James Halliday selling his rare wines

James Halliday in his cellar. Picture: Julian Kingma

It took half a century for James Halliday to accumulate his $1m collection of rare Burgundy wines. But at 82, he can’t drink them all. (Like many of us with cellars so full that they will never be drunk while we are alive). 

James Halliday tells the story…

More than half a century ago I went to wine appreciation lessons conducted by the great Len Evans and I introduced myself to him, with no idea what it would lead to. From 1965, when he was appointed national promotions executive of the Australian Wine Board, until his death in 2006, he towered over the Australian fine wine landscape like no one before or since. My relationship with him started as mutual friendship, but deepened to one of unconditional love.

In the late 1960s, relatively early in our ­friendship, I went to Len’s house in Greenwich on Sydney’s north shore for dinner and gave him a fly-casting lesson – I have a lifelong passion for fly-fishing – on the large lawn behind his house. The lesson over, he thrust a glass of red wine towards me. “What do you think of this?” he said.

I remember the following moments as clearly as if they happened yesterday. As I moved the glass towards my nose, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and as I started to fully inhale the aromas I was literally rooted to the spot. I had never imagined that any red (or other) wine could have such an exquisite bouquet, one that offered yet more joy each time I swirled the glass. I lost myself in that bouquet, forgetting to taste the wine, and then, shaking myself out of the reverie, I thought: I’m afraid to taste it, lest it is less magical – a reaction I have experienced many times since.

Instead, I took a sip, and experienced a cathedral of tastes beyond description; mere words are inadequate to do it justice. In a strangled voice, I asked: “What is it?” The answer: a 1962 La Tâche from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, maker of the world’s greatest wines, and some of the rarest.

I have now been collecting (and consuming) wine for more than 60 years, initially with a focus on Australian wine, then expanding to experience the great wines of the world. I have written more than 70 books, and have judged wine in Australia, Europe and the US, with years as chair of the National Wine Show of Australia and at capital city wine shows. I first made wine in the Hunter Valley in 1973, as a co-founder of Brokenwood.

Throughout all these years, the jewel in the crown of my cellar has been the wines of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. I bought my first bottle of wine from the Domaine (the French equivalent of “winery”) in 1969 or 1970, and over the years have amassed a collection, stored in the cellar under my house, that has fluctuated but ­currently stands at 260 bottles.

While I have shared many bottles over the ­decades with friends who venerate the Domaine, I have never sold any of its wines – and the Domaine does not encourage it. As I approach my 82nd birthday, however, I have decided to sell my entire collection, which auctioneer Langton’s has given an estimated worth of upwards of $1 million.

The Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, located inBurgundy, northwest France, ­comprises six main vineyards, each with its own appellation – the smallest somewhat confusingly named “La Romanée-Conti”. Four vineyards date back to the 7th century, when the construction of the Abbey of Saint-Vivant de Vergy began. In 1760, Prince de Conti bought La Romanée-Conti for an ­exorbitant price and promptly reserved the entire production for himself. After the French Revolution there were several owners until 1869, when the core of the present day DRC was assembled.

The La Romanée-Conti vineyard was zealously protected from the scourge of phylloxera that swept Europe in the last quarter of the 19th century, but nevertheless the pest gradually affected yields on this hallowed ground; the 1945 vintage amounted to only 600 bottles so the vines were ripped out, the next ­vintage coming in 1952.

It’s hard to imagine now, but it was not until 1959 that DRC’s grape-growing and winemaking business created a profit, and the first small ­dividend was paid to family shareholders. When shareholders through much of the 19th century sold their holdings it was not because they made a profit by selling, but because they could not ­sustain the losses. In earlier centuries the wealth of the nobility made the losses immaterial, and for 500 years various orders of the Church had no such thing as a balance sheet to consider.

