The producers of this popcorn fare didn't know much about wine. Throughout this wine-guy-as-dork/snob stereotype film, the main character "Miles" repeatedly insults both Merlot and Cab Franc. He calls Cab Franc "hollow, flabby" and "pointless" and he devotes and entire 5 minute tirade railing against Merlot.
So, what is the denouement wine he's drinking at the end of the film? CHATEAU CHEVAL BLANC!!! It's over 90% Merlot/Cab Franc, and obviously the producers were not aware of that. I'm only pointing out one item, but there are a number of inconsistencies and fallacies relevant to wine throughout the movie. What gets me is that it has become so much of a reference point for wine knowledge among the general population; why? It just doesn't make any sense.
Here is a story about Cheval Blanc you may not have heard:
The manager of Château Cheval Blanc, Jacques Hebrard, was outraged at the evaluation of his 1981 vintage barrel samples made by influential wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. and asked him to re-taste. Upon arriving, Parker was attacked by Hebrard's dog as the manager stood idly by and watched. When Parker asked for a bandage to stop the bleeding from his leg, Parker says Hebrard instead gave him a copy of the offending newsletter. Hebrard denies that Parker was bleeding. However, Parker did retaste the wine and found it significantly changed from his previous evaluation, and therefore gave the wine an updated evaluation in a later issue of his publication The Wine Advocate.
Anyone read the novel upon which the movie is based? Miles didn't hate Merlot. Merlot was a metaphor for his ex wife, who loved Merlot. When he's bitching about Merlot, it's not really about the Merlot. The use of Cheval Blanc is certainly intended irony.
Like most people, I never read the novel, and was judging the movie "as is." I'd like to see a movie that treats wine with reverence, something people find solace in, and expression through. That movie made a joke of the wines it DID promote; "tight as a nun's a-hole"? Come on!
@ Joel - Oh, I agree. I didn't care for the movie at all, but it did get millions of people talking about wine, and overall I believe that's a net benefit to our industry. Yes, it's frustrating to have to deal with the Miles' of the world, but there always have been and always will be people like Miles who use their modicum of wine knowledge to lord over people who know less than them. Miles was a miserable person, and the one part of the movie I actually thought they did a good job with was making him loathsome. That plenty of people thought Miles was a hero is akin in my mind to people listening to the chorus to "Born in the USA" and thinking it's a flag waving anthem. Unfortunate, but that's the price of mass appeal/popularity.
I saw the whole merlot/pinot noir thing as the journey of Miles' life and symbolism for his change as a person.
He used to be Merlot, in his first life with his first wife. Hearty, stable, lovable, easy. In the post-divorce period of his life, where his novel was failing and his ex is getting remarried, he hated merlot because it was everything he used to be and couldn't go back to. He had changed. He even mentions it at some point, when discussing why he loves pinot noir- because its fragile, delicate, thin skinned. It can be ruined by the slighted change in weather or winemaker's whim. Conditions have to be just right for it to prosper. He was talking about himself. He became this fragile little creature that had to be coddled or would completely fall apart.
As far as the Cheval thing: There could never be a '61 pinot noir substitute of a '61 Cheval Blanc. The Cheval can maintain, endure, and in fact get better over time. A pinot, living in the way it does, would fall apart after so much time. I think he realized that after his ex's wedding. And he goes back to his roots: a greasy burger and the Cheval out of a styrofoam cup. All his pretension went away. No big glasses, no anti-merlot rhetoric. He was trying to find himself, go back to what made him happy.
And boom. That gave him the courage to go on with the waitress and start his life over.
The fact that the jug-wine drinking masses switched their preferences to Pinot Noir after that is yes, a bit insulting to the wine world. But it gave the great wine makers of the world, especially the new world, a run for their money and I think challenged them to make a better product.
I swear, you could give your normal customer a Merlot and call it California Pinot and they would thank you and rave about how its the best thing they've ever had.
I like Cara's points. I always took the Cheval Blanc vs. Miles not wanting to drink Merlot as either the directors ironic fun inside joke or actually a piece of the development of Miles as a person.
It sort of play to Miles continual calling of his ex, the almost masochistic way he would not let go of that life. She left him for someone else, she's happier without him. He thought of her as perfect, reminiscing about her palate and so forth.
I took him saving that Cheval Blanc as him holding on to hope that they would reunite, this perfect wine representing his idea of the perfect wife and life. He was saving the wine in the same way that he was holding on to that hope, that comfort that it would end up perfect. He would not drink Merlot because he had the perfect Merlot waiting for him. Pinot Noir was ok. It was him making himself happy without spoiling that merlot on the horizon.
When he realized it was not to be, he guzzles it out of a paper cup almost out of final closure to all that.
