Wine & Watch: The Best Food and Drink Pairings for Watching Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’, ‘Sicario’ and ‘Incendies’
Photo: Maren Caruso/Getty Images
There has never been a better time to be inert. The once-pejorative designation of “couch potato” now instead points to someone with their finger on the pop-culture pulse, as multiple streaming services compete for eyeballs with an often-dazzling mix of original and acquired content across all genres.
Really, the amount of viewable stuff on offer is staggering. And there’s always free-to-borrow DVDs at the local library with some also offering free streaming services. Plus, there’s video on demand.
Of course, one’s viewing selection is only part of an excellent night in, with food and drink combining to create the ultimate triumvirate. And since themes are fun, we humbly submit three: a buzzy recent film paired with something bubbly; a standout Canadian film paired with Canadian wine; and a classic film paired with a classic winery or varietal. In all three categories, we offer snack suggestions and high- and low–end price points for wine because, sadly, they can’t all be $100 bottles.
Freshly Corked: A Buzzy Recent Release Paired with Something Bubbly
Film: Dune. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve got so much right with this epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s ostensibly unfilmable, classic 1965 sci-fi novel that it’s hard to tally. But let’s try: the brilliant effects look brilliant yet don’t overshadow the gripping narrative, which Villeneuve broke down into two parts, making the storytelling more manageable while teeing up a keenly anticipated second chapter coming next year. His ensemble cast is terrific, and Villeneuve keeps the focus on the characters even as gargantuan set pieces unfold. And while seeing Dune on the big screen is ideal (not to mention enveloping), it’s still a heck of a watch at home. It’ll be interesting to see which of the 10 Academy Awards nominations it scores, from Best Picture to Best Visual Effects to Best Cinematography.
Indulgent and/or Wallet-Friendly: Track down an “orange” wine, which are au courant (good for sci-fi, no?) though availability varies considerably. Made from white grapes, orange wines are fermented with their skins similar to how red wine is made, which results in a wine that drinks more like a red with enhanced body but looks amber-ish in the glass. Ontario’s Southbrook makes delicious orange wine. They are also widely produced in the U.S., though never labelled as “orange” so that consumers don’t mistakenly assume, ahem, they are made from oranges.
Snack Options: Orange wines taste bold — nutty, woody, with tropical fruit notes. They’re also tannic like red wines. Blog Wine Folly suggests pairing with curries or Moroccan, Ethiopian or Korean cuisine, with flavours as big as the drink.
Canadian-Made: Homegrown Feature and Quaff
Film: Sicario. Yup, this is an all-Denis Villeneuve column. And why not? Few filmmakers, Canadian or otherwise, have shown the versatility or vision of the Quebec-born director whose films manage to be both cerebral and commercially successful, not to mention thrilling. This nailbiter from 2015 is no exception and buoyed by excellent performances, notably Emily Blunt as an idealistic FBI agent pulled into a shadowy, covert mission to bring down a Mexican drug kingpin. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro round out the cast. In addition to Villeneuve, Sicario scores bonus Canuck points for featuring actor Victor Garber and production designer Patrice Vermette among others from the director’s old country. Sadly, the murderous violence of the U.S.-Mexico cross-border drug trade remains a timely topic.
Indulgent: Something fabulous from the Okanagan Valley, B.C.’s premier grape-growing region, accounting for 86 percent of the province’s vineyard acreage. Especially notable: the Okanagan Valley is warmer and more arid than California’s Napa Valley, receiving nearly two hours more sunlight per day during the peak growing season, according to the Wines of British Columbia website, thus mirroring the intense sunlight of this thematically dark film. The region produces many varietals, from Merlot to Pinot Noir to Cabernet Franc among reds and Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay among whites. Set a budget, pick a colour, and go nuts.
Wallet-Friendly: Ontario also produces excellent Gewürztraminer, its minerality, floral notes, and acidity a dazzling complement to anything spicy. And it’s widely available under $20. Choose a label that catches your eye (as good a way as any to pick wine because, really, who knows? Plus, it’s an affordable risk … ) and have at it.
Snack Options: Takeout samosas with chutney. Yeah, you’re welcome.
Vintage: Nostalgic/Classic Film With a Wine to Match
Film: Incendies. Villeneuve’s trenchant and poignant Academy Award–nominated French-language thriller from 2010 was perhaps the wider world’s first alert that a superb new talent had arrived. This comparatively small film about siblings unearthing the truth about their late mother’s complex past didn’t exactly foreshadow Villeneuve’s current role as master of large-scale Hollywood blockbusters. But it did unequivocally demonstrate his ability to dress a compelling story in wildly arresting visuals. Villeneuve’s rumoured next project also sounds about 14 kinds of exciting: an adaptation of Pulitzer Prize–winning author Stacy Schiff’s brilliant, exhaustive biography, Cleopatra: A Life. Just thinking about the potential casting delivers tingles (Gaga? Zendaya? Natalie Portman?)
Indulgent: Cline Viognier. At about $20, this aromatic, quietly juicy wine from California isn’t overly expensive but it’s delicious and can stand up against anything from France, where Viognier grows in the Rhône Valley. Australia, Washington state and Ontario’s Niagara Region also make notable Viogniers which are best drunk young, not cellared.
Wallet-Friendly: Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier. The Chilean winery offers a suite of super-affordable, highly quaffable varietals that are also widely available across Canada. The soft fruit of this Viognier (think melon, mango, peach) makes it a great sipper all its own. Plus, like Pinot Grigio, Viognier is a safe bet to gift out or bring to someone’s home as its relative neutrality rarely inspires detractors the way Riesling and Chardonnay can.
Snack Options: Back to Wine Folly again, this time, their fabulous book, Wine Folly: The Master Guide, in which blogger-authors Madelaine Puckette and Justin Hammack suggest pairing Viognier with “dishes flavoured with almonds, citrus, stewed fruits and aromatic herbs like Thai basil and tarragon.”