With millions of people now staying at home, or practicing voluntary social distancing, streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime provide a great way of passing time and ticking off items on your must-watch lists.
There’s an almost endless source of educational and entertaining programmes out there but when it comes to wine the following list, comprising acclaimed documentaries and Hollywood hits, is a few of our favourites…
Sour Grapes, 2016
If you recognise the name Rudy Kurniawan, the now-infamous wine fraudster, you may have already seen this, if not it’s definitely one to watch.
The dizzying documentary, about the fine and rare wine auction market, chronicles the activities of Rudy’s counterfeiting as well as his relationships with the rich and powerful that helped him sell millions of pounds worth of fraudulent wine through top auction houses.
The scale of his deception is staggeringly large and at times unbelievable. This is addictive viewing about the often hidden, darker side of the fine wine world.
Bottle Shock, 2008
This American comedy-drama has it all – a famous wine competition that revolutionised the industry, stunning Napa Valley scenery and the excellent Alan Rickman.
Based on the Judgement of Paris wine tasting in 1976, in which Californian wines defeated top bottles from France in a blind tasting, the film follows wine legend Steven Spurrier, played by Rickman, who organised the contest alongside winemakers Jim and Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena (Bill Pullman and Chris Pine).
While the film is only loosely historically accurate it does a great job of capturing the sense of the occasion at the time and showcasing the excitement and atmosphere of winemaking in California in the 70s.
Do you know what it takes to become a Master Sommelier? If not, this in-depth documentary will almost certainly surprise you detailing the notoriously tough process to be able to join an elite group of people worldwide (currently just 269) who have received the prestigious title.
Released in 2012, the film follows four hopeful and determined candidates on their intense MS journey. It delves into their history and backgrounds and the various methods they use to prepare themselves – from flashcards to a personal tasting trainer – for the final Master Sommelier exam, one of the toughest in the wine industry.
It’s a people-focussed documentary but with enough interest to sustain its run time, plus there’s a thought-provoking twist at the end…we won’t spoil it.
Somm: Into the Bottle, 2015
If you enjoyed SOMM (and there’s two more follow-up films in that series), you might also like In The Bottle which focusses more on wine as opposed to the somms themselves.
Through a series of interviews with sommeliers and winemakers from around the world the film tells the story of wine answering the question ‘What is wine and why does it matter?’.
Ten mini documentaries cover different facets of the wine industry from its history in the old world to modern methods of production and marketing.
Journey through ‘the winemaker’, ‘the vintage’, ‘the wars’, ‘the cost’ and ‘the point scores’ to name a few and look out for the opening of some extremely rare bottles of wine including; Penfolds Bin 60A 1962, Dom Ruinart 1969, Clos Sainte Hume 1962 and Mondavi 1966 – the first wine Robert Mondavi produced.
The Wine Show – Series 2, 2017/8
If you’re looking for a series to get stuck into then this might be the one. Presented by Matthew Goode of Downton Abbey fame and fellow-actor James Purefoy, the enthusiastic wine novice duo give a fresh, informative and engaging take on the world of wine.
From their villa in the Italian countryside, the pair face a different challenge each week while also exploring the best wines Italy has to offer.
Former series 1 presenter Matthew Rhys joins for a recurring section on wine gadgets including ways to keep wine fresh, transporting wine and taking your wine to go.
The show also features international segments from wine experts Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer as well as special correspondent chef Gizzi Erskine who reports from Napa Valley and Arizona.
If you want, you can start from the beginning with series one featuring 12 episodes plus a finale featuring all the best bits while series two has seven episodes. That’s just 1,000 minutes of escapist wine watching to schedule in then…
A Year in Burgundy, 2013
Experience a year in the life of a bottle of Burgundy in this 90-minute documentary from 2011.
With sweeping cinematography and unprecedented access to some of the most renowned winemaking families in Burgundy – including the inimitable Madame Lalou-Bize Leroy owner of Domaine Leroy and formerly co-manager of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, this is a great way to spend an hour and a half.
The film follows seven illustrious families in the region over the course of a year, delving into the cultural and creative process of making some of the world’s most highly prized, and valuable wines.
It’s played out in four season sections covering various weather factors affecting the grapes and style of the year’s resulting wines – heat, drought, showers, hail, storms and winter cold.
The film is sentimental and Burgundy is affectionately portrayed. It also successfully manages to encapsulate the history and family bonds in the region. Glass of premier cru anyone?
A Year in Champagne, 2014
From the same makers as A Year in Burgundy, director David Kennard is this time uncorking Champagne.
It’s not often illustrious champagne houses open their doors so filmmakers can get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes but this documentary offers just that and more.
From small independent producers to Grand Marques Gosset and Bollinger, the film guides viewers through the full spectrum of the winemaking process and showcases the vintners who create the magic in the bottle (and reveal the science behind how it gets there).
It’s informative and entertaining and pairs particularly well with a cold glass of Champagne, naturally.
Oh, and expect plenty of Kennard’s signature spectacular photography showcasing the region in all its glory.
Red Obsession, 2013
Narrated by Russel Crowe, this documentary centres around the global Bordeaux phenomenon and the rise of unprecedented demand from Asian buyers.
The film journeys from Bordeaux to Beijing exploring the background of the wine-producing capital – its history and modern-day challenges as well as the notorious counterfeit market in the Far East.
Through interviews with winemakers and chateaux owners – including director Francis Ford Coppola and Chateau Haut-Brion’s Prince Robert of Luxembourg, the film presents the ins and outs of the business, the pressure to produce top-class wines despite vintage conditions and the role of fine wine investment.
Some of Decanter staff even make small background cameos during footage of en primeur week in Bordeaux.
For something a little more hard-hitting is the documentary by Jonathan Nossiter that presents a damming, full-bodied examination of the international wine industry.
At 2hr 15mins it’s not the shortest documentary on the list – a 10-part series of the same name has been made for more in depth single episodes, but it’s still worth persevering with as long as you don’t mind the hand-held camera shots.
Covering five continents, the film questions the business practices of big players in the wine industry, at looks at the effect of globalisation on producers in various wine regions around the world.
The film also includes rare interviews with wine critic Robert Parker and famed consultant Michel Rolland.
Ever thought of starting your own winery? This feature-length documentary might make you think twice.
Decanted shows the process of creating a new winery in California from the ground up and what it takes to break into the highly competitive industry, with no history or credibility.
The film successfully captures the small production, small yields and precision vineyard work taking place at Napa’s top estates and gives an insight into the people who are trying to make their dream a reality.
It’s quite a niche topic, with a specific focus on the plight of a few individuals but if you’re still interested it’s worth a watch.