He does comment the he though Cab Franc was "hollow, flabby, pointless". The Cheval Blanc representing their relationship. He being the "Hollow, flabby and pointless" part and her representing the merlot piece. Together they make a perfect wine.
He doesn't say he hates Merlot (I don't think) just that he won't drink it.
A few points...
'A Good Year' is a big more than just a feel good/warm and fuzzy popcorn flick, in my opinion at least. It shows the sensuality, the mezmerizing nature of what wine can do to people. It shows that no matter how good or bad a bottle is, it is meant to be shared, enjoyed, feasted over and reveled in. Also, the place that was producing the worst wine in the area, was also producing the best wine but under a different label. Kinda fun...
Blackbird Vineyards' owner Michael Polenske has 'FINGMRLO' as his license plate. Pretty awesome considering that 85% of his plantings are Merlot...
And finally, no one has said Bottle Shock yet. I understand that it is your feel good/warm and fuzzy 'let me open up some Ridge and drink it from the bottle' kind of movie, but it does show a very triumphant win for the American winemakers over a very condescending French front. Even though Steven Spurrier blatantly denies that he was as frumpy as he was portrayed by Alan Rickman... : )
Working for a sparkling wine house my only complaint about the movie is it fade's out before you can hear Miles' answer to why sparkling Pinot Noir isn't red, as I probably answered that question at least five times a day behind the bar at Chandon. I've always prided myself on the ability to educate people who came to the bar with Miles' persona. I think as much as anything the movie is an indictment to the kind of education he received, an implication of people more interested in selling wine than educating clientale, and of course the movie really isn't about wine at all as many have already referenced.
Bottle Shock was an enjoyable movie, the book (as in most cases) was much better. I did have issues with the way the movie basically erased Mike Grgich from the picture of Chateau Montelena. If you're watching closely, there's an heavy set guy wearing a black berets in a few scenes of the winery. Grgich was known to wear black berets. I guess that's all he gets?
I love reading this thread - thanks everyone for posting!
Here's a great article about making Bottle Shock and why Mike Grgich wasn't in it: www.drvino.com/.../truth-fiction-ross-schwartz-screenwriter-bottle-shock-the-movie
Interesting. Thanks for the link Nadine!
Some of y'all are too harsh about "Sideways".
Miles & Jack are both deeply flawed characters, but that makes them interesting. Not all movies are like "Good Will Hunting", where the star overcomes mental blocks and begins to fulfill his potential. I've encountered a number of folks that remind me of Miles & Jack. If I had a dollar for every wine snob and/or cheater that has entered my workplaces ...
The other question about the Cheval Blanc scene is did Miles at least rinse the Diet Coke from his cup before pouring the wine?
I remember seeing "Sideways" for the first time in a crowded theater with my wife & friends, admittedly sporting a decent buzz from beverages with dinner. I LMAO at a number of scenes. If laughing at the scene where the naked husband chases Miles down the street makes me wrong, so be it.
My take on Miles disregard for Cab Franc/Merlot is quite simple.
His favorite wine had close associations to his ex-wife who he was very much still in love with and possibly he was keeping the Ceval Blanc to celebrate a milestone anniversary with her. Because of the bitter divorce he associates his favorite wine/varietals with grief and misery. As a result he swears off any association with cab franc / merlot. At the end of the movie he drinks it to "bury the hachet" so to speak.
When he says, "I will NOT drink Merlot!" and continues to rant about it, it is never mentioned that the reason he does that is because that was his ex wife's favorite wine. Watch the director's cut, it gives a little credit where credit is due!
As far as a great wine moment in a movie, I am still a fan of Steve Martin asking Kermit the Frog "Would you like to smell the cap?" in The Muppet Movie.
With regard to Sideways, I was, and still am, a big fan of the movie. Obviously, the characters aren't bright and shiny heroes - but Miles is certainly the hero of the film. The film is about two men who find themselves at odds with their aspirations. Jack's acting career never really went anywhere, and now is all but over. Miles marriage crumbled, and as they travel together, his writing career is crumbling as well. Their lives are going sideways, and Miles finds solace in being a wine know-it-all, just as Jack finds solace in proving to himself that he still has it by bedding various women. Maya seems to be Miles' way out of all of that - someone else with great disappointment in life, but who seems to be heading out of it. This movie seems to me to be an adult version of all of the bromances that are hitting the screen featuring Paul Rudd or Seth Rogan - but with a little more soul.
Also, Paul Giamatti's acting job is superb - especially his work in the scene where his ex tells him she is expecting - and I have to go back to Jack Lemmon to find an actor that was so adept at melding comedy with pathos.
Wine was a framing device for the story - but obviously the writers would have been aware of what Cheval Blanc was - and I would guess that Miles was too.