Film Club: Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock

Film - Bottle Shock (Released 2008)

A self-directed film club. Check out the features, facts and discussion questions below, which can help broaden your appreciation of the film. 

Watching the Film

You can watch the movie online on Kanopy Streaming Films, free with library membership.


Written by - Randall Miller, Jody Savin & Ross Schwartz

Directed by - Randall Miller

Based on the 1976 wine competition termed “The Judgment of Paris”

Available at the Library: Judgment of Paris" California Vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine, by George M. Taber (641.22 TAB)



  • Steven Spurrier - Alan Rickman
  • Jim Barrett - Bill Pullman
  • Bo Barrett - Chris Pine
  • Sam Fulton - Rachael Taylor
  • Gustavo Brambila - Freddy Rodriguez
  • Joe (Bar Owner) - Eliza Dushku
  • Maurice - Dennis Farina

A note on the title: “Bottle shock” or “bottle sickness” are terms used to describe a temporary condition in a wine where its flavors are muted or disjointed. There are two main scenarios when bottle shock sets in: either right after bottling, or when wines (especially fragile older wines) are shaken in travel. (taken from


Interesting Film Facts

(Sourced from

1. The real Jim Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena, appears in the film as a vineyard owner who pours a wine sample for Alan Rickman. Mike Grgich, the real-life winemaker at Chateau Montelena (and the man who was most responsible for the award-winning 1973 Montelena Chardonnay), appears in several scenes at the chateau, standing next to Bill Pullman as he takes a wine sample from a barrel.

2. The Parisian street scenes were filmed in Sonoma, CA using cars provided by members of the Arcane Auto Society car club. The automobile's owners were used as extras in the street scenes that showed their cars.

3. Much of the filming (aerial views, boxing ring, Paris tasting) were shot at Kunde Winery in Kenwood, Ca.

4. When they pick up Alan Rickman at his hotel, it is the Toscano Hotel which is in Sonoma, not Napa, CA. You can see part of General Vallejo's adobe barracks next to the hotel. You can also see part of the Sonoma Square behind them.



(All information sourced from: )

FACT: Portrayed by Chris Pine, Bo Barrett, the son of Chateau Montelena’s winemaker Jim Barrett, is an unruly California surfer dude who frustrated his father due to his low ambition. Bo was indeed a surfer and a rebel in the early 1970s, but he has since lived up to this father’s hopes: Bo is currently the CEO of Chateau Montelena and has been involved in every vintage at the winery since 1972.

FICTION: The father/son duo were a bit less physically violent than the film leads viewers to believe. There is no boxing ring on the Barrett property, nor did Jim and Bo ever box each other.

FICTION: Though he ended up owning the historic Chateau Montelena Winery, Jim Barrett did not craft the wine that went on to win big in France. Mike Grgich, a Croatian-American winemaker in Napa Valley, was actually the winemaker of the 1973 Chardonnay that won the Paris Tasting of 1976, known as the Judgment of Paris. While originally written into the script, Mike was cut from the movie because he did not want to be a part of the film.

FICTION: In the film, the Chardonnay turns brown for 24 hours after bottling, a twist that devastates Jim, who believes his new release is doomed. Though the wine did turn off-color for a short time after it was bottled, this is actually a somewhat common occurrence, and real-life winemaker Mike Grgich totally knew how to handle the situation.

FICTION: Jim and Bo are shown living at the Napa Valley winery during the summer of 1976, but they actually lived much further south, near Los Angeles, and took long trips up the coast in order to operate Chateau Montelena. Jim was actually a certified pilot, and often flew into the nearby Santa Rosa airport when he had to spend time at the winery.

FACT: Bo and Gustavo Brambila, are portrayed as close friends, with Bo as the prankster and Gustavo as the serious one. The two struck up a friendship in the 1970s, although Gustavo was not actually involved at all with Chateau Montelena’s win at the Paris Wine Tasting. Gustavo, one of the first Latinos to earn a degree in fermentation science from the University of California, Davis, was hired by winemaker Mike Grgich to do quality control in 1976, although it was after the famed tasting. Bo and Gustavo remain close friends to this day.

FICTION: In the film, Gustavo is fired by Jim for producing wine under his own label. However, Gustavo was never fired, but instead left the winery on good terms. He actually left in 1977 to work for Mike when the former Chateau Montelena winemaker created his own brand, Grgich Hills Cellar. In 1996, Gustavo did go on to create his own label, Gustavo Wine, which continues to operate to this day.


Questions/Discussion Topics

1. Were you familiar with the term ‘Bottle Shock’ before watching this film?

2. Did you find that you had to know much about wine or enjoy wine to appreciate this film/story?

3. “Great wine is great art” quoted from the movie - Do you have any part of your own life that could relate to this kind of statement?

4. Where there any characters you especially liked or could relate to? - Where there any characters that you did not especially like?

5. What did you think of the Father/Son relationship between Jim & Bo? - Did they respect each other in their own ways or was their relationship a competition?

6. What was your first impression of Steven Spurriers character? - In what ways did you see him change as his adventure/endeavour went on?

7. In Paris the wine culture was portrayed as pretentious and snobby, while the American culture was laid back and community oriented - what were your thoughts on these two styles? -The American community showed group support to achieve success - “If one of us wins, we all win” is what one character said - do think this is a lesson many of us could take into various facets of our life to achieve greater success? - Do you think that wine culture has changed over the years?

8. What did you think Steven’s impressions of California were when he first arrived?  Who else got a kick out of the KFC scene in his car?

9. What do you think was Sam’s role in the entirety of this story?

10. Could you relate in any way to Bo’s character? - Do you think most people in life, at one time or another, have difficulty finding direction or motivation?

11. Jim’s character was great in terms of trying to follow his dream. - Are there instances or examples in your own life where you could relate to that? - He had a lot of passion and love for what he did, in what ways did that help him on his journey and in what ways did that hinder him? - Do you think Jim was hard on his son to compensate for his own sense of failure?

12. When Steven decided to do the wine tasting competition, do you feel he was just at the end of his rope (in terms of his life)?

13. Did you enjoy the scenery in the movie? - Has anyone visited wine country in California and did it have a similar feel to the movie?

14. Who enjoyed the humour of the movie? - Was there any specific part or line that stood out?

15. In terms of Jim and Gustavo’s relationship, do you think Jim was bitter towards Gustavo, or were there other issues underlying there? - The French were portrayed in the film as the wine experts of the world and they had an air about them, but Gustavo’s character also believed he was better because of his heritage, better than other wine makers; he called Jim out for trying to make wine without it being in his blood - what did you think about Gustavo’s attitude around this and towards Jim and other wine makers - was he any different than the French? - Did Jim prove the French and Gustavo wrong, in that making wine can be a science?

16. What was your perception of Bo’s relationship with his Mother?

17. ‘Pride’ seemed to be a common thread in many of the characters of this film – which characters demonstrated pride and how did it affect them individually?

18. Bo and Gustavo’s friendship seemed very strong - what does this show us about strength, acceptance, life perspectives & friendship?

19. There were many times throughout the film where Jim experienced stress - do you think this is a good example of how stress can make people do “crazy” things? - What other characters experienced and acted out stress in bizarre ways?

20. How did you see Bo’s character evolve and grow throughout the story? - How important was it to Bo to see and feel his Father’s support?

21. In the end do you believe Steven accomplished what he had set out to?