From Notorious to The Parent Trap and Sideways, Theodora Thomas picks three distinct movies in which wine plays a leading role

Wine has long featured in film, be it as a prop, a side story or even the protagonist in the storytelling. Wine can be a metaphor for living a fuller life as is the case in A Good Year – director Ridley Scott’s gorgeously filmed 2006 romantic comedy. Or it could be the plot, narrating the story of wine as pictured in Bottle Shock (2008), which tells the adventurous story of the early days of California winemaking with the now famous “Judgement in Paris,” the 1976 blind tasting. We pick three movies that capture wine in all its pleasures.


Directed by Nancy Meyers, starring Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson and Lindsay Lohan

In The Parent Trap, a bottle of wine encapsulates the connection between two people while tangibly embodying the potency of memory. The Disney romantic comedy, a remake of the 1961 classic, follows identical twins Annie and Hallie, separated at birth and raised by one of their now separated parents on either side of the world.

On a chance meeting in a US summer camp, the two secretly switch places, Hallie joining their mother, Elizabeth James, in London, while Annie finds herself plunged into the haze of the Napa Valley wine region, where their father, Nick Parker, runs Parker Knoll vineyard. And the family reunites, thanks partly to a bottle of wine.

The wine in question is Jermann Where Dreams Have No End (known colloquially as simply Dreams) from Friuli, a bottle greatly enjoyed by the then newly-wed couple, which later, Nick reveals to Elizabeth in his wine cellar, noting that it took him years to track down. Dreams, therefore, preserves the memory of their union, and becomes a symbol of their rekindled love.


Directed by Alexander Payne, starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church

This classic wine movie displays the unifying force of wine. The comedy drama follows the misadventures of two old friends: struggling author Myles, and equally struggling actor Jack who take a week-long road trip through California’s Santa Barbara wine country, forming new relationships and falling out of them amidst the vineyards.

The film explores the connection between cultivating grapes, making and aging wine, and our own human journeys. In one scene Myles, who reveres Pinot Noir, proclaims: “It’s a hard grape to grow, thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early.” In another he shuns Merlot. Ironically, the prized wine in his collection, a 1961 Cheval Blanc from Bordeaux, is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

On his friend Maya’s suggestion that “the day you open a ‘61 Cheval Blanc, that’s the special occasion,” Myles drinks his prized bottle, saved for the 10th wedding anniversary of his now failed marriage, out of a paper cup, alone in a fast-food restaurant. The moment symbolizes taking back control of his life.


Directed by Alfred Hitchcok, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman

The classic film noir features a bottle of 1934 Pommard from Burgundy as a McGuffin – central to the plot. The movie’s protagonist, Alicia Huberman, is the daughter of a German war criminal who is recruited by a US government agent T.R. Devlin to spy on a group of Nazis hiding out in Brazil after World War II.

On order, she seduces and marries Alexander Sebastian, an unsuspecting target of her espionage. Having discovered a locked door to a wine cellar in his house, with the help of Delvin, the duo enter into the room, accidentally breaking the Pommard to discover black sand-like substance, later proven to be uranium ore used in the German development of radioactive weaponry. Wine is woven into the story as a character in itself.

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