The value or price of a Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wine cannot be calculated by a simple price/earnings ratio. On the secondary market a price of $20,000 for a bottle of la Romanée-Conti is the minimum, and an average production of 5500 bottles per year gives rise to gross sales of $110 million a year. But such calculations are irrelevant. The families are not going to sell, period. The French Government would not condone a sale to a non-French bidder at any price. And now it is a case of the Domaine seeking to restrain prices. Highly sought after by collectors in the US, Japan, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and recently China, all the Domaine’s releases are on allocation: the ­distributors in various countries take what they are offered. Bottles are numbered, and the Domaine has made it clear to its distributors that if a wine is sold shortly after delivery, those responsible won’t be allocated wines the next year. Quiet cash sales that don’t create a ripple continue, of course.

As collecting swelled my cellar – eventually to 10,000 bottles – I was constantly on the lookout for bottles from the Domaine. But even in the early years they were seldom, if ever, to be found on retailers’ shelves. I have bought DRCs at ­Christie’s auctions in London, from Negociants (the Australian distributors since 1984) and direct from the Domaine. The oldest bottles were from 1942, some notable vintages being 1948, 1962, 1971 and (my all-time favourite) 1978.

In 1998, my wife and I were among a group of wine friends, led by Gary Steel, founder/owner of Domaine Wine Shippers, who bought a house in the tiny town of Monthélie, France. Our visits have always been in May, and the most important of the numerous visits to the foremost Burgundy domaines was to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. These days, the booming global interest in fine wine means it is virtually impossible to arrange a visit, especially if it is the first, and it’s now necessary for even longstanding clients to arrange a visit months before the event.

James Halliday’s cellar. Picture: Julian Kingma James Hallidays cellar. pix Julian Kingman

Over the decades I have staged or been to many great dinners featuring great Bordeaux, ­Burgundies and some of Australia’s rarest wines, dating from the 19th century. In 2005, a year before Len Evans’ death, a Single Bottle Club ­dinner had a magnum of 1929 Romanée-Conti as its ­highlight, purchased from a Belgian cellar for $60,000. Sixteen of the 27 wines were from 1929, and therein lies a song. Len was born in August 1930, a dreadful vintage across France; 1929, on the other hand, was a great vintage, and the year of his ­conception. So it was this we celebrated.

I have given freely of the greatest wines in my cellar for such occasions, because I absolutely believe these wines should be shared with those who understand and appreciate them. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines have ­usually been my contribution. Yet I have never sat down at home and opened a bottle of DRC to drink at dinner. Don’t get me wrong: if the occasion at home is a special one, I do not hesitate to open memorable bottles.

If anyone says, “But they’re so expensive/valuable”, my response is that it doesn’t cost me anything to bring them up out of the ­cellar. At one stage in the not-so-distant past I had more than half a dozen bottles of La Romanée-Conti – the most highly prized of all DRC wines – but haven’t been replenishing the stock because the market demand from all corners of the globe has taken the price to stratospheric levels.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti gave me so much joy for so many years; it became central to my wine life. The joy has been enhanced by the pleasure, verging on a sense of awe, it has aroused in those who have shared the wines with me. I have the tasting notes and the menus from most of the 100 or so great dinners featuring DRC wines I have been to over the past 50-plus years.

My heart is deeply saddened by this sale, but I hope it will be the opportunity for the many wine lovers around the world to start or add to a ­collection of these wines. And my sadness has been assuaged by the knowledge that my memories of the wines will never fade.

Almost 60 years after it was made, that 1962 La Tâche is still a beautiful wine.

The Langton’s auction will be online and open from May 30 to June 28.


Echézeaux: A vineyard that produces highly expressive wines, with a seductive floral bouquet and a sweet red fruit palate, the tannins silky.

Grands-Echézeaux: Within the Domaine, this is simply known as The Grand, a clear endorsement of its quality. Its wines are richer and more structured than those of Echézeaux, with darker fruits and a hint of game (in the best sense).

Romanée-St-Vivant: I have always loved wines from this vineyard, even before the many improvements made in its management since the Domaine purchased it outright. It manages to be intense yet gloriously fragrant and fine as silk. I rank it third behind La Romanée-Conti and La Tâche.

