Bottle Shock – How Napa showed the French that California can make great wine

Sommelier and wine shop owner Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), a British expatriate living in Paris, concocts a plan to hold a blind taste-test intended to introduce Parisians to the quality wines coming from elsewhere in the world (and save his business in the process). He travels to the not-yet-famous Napa Valley in search of contestants for his Judgment of Paris taste test, where a chance meeting introduces him to floundering vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) of Chateau Montelena. Barrett wants no part in the competition, believing it is all a set-up designed by the French to humiliate New World wine producers. However, Barrett’s son, Bo (Chris Pine), secretly passes Spurrier a couple of bottles of the Chateau’s chardonnay for the competition.

After tallying the scores from the eight Parisian judges, Spurrier is shocked to find that Montelena has won the chardonnay competition. The report is featured in an article of Time; restaurants and wine shops all around America are asked continuously for the wine (Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973) and forced to admit that they don’t have it. This twist of fate and the resultant oenological epiphany forever changes the fortunes of Napa Valley wineries and the global wine industry as a whole, as it is revealed that French wines are in fact not unbeatable, prompting vintners world wide to attempt fine wine production.

The second homework assignment for the wine class Kate and I took a few months back was to watch Bottle Shock, a movie about the Judgment of Paris, when Napa wines beat out the French, and propelled Napa’s entire wine making industry.

We didn’t watch the movie, because we assumed it would be a boring documentary. Today, I started watching it through Netflix at the gym. 15 minutes into it I stopped, because it was awesome. I had to watch it with Kate.

Bottle Shock is a great comedy-drama, with an amazing cast. If you’re into wine, I highly recommend you check it out.



  1. I too loved this movie. I think I’ve seen it 3 times (gotta love TiVo). And for those who know Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, it’s trippy seeing him as a hippie. After seeing the movie, it’s cool to look up the movie and the judgement of Paris on Wikipedia. Most of the facts are correct and you get to find out the stories of the various vintners.

  2. I THINK I saw it at east a couple years old?If not, I must have heard the story, as it was familiar.Worth putting on netflix to see again..yeah, Napa!!

  3. I absolutely loved this movie – great true story! I saw it a long time ago and I couldn’t believe how underrated it was. I’m a huge wino and Napa is one of my favourite places so this movie immediately went into my top 10 after seeing it. I’m glad you share my sentiments 🙂 Plus who doesn’t love Alan Rickman? He always steals the show!

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