When we talk about wine, the talk always turns to Pinot Noir. It’s considered by many wine snobs to be the grape that’s hardest to get into the bottle, but the most expressive of the conditions from which it comes. If you’d like the full-length lecture, just ask the nearest wine snob. Make sure you have an hour or so to spare.
When you talk about movies, the talk always turns to film noir. Film buffs, like wine snobs, love to show off their knowledge a bit. An evening with a film noir fan leads to many dissertations on how the dark shadows of film noir best express the suspicion and doubt that permeated world events from World War II into the McCarthy ‘50s. And, if you ask me, the 1960s could have used a lot more film noir.
Pinot Noir means “black Pinot” in French, which helps differentiate it from Pinot Grigio, which means “six-dollar house wine at Italian restaurants.” Accordingly, film noir means “black film,” a fitting name for movies that live in the shadows and usually embrace the pulp crime fiction style of writing that sprang up in the 1930s.
In “The Third Man,” Joseph Cotten admits, ”I’m just a hack writer who drinks too much and falls in love with girls. You?” With an opener like that, it’s no wonder he didn’t end up making the springs on the Murphy bed squeak for their lives. What woman couldn’t resist that come on? Even if she did live in the shadows and have a tilty camera angle most of the time.
“The Third Man” makes great use of music, too. A score by Anton Karas playing the zither provides a creepily exotic backdrop. “He’ll have you in a dither with his zither,” blazes the trailer. It’s good that Karas didn’t play the ocarina. That’s an even tougher rhyme.
Orson Welles’ Harry Lime is a black market racketeer in wartime Vienna who cares nothing for the victims of his methods. He waters down penicillin for sick people. God knows what he does to stretch a bottle of wine to six servings instead of three. Oh, and his markup is brutal, too. This guy should open a restaurant.
Lime cites the war and bloodshed Italy felt under the House of Borgia, while producing Michaelangelo, DaVinci and the Rennaissance. “Switzerland’s 500 years of brotherly love,” he says, “only produced the cuckoo clock.” I want an exit line like that.
The Third Man Wine comes from New Zealand’s Waipara Valley, and a lot of wine snobs are hitting up the NZ for their Pinot Noir. I don’t see a real connection here – other than the name – but the flavors in The Third Man Sauvignon Blanc include… lime. Cut, print.
Fourth and fifth man wines:
Hoepler’s Third Man Zweigelt comes straight from Vienna – well, southeast of Vienna – I wonder what sector that is? The label for this great Austrian grape carries an image from the film, and word is it will never remind you of a chase through a sewer. Can I see your papers, please?
Washington’s Gramercy Cellars takes the Third Man out of Austria altogether and transplants him to the Southern Rhone with a GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre – blend that’s heavy on the Grenache.
Bonus: I know I’ve linked to this before, but this is a great time to revisit the ol’ YouTube of Orson Welles for Paul Masson. It’s still hard to watch Welles try to struggle through a TV commercial for this juice. Masson let Welles go soon after the great one announced on television that he never drank the stuff, just shilled it.