Richebourg: Many devotees of the Domaine rate this vineyard second to La Romanée-Conti, pointing to the velvety power of its wines. I think Richebourg wines need longer to open up, and arguably emerge close to the best.

La Tâche: It has been said many times and proved many times that for the first 20 years or so, wines from La Tâche and La Romanée-Conti are difficult to tell apart. It is easy to rate La Tâche best because of the incredible fragrance of its wines and the prodigious length of their palate and aftertaste.

La Romanée-Conti: I’ve had more than my fair share of La Romanée-Conti wines over the years; the most compelling was a 1956, served blind in the Domaine’s cellars. The vines were barely 10 years old, yet it was a truly extraordinary wine from an appalling vintage.

Grateful thanks to James Halliday and the Weekend Australian Magazine to allow me to reproduce this article.
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$50 million six star hotel for the Barossa

The architecture firm behind the $50million (£25million) design insists it has been influenced by the art of wine barrel-making.

Cop this stunning $50 million vineyard hotel planned to be ‘the Sydney Opera House’ of South Australia.  Hotel Oscar Seppeltsfield is set ot open in 2022 and will be situated in the heart of the historic Seppeltsfield vineyard.

It will consist 70 rooms all with suites and and each one will boast a private balcony. I’m not kidding!

On first sight, you you might think this eye opening curvaceous structure looks like an elongated boot, but the architecture firm behind the $50 million design say it has been influenced by the art of wine barrel making.
The design philosophy was borne watching the experienced craftsmen wield their tools, as they contort and convex each timber stave into an iconic, recognisable form – the barrel. This icon represents the many facets and complexities of Seppeltsfield history the architects say.

The tranquil Seppeltsfield vineyard is 60 kms north of Adelaide and is one of the most historic in the country, dating back to 1851 

The 12-storey building will be positioned right in the middle of the Great Terraced Vineyard

The hotel is named after one of its former directors, the late master winemaker Oscar Benno Seppelt (1873–1963), who helped revolutionise the Australian wine industry.

The 12-storey building will be positioned right in the middle of the Great Terraced Vineyard, surrounded by century-old bush vines and only a short walking distance to the Seppeltsfield tourism village.

There will be a sky bar on the top level with 360-degree sweeping views of the Barossa. The ground floor will have a wellness day spa that includes private entry to a relaxation space and infinity pool. The hotel will also offer a world-class restaurant, private dining room and boardroom all six star.

The hotel will be a joint venture, funded by a company called Luxury Hotels Australia. Lets hope the price to stay are not six star as well. 

The d’Arenberg Cube looks silently on. Who says theres not money in wine!


A new $1.8 million venue at the Langhorne Creek Lake Breeze winery will be ready to start hosting weddings by October this year, despite current COVID-19 restrictions.

Lake Breeze has been planning the upgrade for more than three years, with a $300,000 Regional Development Grant pledged to the project by the State Government in 2018 on its way.

Despite the current closure of the winery’s cellar door and restaurant, and a freeze on most of its wine exports, Lake Breeze is continuing to employ staff and will take advantage of the quiet period to construct the new facility.

The new event space will allow for 25 weddings per year — more than double what the winery currently holds — while also catering for additional conferences and gatherings. The venue will have capacity for up to 200 people.

In the past functions have been hosted in their barrel sheds at the back of the winery, but that space is unavailable during vintage. This mean’t no functions  through February, March or April.

Located just an hour south-east of Adelaide, Lake Breeze has already started taking bookings for the new space.

Designed by architect Trisia Kwong, the new structure will feature original limestone and sandstone mixed with industrial galvanised steel, with large glass windows to take in the surrounding scenery of the 90ha vineyard run by the Follett family.

Yarra Valley and Mornington over to you! 

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A Guide to buying wine on the Internet

Online: Cyber Cellar

The Coronavirus has had a dramatic impact to the way we live particularly to those who are house bound and love their wine.

But it is not all bad because why not use the internet and order wine online?

