched them and here are our top 11 films for wine enthusiasts.

1. Sour Grapes

Sour Grapes is a documentary about Rudy Kurniawan, a charming fraudster who sold fake rare wine, and Bill Koch, the billionaire who exposed him. It has a bit of Sherlock Holmes in it with some delightful ‘gotcha’ moments. On a more philosophical level it reveals how subjective wine tasting can be and how your expectations – of price, provenance and quality – can skew your experience. We already know that we think that expensive wine tastes better than cheap wine and this film shows how Kurniawan tricked collectors and industry insiders into paying for fake wine. Fascinating and captivating.

Available on NetFlix. Vincarta rating: Outstanding.

2. Somm

Becoming a Master Sommelier is no easy thing. The 2012 documentary Somm describes it as ‘the hardest exam you’ve never heard of’ (although, right now, I feel like the WSET Diploma should get that title. Instead of writing this, I’m supposed to be studying soil structure in the Upper Douro Valley. Seriously.) The film follows a group of friends as they prepare for the exam. It’s moving, funny and – for us, at least – inspiring. It’s a look behind the scenes at a little-known community.

Vincarta rating: Outstanding

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3. Somm: Into the Bottle

Somm: Into the Bottle isn’t exactly a sequel to Somm. A few of the now-qualified Master Sommeliers reappear from the earlier film but this is much more of a documentary about making wine than it is about making sommeliers. It takes us on a journey around some of the most famous wines, wineries and winemakers, including Jean-Lous Chave, Aubert de Villaine and Jean Trimbach. At heart, it’s trying to answer the question: ‘why is wine so fascinating?’ It does a good job of answering the question too. We enjoyed this film enormously.

Vincarta rating: Outstanding

4. Sideways

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for this film, which gently explores the workings of the male psyche as two old friends go on a journey through California’s wine country. There’s a lovely scene where a couple played by Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen talk about themselves using an extended metaphor about Pinot Noir and wine’s ability to age in interesting ways. It won an Oscar for its screenplay and deservedly so. It’s subtle with hidden depths, like a good Pinot Noir.

Articulate rating: Outstanding

5. A Year in Burgundy

A Year in Burgundy is a gentle, slow-moving documentary about one of the most storied wine regions in the world. It follows American wine buyer Martine Saunier as she visits winemakers and we see the evolution of a vintage. Saunier brings access, but little presence to the film, while the director, David Kennard, makes everything look gorgeous and mostly succeeds in keeping everything grounded and not too reverential. I think this is a film that is more likely to appeal to wine buffs than civilians but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Vincarta rating: Very good

6. Red Obsession

Red Obsession is a film of two halves. One part talks to top winemakers in Bordeaux, unpacking what makes the region’s top wines so special. The other part looks at the ups and downs of the wine business from boom to 2008 bust and then the surge of Chinese interest in French wine and the soaring prices that have resulted. We’re not big fans of buying wine for investment – it’s for drinking – but this film shows just how big the wine business really is. It’s a very watchable documentary for anyone.

Vincarta rating: Very good

7. Barolo Boys

While Burgundy and Bordeaux get all the headlines, Barolo is many wine lovers’ secret obsession. It is beautiful, and historical and produces amazing wines that evolve over decades in the bottle. But there’s a tremendous tension between the older generation and their approach to Barolo and a new band of ‘Barolo Boys’ who want to change everything. If you watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you’ll know that it’s really a film about inter-generational conflict more than sushi. Barolo Boys is the Jiro of wine. This film, like A Year in Burgundy, is likely to appeal more to wine enthusiasts than a general audience but if you’re on this site, you’re probably in the first category so go watch it! (If you’re interested in the wine side of the story, we wrote about this in our article: Piedmont and Barolo.)

Vincarta rating: Very good

8. A Year in Port

Once again Martine Saunier and David Kennard explore a wine region, this time it’s a Year in Port. (They also stopped off to do a film about Champagne which didn’t make it onto this list.) We watched this just as we were studying fortified wines for our WSET Diploma so it was perfectly timed. It’s remarkable to see how English the Port business is (with a bit of help from the Dutch and some exports to France). This is the only wine film you’ll see that has a cricket match in it and cut-glass upper-crust English accents. Except the cricket pitch is in Oporto and the speakers are the scions of long-established Anglo-Portuguese families. I really enjoyed this film, but I think it spoke to me directly because of my interest in history and the fact that I’m studying the subject. Beautifully filmed and fascinating as it is, I wonder whether it would interest others so much.

Vincarta rating: Good.

9. Mondovino

Mondovino dates back to 2004 but its central theme: a ‘fight for the soul of wine’ is still resonant. Does the future belong to multinational wine producers, homogenous international styles of wine and influential critics (Robert Parker is still around 13 years later) or does it belong to the kind of artisanal, small, local producers that aficionados like us prefer? It’s been a while since I watched it and, back then, I didn’t know much about wine, but I think it’s still worth watching. It’s all shot on a single camera and the whole thing has a bit of a rough edge to it which lends authenticity without making it very easy to watch.

Vincarta rating: Good

10. Bottle Shock

The Judgement of Paris was a wine-tasting competition in 1976 that pitched Californian wine against some of the most esteemed French labels. California won. Controversy ensued. The rest you know. This is a rather odd film that, while ‘based on a true story’, doesn’t really feel truthful and doesn’t know if it’s a love story or a film about wine or something else altogether. It got relatively good reviews, but I remember watching it when it came out and thinking ‘meh’! Still, Alan Rickman’s always watchable and gets some good lines. When asked why one character hates him, Rickman replies: “Because you think I’m an asshole. Actually, I’m not an asshole. It’s just that I’m British, and, well … you’re not.” I can so relate.

Vincarta rating: Acceptable.

11. A Good Year

A Good Year didn’t get a good reception from the critics. But we watched it recently and it’s a charming film. Sometimes, you don’t want deep, complex, heavy wine. Sometimes you don’t want a deep, complex, heavy film. In this film, a Provence vineyard is the catalyst for turning Russell Crowe’s character from a  monster into a human being. It can do this in real life too, if you’re lucky. So pour a nice glass of wine, snuggle up under a blanket, switch off your inner critic and enjoy this delightful romantic comedy.

Vincarta rating: Outstanding. Definitely improves with age.

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