Grapevine: Pairing the 2013 Oscar-Nominated Movies With Wine

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Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

The 86th Academy Awards show airs this Sunday. This is my sixth year of presenting the Best Picture nominees and creating hypothetical pairings of wine with the top contenders.

I’ve distilled my list to five of the nine nominees.

“12 Years a Slave,” based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who lived in New York with his wife and children; in 1841 he was surreptitiously kidnapped and sold into slavery for over a decade.

Sent to Louisiana, the movie follows his travails in a microcosm of the degradation of blacks during the slavery era. In graphic detail, we are immersed in the horror of this dehumanizing period of history. But Solomon’s spirit of survival carries him through his ordeal, persisting in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

This movie should inspire us to cherish America’s principles and the equal rights of all. Sitting with fellow citizens, sipping on an aged Port, provides an environment to do so. These wines represent a centuries-old Portuguese respect for the land and its people that persists today.

“Gravity.” Just when you think all is right with the universe, disaster strikes. The shuttle crew sent to repair the Hubble telescope is thrown topsy-turvy, wreaking havoc on the lives of the crew. While the cinematography and special effects are amazing, the story-line is rather pedestrian. This movie may win the most awards, but perhaps not Best Picture.

So too, California red wine blends. Americans rave about them but their essence is often devoid of intrinsic character. Tethered to Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon, they can’t seem to find their way through the enological universe.

“American Hustle.” The Led Zeppelin song in the background screams out: “Good times, bad times, you know I had my share.” In 1978, con man Irving Rosenfeld and his seductive partner Sidney Prosser are on top of the world, raking in hordes of cash from unsuspecting marks. Good times soon turn sour as they get caught up in the middle of a government sting operation. The movie’s blatant message: everyone hustles to survive, is ever present.

Just as Irving and Sidney get trapped in lifestyles perceived to be desirable, others get trapped in wines perceived to be high quality. My generation embraced the popular wines of the late 1970s because of their “cool” factor. There were many other, better, choices than Blue Nun or Mateus, but we fell victim to the advertising cons of the day.

“The Wolf of Wall Street.” Wow! Sex, drugs and wild parties; something for every moviegoer. In 1995, at age 26, Jordan Belfort made $49 million as a Wall Street stock hustler. His real-life escapades, eventually shut down by the FBI, landed him in jail for three years. But not before he enjoyed the decadent excesses of his wealth.

What better way to celebrate the ethos of Belfort than Champagne? A few years ago, billionaire Mark Cuban held a celebratory dinner featuring a $90,000 bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne. That says it all when you’re trying to impress friends and clients.

“Dallas Buyers Club.” Mathew McConaughey brings us back to 1985, and the shocking times when HIV/AIDS was rampant across the globe. Diagnosed as HIV positive, his character seeks a way to prolong his life. Not accepting his 30-day death sentence, he is able to find experimental drugs for himself and then attempts to distribute them to other victims. Battling the government and the medical establishment, and with the unlikely help of a similarly afflicted transvestite, he creates a way to distribute his illegal drugs (hence the name of the movie) and prolong his life.

Zinfandel represents the persona of this movie. This wine is a chameleon of sorts. It can be an in-your-face fruit bomb or a sophisticated, thought-provoking statesman – at times misunderstood, at other times irrepressible.

Which movie will win the coveted Oscar? Sit back on Sunday night with your favorite wine in hand and enjoy the festivities.

Nick Antonaccio is a 35-year Pleasantville resident. For over 15 years he has conducted numerous wine tastings and lectures. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.


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