Now, you can easily find, order and get wine sent to your door from the comfort of your own home. But, there are certain ways to go about it and obstacles you will face. Heres a guide to help buy wine on the web.

When to Buy Online

Shopping for wine online is best suited to buying fine wine and bottles that are a little harder to find. If you’re looking for $10 bottles of wine, it doesn’t make as much sense to buy online. However, if you’re looking more along the lines of $30, $40, $50, $100 a bottle, then the price of freight becomes a smaller percentage of your overall purchase.

Shipping wine to your home is expensive for the seller because it’s heavy, so it’s always a good idea is to average out the cost of freight against the bottle cost. It may well end up more expensive than waiting for the liquor stores to re open. (Another example is visiting wineries and making an impulse decision to buy a case only to discover it was cheaper at a liquor chain 100 metres from your house).  Ensure if FREE freight is offered you are still getting a good deal and the cost of freight has not been built into the unit cost of the wine.

Another reason to buy online is if you’re looking for a specific wine—say, for a special occasion or to give as a gift. Odds are you won’t be able to find that locally. The Internet is your oyster for this scenario. For example, Vinfolio.com, which specializes in fine wines sourced directly from producers, offers 6,000 to 9,000 selections spanning blue-chips from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, Champagne and California.

Tips for Searching Online

Start with outlining your goals. Are you looking for something specific or are you just browsing? If the former, the first thing to do is a simple Google search for the wine you want. This will bring up results from retailers that carry the product.

Along with Vinfolo.com, I use WineSearcher.com and Wine.com to search for wines that may be available at retailers in my state or area. You may recall that in an earlier post on this site reviewing the 2013 Mas La Planta from Spain. It was one of the top 10 searches on WineSearcher.com in 2019.

There are others of course but make sure the sellers you’re finding through these searches are reliable. Look up how long they’ve been around and if there are mentions of them on other sites. There are a lot of sites selling wine out there! If you have your heart set on a particular wine but can’t find it immediately, you can create a Google alert for it and you will receive an email if it becomes available somewhere.

Using the internet will also allow you to shop around for the best price on that special wine. You have a great advantage now because there’s real price transparency.

If you’re searching more generally, start with a specific retailer that has a selection that matches your taste. Perhaps you already have your favourites from previous shopping experiences or recommendations from friends and family.

The vast majority of online liquor retailers actually have brick-and-mortar stores and most keep their online inventory up to date in real time. Use their search criteria on the website to narrow down your search. Are you looking for wines from a certain country? Region? Grape variety? Vintage? Chances are the retailer’s website allows you to search using those parameters.

Of course if you have a favourite wine such as Central Otago Two Degrees pinot noir go direct and cut out the middle man.

Some online sellers also offer searches that are set up to emulate the most popular wines that buyers purchase. At Wine.com, for example, you can locate what wines and what products are popular. Surprisingly people buy that wine, because everyone else is but then what happens is a popular wine stays popular and up front and you won’t get a chance to see a special wine. It always pays to conduct a search and ignore what the site is pushing.

Build a Virtual Relationship

Another option is to be part of the cellar door experience from the comfort of your own home. For instance Wine Yarra Valley is bringing virtual cellar door tours to you online on every Thursday afternoons.

The online experience is live-streamed through Wine Yarra Valley’s Instagram page with the chance for people to sit and chat with a winemaker over a glass of wine.

You will have the option to purchase from two different curated mixed six-packs from different Yarra Valley producers on the Wine Yarra Valley website delivered free to your door.

Tune into the @WineYarraValley Instagram account at 5 pm AEST on Thursday afternoons to tour one of these cellar doors and have a drink with the winemakers on live-stream. The ‘Pick Your Own Pack’ allows you to customise a mixed six-pack from a selection of over 40 different Yarra Valley wines. Great idea!

Look, shopping for wine online can’t be the same as having an interaction with a person in a retail shop and building a relationship with them. Online and digital programs are extensions of a company’s  brick-and-mortar operation and in these unusual times is vital to keep sales moving.

