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Friday, Aug. 8, 2008
'Bottle Shock' leaves a nasty aftertaste for the organizer of the Judgment of Paris
Due to be released in American theaters this month is "Bottle Shock," a new wine movie based on the story of the Judgment of Paris. The wine event, which was organized by Steven Spurrier back in 1976, upset the received wisdom of the wine community at the time.
During a blind tasting of quality French and Californian Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, French wine critics consistently rated Californian wines as the best in each category, upsetting the myth of France's viticultural supremacy and paving the way for a wider acceptance of Californian wines.
Since Spurrier was in town to arbitrate on the Japan Wine Challenge, The Japan Times asked a few questions about what he thought of the fictionalized version of events.
"The film has been made carrying my name, but it's total and utter fiction," said Spurrier.
In the movie, British actor Alan Rickman portrays Spurrier as a wine dealer in Paris.
"I was 33 when I did that, and Alan Rickman is 63," a furious Spurrier continued — and that's not the only age that's been played with. Young winemaker Bo Barrett has a steamy romance during the movie, but "Bo in the film is 25, in real life he was 15."
If so much artistic license has been taken, why couldn't Spurrier have his name removed? Turns out he was in a double bind.
"I had the top law firm on intellectual property in London contact the producers lawyers in L.A., and they agreed to take my name out of the script, provided I sign a release note to allow them to continue to make the film based on the Paris tasting," explained Spurrier. "However, the potential producers of a film based on George Taber's book about the tasting ("Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine") told me that they owned my life rights to the Paris event, and that I could not release another company to make a movie based on it. And if I did, they'd sue me in the L.A. courts."
Meanwhile, the producers of the other Judgment of Paris movie are struggling for seed money to get the project off the ground. "The market isn't big enough for two movies to be made, even though the second one would tell the true story," said Spurrier sadly. (Felicity Hughes)