by | Feb 27, 2005 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

It’s not that I’m rooting against the movie “Sideways” at tonight’s Academy Awards, but I would be just as happy if it didn’t win. Nothing against the actors. The actors were terrific. Nothing against the director. The directing was fine. Nothing against the script or the cinematography or the best boy or the key grip.

It’s the subject.


I admit, right here, that I am one of those people for whom wine is a drink that comes in two colors, red or white – and that’s it. I don’t care what goes with fish or meat. I don’t care what year it was made. I don’t care if it’s from the Bordeaux region, the Rioja region or the bathtub in someone’s backyard.

I don’t care if it’s Chianti, Chablis, Burgundy or Ripple. I don’t want to know what vineyard gave us the grapes, if it’s Napa or Williamette or the Valley of the Jolly – ho, ho, ho – Green Giant. (No, wait, those were peas.)

And I most certainly don’t want to know how it tastes before I drink it. I don’t want to be told that it is “slightly fruity with a nutty underbelly.” For one thing, I know human beings who fit that description.

Besides, this is too much energy expended on a beverage. Yes, I said it. A beverage. Wine is not a religion. You drink it. You swallow it. And a few hours later, you excrete it the old-fashioned way.

Same as beer.

Look, but don’t open

“Sideways” is an OK movie about four wine lovers tramping about the Northern California vineyards. I have my own theories as to why critics loved it so much (it is, after all, about a whiny critic). But the movie’s best speeches are about grapes. I’m not kidding. The lead actor, Paul Giamatti, gives this long, gushing monologue about the pinot noir grape. He would have married a pinot noir if it were legal. He would have had little pinot noir children.

This grape gushing, let’s be honest, is pretty silly, except to wine connoisseurs, those annoying people who demand you follow them down into their wine cellars and watch breathlessly as they pull out bottles and brag about the labels – and then, of course, refuse to open them. (“Drink it? My god, we don’t drink it! You’re lucky we let you look at it!”)

To me, if it has to be described to be appreciated, you’re wasting your time. Nutty. Fruity. Dry. Aromatic. Come on. It’s like art. If someone has a painting of cow manure, but he tells you the history of the artist, the history of the canvas, how rare and expensive it all is, I’m sorry, it’s still, in the end, a painting of cow manure.

And wine, in the end, is still a drink.

Bring us some OJ

Now I realize this may blow my invitations to many fancy restaurants, but I’ll deal with it. It takes too long to order in those places anyhow. Honestly, what food group besides wine gets its own list, is displayed over a waiter’s wrist and is sampled by sniffing, swishing and then spitting it out?

It’s all affectation. We could do that with orange juice. The waiter brings you the carton of Minute Maid, you sniff it, you swig it, then you spit it out. You comment on the orange, the nectar, the consistency, the crop, the year, the soil, the refinery, the pits.

Then they tell you to get lost.

Which is what I say when someone goes on and on about wine. Hey. You want to make it your life’s work, fine by me. But if you’re slowing down the appetizers, you gotta go.

So I’m hoping “Sideways” doesn’t win, because if it does, people will be running off to New Agey vineyards, pouring pinots and syrahs, and blathering on about harvests and fermentation.

That’s why I’m rooting for “Million Dollar Baby.” We need more women smacking men in the mouth.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To check out recent columns in the Free Press by Albom, go to Albom will appear on “The Sports Reporters” on ESPN at 10 a.m. Sunday.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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