When Academy members chose their lineup of best movies from 2019, they faced another round of “Oscars so White” criticism—but not when it comes to selecting the best wine to pair with each of the nine nominees. My idea to combine wines with nominees started after 2004’s Sideways entered the race and inspired me to switch my pattern of celebrating the Oscars by drinking Champagne during the show. Sideways seemed so suited to Santa Barbara pinot noirs that I switched gears and started looking for the best wine to drink with each nominated film.
This year, a couple of whites make it in the mix, along with salmon for diversity. But overall, reds take center stage:
1917—Racing to save fellow Brits from a World War I massacre, two young soldiers run through trenches and European countryside in writer-director Sam Mendes’ retelling of family stories. Leather comes to mind—strong and solid—which of course means that British favorite, claret.
Ford Vs. Ferrari—Moving fast and clearly, director James Mangold creates an easy-to-quaff movie. The story of a U.S. company’s challenge to motor in on an international competitor at the Le Mans deserves an all-American wine like zinfandel. But then, anyone rooting for the other side can grab a quick drinking Sangiovese rose from Sonoma County’s Ferarri-Carano Vineyards.
The Irishman—Despite its title, the movie shows its Italian influence in the manner of previous mob movies from director Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro (plus those Oscar-nominated supporting players Al Pacino and Joe Pesci). Deep and rich, the movie pairs perfectly with an Amarone, where grapes go through special effects to add heft and texture.
JoJo Rabbit—A comedy with Nazis adds a spicy twist to World War II stories; it feels light but has depth. This puts a German gewürztraminer on track for writer-director Taika Waitit’s blend of farce and pathos.
Joker—Writer-director Todd Philips’ origin story of a Batman comic book character feels too dark and nihilistic for drinking any easy, pleasant wine. So, go with a digestif like the herbal, medicinal qualities of Fernet with its mix of myrrh, cardamom, and saffron.
Little Women—A story that charmed young girls for years plus its setting in Concord, Massachusetts might suggest plain old grape juice, but writer-director Greta Gerwig’s take adds a flavorful twist. Since one character hangs out in Paris for a while, I’d run up the road a bit to the Loire Valley and find some Sancerre to drink with the movie.
Marriage Story—The title implies Champagne, but writer-director Noah Baumbach actually tells a divorce story with the wistful breakup of two caring people. Well- structured and elegant, the movie brings on hints of a Carneros pinot noir.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood—Mixing the two seemingly opposite qualities of playfulness and violence, Writer-Director Quentin Tarantino reimagines California history. His movie calls for a blood red, non-traditional wine like a California petite sirah.
Parasite—Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho’s nominee for both best picture and foreign language film breaks patterns and upends expectations with its look at class inequities. Its energy suits a Korean wine, the fermented soju, which at first seems sweet but then sneaks up on you with a hammer.
Note: I hoped the wine connection would add insight into which film ultimately wins, but so far my track record with that remains spotty. Successful prediction? I’ll drink to that. Missed it? No problem, just drown my sorrows in more wine.