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Sideways pushes wine into the Hollywood big time
January 17, 2005
Adam Lechmere

Wine is hitting the headlines as never before with Sideways turning out to be one of the most lauded films of the year.

The movie, a comedy about two 40-something friends on a last bachelor fling in California wine country, has more than 40 best film and acting awards from critics in the US, and has just won three Golden Globes for best comedy, best screenplay and best score.

Sideways, by About Schmidt director Alexander Payne, stars two relative unknowns – Paul Giametti and Thomas Haden Church. Its simplicity is what seems to have captured the hearts of critics worldwide.

US film critic Roger Ebert called it 'the best human comedy of the year' and the New York Times described it as 'a small masterpiece'. Around the world there are very few dissenting voices: the film is seen a small, simple gem – perhaps even more so with overblown multimillion dollar epics like Alexander dominating the movie landscape.

The film is not about wine, but wine forms the backdrop as the two friends make their shambolic way through the Santa Ynez valley. Wine is also responsible for much of the comedy. There are well-observed moments – and some slapstick – particularly in and around the tasting rooms.

As UK wine critic Tim Atkin points out, the film's strengths are its characters and its simple comedy. The fact he himself is 'a forty-something bloke wrestling with many of the issues' facing the characters makes it especially poignant.

He adds that the wine business isn't that accurate, as one of the characters 'slags off both Cabernet Franc and Merlot without realising his treasured bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc is a blend of the two.'

Perhaps the best evidence of the film's success comes from writer Rachel Cooke, who says its theme of male mid-life crisis would not ordinarily be to her taste, 'but Sideways is so immaculately done, its central performances so brilliant, its ending so piercingly hopeful, you'd have to have a heart of stone to resist.'

Sideways goes on general release in the UK this Friday 21 January

Sideways wines in auction
January 18, 2005
 Oliver Styles

The wine world has already started cashing in on the success of wine-geek film Sideways with winebid.com putting wines from the film up for auction.

The wines on offer, including the legendary 1961 Cheval-Blanc, '88 Sassicaia and '95 Opus One, are either drunk in the multi-Golden Globe winner or directly mentioned by the protagonists.

Most wines seen or mentioned are covered by the auction – other gems include Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg, Dominique Laurent Pommard and a wide range of Santa Barbara wines.

The film tells the story of two middle-aged friends, Miles and Jack (above), on a stag week before Jack's marriage. Miles, a divorced, Pinot Noir-loving depressive takes Jack, an over-sexed and washed-up actor, on a tour of California's Central Coast wineries and golf courses.

Not all wines in the film are on offer, however. Gaston Huet's Vouvray is mentioned in Jack's berating of a drunken Miles in a restaurant scene but is not represented in winebid.com's selection. Nor are any sparkling wines on offer – Jack opens a warm, 100% Pinot Noir 'champagne' in Miles' car following this with the words 'why's it white?'

In a move that Miles would appreciate, no Californian Chardonnays are in the sale.

'I do like Chardonnay,' says Miles in the film, 'I just don't like the way they manipulate it in California. There's too much oak and secondary malolactic fermentation.'

'No California oak trees were harmed in the making of this film,' says one of the rolling end credits.

Sideways will be on general release in the UK on 28 January