Sideways with Soup

By / Magazine / July 15th, 2010 / 1

I loved Sideways. Can you recommend any other wine-themed movies?

Ah Sideways, a tasty piece of celluloid that only gets better with age. But that Academy Award winning flick (it won for Best Adapted Screenplay) was more than just a two hour up-with-vino experience; it was arguably the classiest mainstream movie ever to feature full-frontal male nudity (it’s near the end ladies).

To begin to answer your question, while booze has been the theme and, maybe more importantly, a highlight of many a great motion picture; it’s played a role in plenty of stinkers too.

Bottle Shock (2008) is arguably the best of the post-Sideways attempts to bring wine back to the big screen. This one-sided tale of the ‘Judgment of Paris’ (which saw an upstart Californian winemaker kick the corks out of his French counterparts in a glass to glass taste off) isn’t as sophisticated or funny as Sideways, but it’s close enough to warrant a rent.

Though Mondovino (2005) tried to ride Sideways’ coattails it’s a long, long, long documentary that becomes director Jonathan Nossiter’s lame attempt to turn the world against Robert Mondavi and travelling wine consultant Michel Rolland. That said, it’s still worth catching so you can make up your own mind on whether big business is ruining the wine industry (or at least meet each winemaker’s dog — you’ll see what I mean).

When it comes to so-so liquid flicks: A Good Year (2006) has Russell Crowe inheriting a vineyard in France and falling in love, Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) has Diane Lane buying a villa in Tuscany and falling in love, and A Walk in the Clouds (1995) has Keanu Reeves working in a Californian vineyard and, you guessed it, falling in love.

Though not the focus of the franchise, I credit the James Bond series for helping to fuel my interest in wine back in my younger days. Whether it’s chastising the evil Mr. Wint (pretending to be sommelier) for not knowing that Château Mouton Rothschild “is a claret” in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) to ordering a bottle of chilled Bollinger Grand Année and beluga caviar in Casino Royale (2006): some of the screen’s best liquor scenes star 007.

Does wine really go with soup?

It all depends how you like your liquids. Even when it’s at its chunkiest, soup, to be considered a part of the club, needs to be, well, soupy. And pairing one liquid with another, no matter how likeminded they might be, can get pretty messy.  

I’ve always been partial to soup by its lonesome, sans wine. My beef is how one all too often gets lost in the other, with what’s in the glass typically getting bowled over by what’s in the bowl. That said, I seem to be in the minority as the legions of new millennium wine buffs continue to rewrite the dusty old rules that govern what goes with what by anointing soup the holy grail of food and wine affinities.

Since they come in many styles and thicknesses if your quest is to find the perfect all-purpose soup wine I’d start experimenting with less obtrusive whites like an Italian Soave or lightly wooded Chardonnay.

I’ve grown fond of a nip or two of sherry in my old age and the boozy fortification of a light fino or dry amontillado works just dandy with most soups (especially meatier and creamier versions) as does a decent Madeira.

The best advice (next to save the wine until your entrée) is to brush up on the basics of food and wine matching by using the flavour focal point of your soup choice as the base from which to start a happy marriage. Simply pair your wine with the dominant flavour (or texture) of the soup in question and pass on the saltines.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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