Good retailers and wineries will provide a lot of information on their websites about wines you are considering buying. This can include technical sheets for a particular wine with information on the winemaking, region, producer and regional profiles with staff tasting notes as well as scores and reviews from all and sundry. This is much more than what a producer can put on their front and back labels.

If you really like a retailer or winery subscribe to their marketing emails. They will inform you of special deals and new arrivals. Some retailers with more robust digital operations can tailor these emails to your preferences. I advise you not do what I do and subscribe to scores of them as the emails can come at you like a machine gun blast!

The Lowdown on Freight.

Always check and see if it’s FREE freight or freight is extra. Usually if it is extra a drop down box will provide the freight cost to your postcode, and it can vary substantially and can be expensive, often adding $1.50 to each bottle by the case of 12.

Ask online if they have a delivery heat policy? Most wineries do but rarely liquor chains so resist ordering when there is a succession of very hot days. Always give precise delivery instructions too. You don’t want wine plonked on the verandah or at the front door exposed to the searing sun. Why not down the side of the house or inside the garage? Less likely to be nicked by a passerby.

The option of signature or not is important as well. If yes and you are not home a card should be left which will mean a trip to pick it up and if not Aust Post it could be kilometres away. That’s why the options above are so important.

So there you have it, relax and start searching!

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2013 Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon

Denominación de Origen Penedès

The Catalan Penedes region of Spain

Mas La Plana

I read with interest that the Mas la Planta Cabernet Sauvignon by Familia Torres was the most searched Cabernet Sauvignon on the renowned web site Wine-Searcher.com generating 226 million searches for this wine in 2019.

Having a bottle of the 2013 in the cellar I had to try it!
I found black currants and blackberries. It was vibrant and lively on the palate. Medium to full body, firm and very silky,  long length. A  yummy wine. 96/100 A$85.00

In this small (29 ha.) vineyard only the most select Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown. These are used to make strictly limited quantities of Torres’ most prestigious red wine, now known to connoisseurs all over the world.

In the Paris Wine Olympiad, the 1970 vintage triumphed over some of the most famous wines in the world, including some of the best from Bordeaux. This success has been repeated on several other occasions, with Gran Coronas Mas La Plana notching up numerous other international awards.

Ever since it became the first area in Spain to use stainless steel and cold fermentation equipment, the vine growers of the Penedès have been making excellent modern wines from a mix of native and French grape varieties. This has been possible because of the variety of altitudes, lands and micro-climates found in the Penedès which foster the ideal growth of the different grape types.

Well recommended. A great wine to have in the cellar.

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35 wine movies to watch during lock down

Now that coronavirus has you sheltering at home, its time to catch up on all those wine movies you have missed. Of course you can’t visit wineries or go to restaurants so subscribe to pay TV and relax – with a glass in your hand of course!

Films recommended

Big Night
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
This is one of those movies that, has some unhappy plot twists. Two Italian brothers are running a failing restaurant called ‘Paradise on the Jersey Shore’ in the 1950s. Primo, played by Tony Shalhoub, is the exacting chef, unwilling to bend his cuisine to American tastes. Secondo, played by Stanley Tucci, who co-directed, is the manager. Their main competitor is Pascal, who has found success by pandering to local preferences. Pascal has offered the brothers jobs and they have an offer back in Italy too, but they’re not ready to give up on the American dream and their principles. Pascal offers to get singer Louis Prima to come to their restaurant. In planning the big night they go all in, leveraging everything against Prima’s visit. What follows is a rapturous meal delivered by Primo, followed by … well, I can’t tell you that. I will say that the final scene, played in silence à la the ending of The Third Man, is fantastically beautiful and moving. Two bonuses: It features the second-best omelet-cooking scene on film (see Tampopo below) and Latino pop singer Marc Anthony, who was then on the cusp of his crossover. 

Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), holding up wine bottles, and Stephen Spurrier (Alan Rickman) at the TWA checkin counter

At the airport, Bo Barrett (Chris Pine) and Stephen Spurrier (Alan Rickman) run into trouble trying to get the bottles of Napa wine to France for the blind tasting.

