Bottle Shock (2008)


Bottle Shock (2008)

In 1976, Steven Spurrier, a sommelier in Paris, comes to the Napa Valley to take the best he can find to Paris for a blind taste test against French wine. He meets Jim Barrett, whose Chateau Montelena is mortgaged to the hilt as Jim perfects his chardonnay. There's strain in Jim's relations with his hippie son Bo and his foreman Gustavo, a Mexican farmworker's son secretly making his own wine. Plus, there's Sam, a UC Davis graduate student and free spirit, mutually attracted to both Gustavo and Bo. As Spurrier organizes the "Judgment of Paris," Jim doesn't want to participate while Bo knows it's their only chance. Barrett's chardonnay has buttery notes and a Smithsonian finish.
IMDb   6.8 /10
Metacritic   56 %
TheMovieDb    6.3 /10
RottenTomatoes  48 %
FilmAffinity   5.7 /10
Director R. Martin Miller
Writer Jody Savin
Writer R. Martin Miller
Writer Ross Schwartz
Writer Lannette Pabon
Release Date2008-09-05
Runtime1h 50mins
GenreComedy, Drama
Content RatingPG-13 (PG-13)
Awards1 win.
CompanyShocking Bottle, Unclaimed Freight Productions, Intellectual Properties Worldwide (I)
LanguageEnglish, French, German
Bo Barrett
Steven Spurrier
Maurice Cantavale
Jim Barrett
Loan Officer
Gustavo Brambila (as Freddy Rodriguez)
Man #1 (as Louis Saguar)

Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock is a 2008 American comedy-drama film based on the 1976 wine competition termed the "Judgment of Paris", when California wine defeated French wine in a blind taste test. It stars Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, and Bill Pullman and is directed by Randall Miller, who wrote the screenplay along with Jody Savin and Ross Schwartz. It premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.


Sommelier and wine shop owner Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), a British expatriate living in Paris, is concerned with how to save his business in his daily conversation with Maurice (Dennis Farina), a wine lover from Milwaukee who is Spurrier's regular (sometimes only) customer. He concocts a plan to hold a blind taste-test intended to introduce Parisians to the quality wines coming from elsewhere in the world.

Spurrier 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 founding vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) of Chateau Montelena. Barrett wants no part in it, believing it to be a set-up designed by the French to humiliate New World wine producers. Barrett's son, Bo (Chris Pine), secretly passes Spurrier a couple of bottles of the Chateau's chardonnay for the competition. Comely and nonconformist university graduate student Sam Fulton (Rachael Taylor) arrives at Chateau Montelena seeking an internship, and is promptly put to work while stirring up interest among Bo and vineyard foreman Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez).

Due to reductionist techniques in wine making (the absence/reduction of oxygen during the wine making process), the chardonnay has turned brown in the bottles, causing Barrett Sr. to call for the whole vintage to be carted away for dumping. But Bo discovers the brown color is only temporary and races back home. On the way back to Chateau Montelena, however, Bo's truck runs out of gas, forcing him and Sam to find someone to help them out. After several unsuccessful attempts on Bo's part, Sam takes over and gets a driver (who turns out to be a police officer) to pull over by exposing her breasts. Even though she could get arrested for indecent exposure, the officer agrees to help them out. Bo eventually manages to recover the vintage, thanks to the help of local bar owner Joe (Eliza Dushku) who had intercepted the bottles on the way to the dump, intending to recycle the bottles.

Bo is asked to travel to Paris to represent the Napa Valley vintners at the contest. After tallying the scores from the eight Parisian judges, Spurrier is shocked to find that Montelena's Chardonnay has won the 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 do not 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.

In the end, the futures of the characters are revealed: Jim Barrett continues to make wine into his 80s, although Bo now runs the winery. A bottle of Montelena Chardonnay 1973 and the red wine, Stags Leap cabernet sauvignon 1973, also from California, that had won the same competition were given a display case at the Smithsonian Institution. In 2006, thirty years after the first competition, Steven Spurrier hosted another contest, this time with full confidence that French wine would win. California won again.


  • Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier
  • Bill Pullman as Jim Barrett
  • Chris Pine as Bo Barrett
  • Rachael Taylor as Sam Fulton
  • Freddy Rodriguez as Gustavo Brambila
  • Eliza Dushku as Joe
  • Dennis Farina as Maurice
  • Bradley Whitford as Professor Saunders


Steven Spurrier himself has questioned the accuracy of the script while he was involved in another movie project depicting the events of the Judgment of Paris, stating: "There is hardly a word that is true in the script and many pure inventions as far as I am concerned".

While the film depicts Gustavo Brambila as being at Chateau Montelena throughout the events leading up to the Judgment of Paris, his 22-year term at Montelena actually began just after the tasting. While at Chateau Montelena, Brambila worked closely with Mike Grgich – who, although not depicted in the film, was the winemaker behind the 1973 Montelena Chardonnay that won in Paris.

In the film, the prize-winning chardonnay turns brown for 24 hours after bottling. In real life, the wine turned off-color for a short time after it was bottled, not an uncommon occurrence, and Grgich knew how to handle it.

Critical response

The film received mixed reviews. As of June 2020, the film holds a 48% approval rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 124 reviews with an average rating of 5.62 out of 10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Bottle Shock fails to properly utilize the inspiring true tale at its core, settling instead for an ordinary, plodding account."