Bottle Shock is a dramedy, set in 1976, about winemakers in California, and a wine merchant from England with a shop in France. The wine merchant, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), seeking a way to increase business and noticing how American wines are starting to become slightly more popular, decides to hold a competition, which afterwards became known as "The Judgment of Paris".
While touring America looking for David wineries to compete against the Goliath-like French wineries, Spurrier encounters the Barrett family in (not yet famous) Napa Valley, who seem up to the task. Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) will have none of it, though, thinking this is just a way to embarrass his family on the world stage. His son Bo (Chris Pine), on the other hand, thinks of this as an opportunity and decides to enter their wine without his father's permission. In the end, California wines triumph over French and usher in a new age of wine drinking the world over.
This film provides examples of:
- The Alleged Car: Several characters are making do with vehicles past their scrap-by date.
- Boxing Lesson: Jim gives one to Bo as a way to release tension.
- Brand Names Are Better: All the judges acknowledge that it's not even possible for the Americans to challenge the French in winemaking. Fortunately, blind taste testing proved otherwise.
- Break the Haughty: Used occasionally with Steven.
- Chekhov's Gun: When Jim goes to his old law firm to ask for a job, his ex-partner's office decor includes samurai swords and a pair of dueling pistols. A few scenes later, Jim wants to open a bottle of wine and nobody has a corkscrew....
- David Versus Goliath: California vs. French wines.
- Drunken Boxing: Bo outside a bar, while explaining to his opponent how he's telegraphing his punches.
- Foregone Conclusion: California wines go on to become world renowned, as anyone who knows the first thing about wine knows today.
- Grail in the Garbage: The winning chardonnay was going to be thrown to the dumps because it was brown instead of golden yellow, but was intercepted by Jo, the local barkeep who bought the entire stock. Eventually the chardonnay turned back to its usual color and Jo was nice to enough to give most of it back.
- It Will Never Catch On: Practically the entire premise.
- Quintessential British Gentleman: Played with, with Steven.
- Samus Is a Girl: The Barretts are briefly flummoxed when the new intern, Sam, turns out to be a girl.
- Sexy Soaked Shirt: When Sam is hosing out the grape press, not a lot of work is getting done by the rest of the crew.
- Show Some Leg: Sam's technique proves more effective than Bo's at stopping traffic.
- Stealth Insult: Maurice says, "Where I'm from, they call it a left-handed compliment. They don't have a name for it in England: it's too ingrained in their culture."
- Title Drop: As explained in the movie, bottle shock is an effect that can happen to wine when it is moved by plane, as the changing pressures outside the bottle can affect the quality of the wine.
- Those Two Guys: Steven and Maurice in Steven's French wine shop.
- Tough Love: One possible interpretation of the relationship between Jim and Bo.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Gustavo wasn't even working at Montelena when the Judgment of Paris was announced. The winning chardonnay is usually credited to the work of both Jim Barrett and Mike Grgich, a Croatian immigrant who is not present in the film.
- Wine Is Classy: Played with in the California portions of the plot, invoked in the French portions.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Most of them own wineries in Napa Valley... who would have thought!?