Bottle Shock 2008
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
Any serious wine lover will go into this movie already knowing the fate of Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena in the famous 1976 “Judgment of Paris” wine competition. But this heartwarming, fictionalised story nonetheless keeps you on the edge of your seat, with winery owner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) struggling to bring his wayward son, Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), in line while making a success of his little-known winery in a region that had not yet gained fame. This whip-smart film is the (almost) true story of how California wine became the burgeoning industry it is today. In it, a father-and-son team fight to beat French competitors in an international tasting contest in the 1970s, and turn the wine world on its ear.

(Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
Directed by and starring Jon Favreau as chef Carl Casper, the movie follows the life of a high-end chef as he quits his job at a prominent L.A. restaurant, starts a food truck and goes on a journey that reignites his passion for cooking and his relationship with his son. The movie features mouthwatering images of food—from a grilled-cheese sandwich to creatively plated dishes worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant to Casper’s signature Cuban sandwich—and rock-star shots of the chef showing off his knife skills. Throw in a star-studded cast of supporting actors, along with a vibrant jazz and blues soundtrack, and you have a movie that is a joy to kick back with a glass of Central Otago Two Degrees pinot noir to relax with. 

A Good Year
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, Vudu and YouTube)
What’s not to like? Scene upon scene of stunning Provençal vistas and vineyard shots, the gorgeous Marion Cotillard, the fabulous Albert Finney and a buttoned-up Russell Crowe. In this enjoyable Ridley Scott–directed romantic comedy, based on the novel by Peter Mayle, a hardcore British banker finds himself, love and a new outlook on life in Provence while dealing with the inheritance of a wine estate of questionable quality.

Our Blood Is Wine
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube)
This documentary will take you back to the cradle of wine, the Republic of Georgia. Director Emily Railsback and sommelier Jeremy Quinn explore the former Soviet republic, meeting mostly artisanal, family winegrowers who are keeping alive the 8,000-year-old tradition of making wine in qvevri, large clay vessels buried in the ground. Railsback and Quinn get personal with the culture that is entwined with wine and make you feel like you are falling in love with wine for the first time. 

Remy the rat adds herbs to a pot of soup as the astonished dishwasher Linguini looks on

Remy the rat and a hapless dishwasher named Linguini team up to create inspired restaurant cuisine in ‘Ratatouille’ available on Amazon Prime, Disney +, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube.

(Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
This 1980s art-house hit came out of nowhere when Japanese food was still novel outside of major cities. The main story is about a widow running a ramen shop. Two truck drivers visit, find the food wanting and decide to mentor her. It’s a movie-geek bonanza, with references to spaghetti Westerns (noodles, get it?), sensei themes and more. It also has unrelated vignettes interspersed, including a gangster and his companion exploring the sensual side of food, a young man upstaging his superiors at a business lunch through his knowledge of French food and the best omelet-cooking scene on film. Plus, it’s very funny: It’s like an old screwball comedy, but about food and wine, and set in Japan.

Tu Seras Mon Fils (You Will Be My Son)
(Amazon Prime and Vudu)
Wine movies are a limited genre, with mixed success, but Tu Seras Mon Fils is a must-see. Set in Bordeaux, it depicts a tyrannical father dealing with the problems of passing his château on to his seemingly hapless son. Despite a slightly wonky plot twist at the end, the dramatization of a stern Gallic patriarch is as sharp as the top of a just-sabred Champagne bottle.

Sour Grapes (2016)
You can’t con an honest man and you can’t sell fake vintage wine to billionaires? This highly entertaining documentary tells the strange story of Rudy Kurniawan, a young man from Indonesia who in the early 2000s electrified the sedate world of US wine investment by paying colossal sums at auction for rare bottles. He wooed the top players in wine and dazzled them with his apparent wealth. Everyone wanted to be Rudy’s friend. Then, riding the crest of his self-created bull-market wave, he began selling his stock at a vast profit.

