Pairing wine with movies! See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies, and many more, at Trailers From Hell. This week, we look back at a few Epic Spectacles and find a suitable beverage to consume with each.
1959’s Ben-Hur was directed by William Wyler, who won Oscars three times for directing movies which also grabbed the statue for Best Picture. Ben-Hur was the final piece of the hat trick, joining Mrs. Miniver and The Best Years of Our Lives.
I don’t know if it still holds true, but for people of my generation, Ben-Hur – and The Ten Commandments, see below – define the phrase “epic spectacle.” Ben-Hur may have featured hundreds of camels, thousands of horses and 10,000 extras – but there is only one Charlton Heston. And he liked it that way, dammit. Heston signed on to do the movie for a quarter of a million dollars, which back then was a lot of money. Nowadays, big stars hit the Lotto every time they do a film – which is payback for those years of waiting tables.
In the film, Hur got water from Jesus when he was thirsty, and tried to return the favor as Jesus struggled to his crucifixion. Damn Roman soldiers, anyway. We’re going to have something a little more satisfying to drink. Hur and his mortal enemy/bosom buddy Messala may well have locked arms and imbibed a wine resembling a modern day Tannat. That grape has a skin so thick it could survive a chariot mishap. Tablas Creek in Paso Robles makes a Tannat which sells for $40 and should age well long past the end of the movie.
The 1960 Italian film, Revolt of the Slaves, starred Rhonda Fleming, who passed away not six months ago at 97 years old. On the one-sheet for the movie – “The Revels… The Ravages… The Revolt of the Ages!” – she seems to be wielding a bullwhip while wearing a little rag of a dress. That’s how the slaves rolled in the fourth century when they shed their shackles.
Pairing a wine with a movie about slaves in the Roman Empire was easier than I expected it to be, thanks to Italian winemaker Elena Walch. Her Schiava – it’s a grape, and a word meaning “slave” in Italian – comes from the Alto Adige region in northern Italy. That’s where you want to look for a great Italian white wine.
Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic, The Ten Commandments, saw Charlton Heston in sandals as Moses, maybe the greatest slave-freer of all time. Lincoln freed four million slaves, but DeMille made his look like more, and threw in some miracles for extra measure.
Besides Heston, the all-star cast included faves like Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson. “Look, Moses, we’re slaves, see? You gotta get us outta here, see? We need an exodus, see? Gotta part the Red Sea, see?”
Now, another wine for a movie about the stone tablet ages. There are a number of great kosher wines, one being Covenant Viognier, produced in Israel after getting started in Southern California’s Herzog Cellars. It’s a little bit of Galilee in a bottle.