Secondary Character Saturday: Alan Rickman: Steven Spurrier (Bottle Shock)

“Great wine is great art, my friend. I am, in effect, a shepherd… whose mission is to offer the public another form of great art and to guide its appreciation thereof.”–Steven Spurrier

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” The poetic wisdom of the Italian physicist, philosopher, and stargazer, Galileo Galilei. It all begins with the soil, the vine, the grape. The smell of the vineyard – like inhaling birth. It awakens some ancestral, some primordial… anyway, some deeply imprinted, and probably subconscious place in my soul.” — Steven Spurrier

Alan Rickman as Stephen Spurrier  in Bottle Shock [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

Alan Rickman as Stephen Spurrier in Bottle Shock [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

Who: Steven Spurrier

From: Bottle Shock

…The British owner of a struggling Parisian wine shop, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), concocts an idea to jumpstart his business and attract new customers – pit the French against the Americans in a wine tasting showdown. Certain that the established French wines will emerge victorious, Spurrier travels to the New World to sample the wines of Napa Valley with the intention of bringing back a few bottles to include in the blind tasting. Upon landing in California, Spurrier meets Chateau Montelena Winery owner, Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), an attorney who left the legal field to start a winery, and his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine), who works at the winery alongside his father. Spurrier samples the Barretts’ Chardonnay, finds himself impressed, and realizes that his planned publicity stunt may have a more profound impact than he had initially imagined. Back in Paris, on May 24, 1976, a panel of some of the most respected names in the French wine industry convenes to participate in Steven Spurrier’s tasting event. In the end, America emerges triumphant as the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay takes top honors, putting California at the forefront of the wine world and changing the future of the wine industry forever. When asked for comment about the victory, Jim Barrett simply replied, “Not bad for kids from the sticks.” []

By: Jody Savin, Randall Miller, Ross Schwartz & Lannett Pabon

Produced: 2008

Pros: He’s passionate about wine. Although he comes off aloof, he’s actually a pretty good guy underneath it all. He’s such a snob that by dropping his out of his element and forcing him to drive an AMC Gremlin around the hills of California eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and guacamole and drinking wine from jelly jars gives the movie a comic rhythm that it would otherwise be too earnest without, so he’s funny too.

Cons: He’s a terrific snob. “My definition of palatable might be slightly different from yours.”

Most Shining Moment: Realizing the Americans have won, he pulls Bo aside and encourages him to put on a coat and comb his hair. Spurrier pads his speech until Bo is ready then tells the assembled Francophiles that the distinguished panel of judges have just picked a wine from Bo’s American vineyard.

CD cover of Bottle Shock [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

CD cover of Bottle Shock [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

Why Rickman is so good: “Rickman is a hoot as Spurrier, though nothing like the actual man …. Making the wine merchant a pompous ass … ” [Los Angeles] Rickman does fish-out-of-water disdain so beautifully. And this is one of his best examples of it. He’s kind of the Mr. Darcy of Wine and the Napa Valley chardonnay and cab sauvignon  is the Lizzie that makes him rethink his prejudice and let down his guard (a bit.)

Why I picked Bottle Shock: Odds are you have never heard of Bottle Shock. So I wanted to make people aware of this little gem. It doesn’t have a good Rotten Tomatoes (49%) and it wasn’t critically acclaimed. But foo-foo on that. It’s a terrific little movie that makes me smile every time I see it. I don’t really drink wine, but when we left the theater after seeing this movie I did get a glass (though NOT of the 73 Montelena Chardonna). The Movie is a video valentine to the beautiful, lush Napa Valley. And the Doobie Brothers / Allman Brothers / Harry Nilsson /America,  California acoustic guitar heavy, soundtrack will leave you wishing you still had that vintage record collection of your youth.

Rickman as Spurrier toward the end of Bottle Shock [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

Rickman as Spurrier toward the end of Bottle Shock [Image courtesy: 20th Century Fox]

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About ritalovestowrite

Freelance writer, graphic designer, musician, foodie and Jane Austen enthusiast in Northern Baltimore County, Maryland. As a writer I enjoy both fiction and non fiction (food, travel and local interest stories.) As an advocate for the ARTS, one of my biggest passions is helping young people find a voice in all the performing arts. To that end it has been my honor to give one-on-one lessons to elementary, middle and high school students in graphic design and music. And as JANE-O I currently serve as the regional coordinator for JASNA Maryland and am working on a Regency/Federal cooking project. View all posts by ritalovestowrite

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