But French wine producer Laurent Ponsot noticed something iffy about some of the bottles, and the expensively dressed young emperor of wine was in deep trouble. And because the market in wine, like that of contemporary art, depends on the bubble of reputation, it is always vulnerable. An interesting film to put alongside Jonathan Nossiter’s wine documentaries Mondovino (2004) and Natural Resistance (2014) about the industrialisation of wine production, and how it makes everything taste the same. Snapshot of those two movies are below.

Decanted (2016)
What does it take to make it in Napa Valley?” This feature length documentary follows the development of a brand new winery, Italics Winegrowers, seen through the eyes of elite Napa Valley winemakers. Like a vine extending itself far underground seeking nourishment, the story digs deep to analyse what kind of person it takes to enter this highly competitive wine business. Explore what it takes to succeed at building a brand, staking a claim, and realizing a lifelong dream.

Uncorked (2020)
Elijah, a man working two jobs in Memphis: serving at his family’s popular BBQ shop and selling at a local wine store. His father intends for him to take over the business but Elijah’s growing interest in wine has given him other ideas and with the cautious support of his mother  he embarks on a quest to become a master sommelier, even if it means problems at home.

Snap shots on other wine oriented movies

Wine Country (2019)
A 2019 American comedy produced and directed by Amy Poehler. The plot follows a group of middle-aged women who go on a wine tasting tour of California.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
In 1943, the German army occupies the Italian hillside town of Santa Vittoria. The troops want to confiscate the region’s prized wine, but the wily, oft-inebriated mayor (Anthony Quinn) and townspeople hide one million bottles in a cave. The film features fantastic shots of the sunny Italian countryside that will have you wishing the coronavirus pandemic ends soon so you can book your plane tickets..

Year of the Comet (1992)
Instead of vineyards, the setting is the Scottish Highlands for this caper, in which a prim young woman uncovers the most expensive bottle of wine in the world. Can she and her boorish bodyguard fend off thieves and the temptations of unlikely love?

A Walk in the Clouds (1995)
“My family has a vineyard in Napa,” a beautiful, unmarried—and pregnant—woman tells a soldier (Keanu Reeves) returning home from World War II. He offers to pose as her husband, but soon falls in love with her, except her tyrannical father blocks their happiness.

Sideways (2004)
“Its flavors… they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet.” That’s how Miles (Paul Giamatti) describes Pinot Noir in this on-the-road ode to life, friendship and uncorking the perfect bottle, filmed in Santa Barbara County. An instant classic that earned lots of Oscar buzz, this comedy tells the tale of two friends touring the vineyards of Santa Barbara, and the misadventures, romances, and bonding that ensue. The film essentially defined wine tourism in the 2000s. I followed the footsteps of the movie a couple of years ago and the bar tender who appears in the movie was still working behind the bar and was up for a good chat.

A Heavenly Vintage (2009)
This is a tale of a 19th-century French peasant who longs to make great wine. In his quest, he’s inspired by his beautiful wife and a proud baroness, as well as Xas, a male angel who tempts with tantalizing secrets. A great journey into magical realism, this tale follows the quest of a French peasant attempting to become a master winemaker in the 1800s.

You Will Be My Son (2011)
A despotic vineyard owner in Saint-Émilion scorns his unassuming son, doubting his ability to take over the business. Instead, he favors his son’s charismatic childhood friend, and family tensions build (French with English subtitles).

Somm (2012)
During nearly 40 years, only 220 professionals worldwide have passed the Master Sommelier exam, which is considered one of the crowning achievements of wine knowledge. This documentary follows four candidates as they swirl, sip and study for the test.

Somm: Into the Bottle (2015)
An untraditional sequel to Somm is more of a spiritual continuation than a direct follow-up. This documentary provides viewers with intimate access with some of the most acclaimed sommeliers around the globe.

