"Bottle Shock," a new independent film based, very loosely, on the famous 1976 blind tasting in Paris in which two California wines came out on top, much to the chagrin of the expert -- and very French -- wine tasters, opens today at theaters across the Southland.
From the husband-wife filmmaking team of Randall Miller and Jody Savin (he's directing; they're co-writers and producers), the film stars Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape in the "Harry Potter" films) as British-born, Paris-based wine merchant Steven Spurrier, who organized the tasting; Bill Pullman ("Independence Day," "Sleepless in Seattle") as Jim Barrett, the beleaguered owner of Chateau Montelena (which won for its 1973 Alexander Valley Chardonnay); and Chris Pine ("Carriers," "Just My Luck") as Jim's long-haired son Bo Barrett.
Filmed in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, "Bottle Shock" takes a romantic view of winemaking and the significance of that long-ago tasting, embellishing and heightening the drama for the screen.
Four writers took a stab at the screenplay, which in places reads like Wine 101 with the Spurrier character pompously opining that "great wine is great art. I am a shepherd . . . ." Hokey violin music playing in the background doesn't help.
I foresee giggles from the audience when Spurrier's fictional Paris neighbor Maurice, played by Dennis Farina, says he'll return to America when the country starts making wine as good as France's and Rickman lets loose the line, "No offense, but I don't see the imminent cultivation of the Chicago vine."
Still, the filmmakers manage to inject some suspense in the plot (which we all know ends with Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay winning over Burgundies of impeccable pedigree) by having Barrett refuse to submit his wines and his son Bo save the day by making an end run around his father.