Bottle Shock: the Movie

Posted by Keith Wallace

On May 24, 1976, a little blind tasting took place in Paris. France’s historic wines were being tasted and judged alongside ones from a handful of upstart California wineries.

Spoiler alert: The California wines won.

The Movie Bottle Shock tells the fictionalized story of Chateau Montelena’s rise from obscurity to triumphing over a few of the top chateaus in Burgundy.

Welcome to Hollywood

Like any Hollywood film “based on a true story,” Bottle Shock dramatizes the events that happened at Chateau Montelena preceding the historic tasting. But no matter. Bill Pullman tempers his swaggering Jim Barrett with just enough sensitivity that one can’t help cheering on this lawyer who attempts his dreams at being a winery owner.

Star Trek into Wine

Chris Pine plays Bo, Barrett’s son, a somewhat irresponsible young man attempting to grow up under the weight of his watchful father’s gaze, all while yearning for his father’s acceptance. Freddie Rodriguez as Gustavo Bambrila rounds out the cast at Montelena – he’s a winemaker working for Barrett, yet fulfilling his own passions and making wine on the sly.

Harry Potter, Open this Cork!

The highlight of Bottle Shock is Alan Rickman portraying British wine merchant Steven Spurrier, owner of the now-gone Caves de la Madeleine. Caves are Spurrier’s struggling wine shop. Due to the urging of the fictional Maurice (the excellent Dennis Farina), Spurrier decides to host the historic blind tasting; thus, upping and going to California to choose which wines will compete. Rickman is excellent in every scene. His Spurrier is cool and put together, but not without a healthy sense of British deprecation.

Bottle Shock, the Movie Review

Bottle Shock is a fun movie, even if it does take freedoms with the story behind the story. Filmmakers Randall Miller and Jodie Savin themselves readily admit that it was Barrett’s story that most moved them. Their idea was to create an authentic film more accurate in spirit than in actual detail.

And with its great cast, Bottle Shock is sure to please. For those looking for the wine history behind the movie, pick up George Taber’s Judgement of Paris.

If you’re in the mood to kick back and enjoy a laugh or two, with the exquisite Napa Valley as the backdrop, then see Bottle Shock. Rickman is a delight – most especially in his scenes with Dennis Farina – and as far as movies about the underdog upsetting the not-so-underdog goes, this is a good one.

3 thoughts on “Bottle Shock: the Movie”

  1. I agree with Molly, I would love to see “Judgement of Paris.” Although if it doesn’t get made, hopefully Ben Wallace’s “Millionaire’s Vinegar” will get green lit.

  2. The rumored movie, Judgment of Paris, is still on the drawing board as near as anyone can figure out. No director, no cast has been attached. My gut tells me Bottle Shock will be the only film on this subject. If you do see Kamen again, please do ask…

  3. What I’m looking forward to is the *other* film that’s been rumored to come out about The Paris Tasting – with a screenplay written by Robert Kamen. (I saw him at a tasting this week, and I’m kicking myself for not having that bit of trivia in my brain…) Seems to be on ice, but I’m dying to compare the two!


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