Red Obsession (2013)
Demand hugely exceeds supply for the Premiers Crus of Bordeaux. This lavish documentary looks at how China’s relentless pursuit of prestige bottlings affects these chateaus and could easily change the face of the industry.

sommWine for the Confused
Light-hearted and hilarious, this documentary (hosted by British comedian and Monty Python alumnus John Cleese) doubles as a brilliant introduction to the world of wine for beginners.


Natural Resisitance (2014)
Jonathan Nossiter’s documentary Mondovino  in 2004  (see below) introduced many to an ongoing debate in the world of viticulture. He talks to passionate independent winegrowers in Italy, low-tech revolutionaries who are working outside the system; their wines don’t conform, sometimes priced radically low. All this revives the debate about identity and terroir from Mondovino. One producer complains that the certification system is creating a world in which everything is Macdonaldizzato – homogenised, like burgers. An interesting take which will get you thinking.

Mondovino (2004)
Running two and a quarter hours, it may be too long  for you. Even so, it is an engaging and ambitious documentary about globalisation.  The mighty producers of France are finding their unquestioned primacy is being questioned  where the American critic Robert Parker wields staggering influence. Parker is cruelly shown up in this film to be the world’s smuggest egotist, incidentally, breathtakingly talking about himself in the third person: “The legacy of Robert Parker will be … ” etc, etc. It is to producer Jonathan Rossiter’s credit that lets you see that the cranky old aristos and haughty peasants of Old World wine sometimes have some very reactionary views. Aside from Parker, one of the biggest players is a “consultant” called Michel Rolland, a man of grinning conceit and sub-Pavarotti dimensions who cruises around in his chauffeur-driven car. Say no more.

Cement Suitcase
This funny and slightly bizarre tale revolves around a wine salesman who finds out his wife is cheating on him. He strikes up a friendship with the other man, and goes on a giddy cross-country adventure.
a-tale-of-autumnA Tale of Autumn
This film is a poignant drama about a French vineyard owner and widow who finds love again, both for wine, and for life.

This Earth is Mine
An intrigue-packed melodrama set in the early days of California wine culture, this movie is recommended for its fascinating look at how the American wine industry survived Prohibition in the early 20th century.red-obsessionBlood into Wine
Maynard James Keenan of the band ‘Tool’ leads a double life: this film tracks his appreciation of music, and of his other passion: winemaking.

Blood and Wine
A neo-noir thriller about a philandering husband and wine merchant (played by Jack Nicholson), Blood and Wine details the protagonist’s plan to steal a valuable diamond necklace from one of his clients.

A Year in Burgundy
The winemaking process is chronicled throughout a whole year in this documentary, which examines the work of several winemakers in the celebrated French wine region of Burgundy.

Merlot, once deemed unsophisticated by the wine elite, has come to prominence over the past decade. This doc is a great guide to the difference between wine varieties, and gives an insightful look into the inner workings of the industry.


A Year in Champagne 2015
Netflix, Amazon, Prime
Part of a documentary trilogy by the director David Kennard (that also includes A Year in Burgundy (above) and A Year in Port), this film documents how the world’s favourite bubbly beverage, Champagne, is created through a year.boom-varietalBoom Varietal
The explosive popularity of Argentine Malbec, this film also spells out how the wine has become a force in South American pop culture.

Langhe Doc
This true story follows three Italian winemakers and chefs who are attempting to stop the industrialisation of their beloved hometown of Langhe.

The Kids are Alright
While this quirky love story about a lesbian couple attempting to track down their adopted child’s biological father doesn’t directly center on wine, the alcoholic beverage features prominently in a supporting role, and many excellent bottles are explicitly mentioned in the script.

French Kiss
Kevin Kline plays the charismatic son of French winemakers in this ‘90s classic. A love story revolving around the ever-charming Meg Ryan, wine and the romance of Paris blend into popcorn bliss.

From hard-hitting movies and documentaries to tender romances, the story of wine is as complex as a good glass of wine. There’s no reason to just drink it: now you can watch all about it too.

Note: You may have to Google to locate some of these movies but you will be well rewarded.

Let me know your favourite wine movie.


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