Trailers From Hell. This week, movies by Monty Python’s Flying Circus are featured, with appropriate wine pairings. Feel free to have some Spam if you like. We need to have some guilty pleasures during a pandemic.
1971's And Now for Something Completely Different packaged sketches from the first two seasons of TV's Monty Python's Flying Circus. That alone was cause for a drink or two, since mood adjusters were quite common among those who watched the show. The film was intended to introduce the British comedy troupe to the U.S. audience, which flopped when nobody got the humor. After PBS began showing the TV series, awareness was elevated enough so that a 1973 re-release was slightly more successful. It became a regular on the midnight movie circuit.
A lot of the group's best-loved sketches are included here, remade for the movie, like "The Dead Parrot," "The Lumberjack Song" and "Nudge Nudge," which played well to a wildly appreciative Hollywood Bowl audience a decade later. "Your Glendale wife, is she a goer?"
I could go on and on, but I didn't come here for an argument. "Yes you did." That sketch isn’t even in the movie, so let us pour. There's a temptation to go with a wine from Down Under as a nod to the Pythons' "Australian Table Wines" sketch. It touts a wine which leaves a "lingering afterburn," a Cote du Rod Laver which has "a kick on it like a mule" and Perth Pink, "a wine for lying down and avoiding."
Coming to the defense of Aussie wine is Penfolds, Australia's largest and most respected wine producer. Their Bin 389 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, which always sounds to me like a Python way of saying Syrah.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail was Monty Python's 1975 sendup of the legend of King Arthur. It was so good that decades later it spawned the Broadway hit Spamalot. When studio funding for the picture did not appear, the group reportedly got money from private investors, including British rockers Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Elton John. They felt a movie was a good way to hedge against England's exorbitant tax rate. The film made a good deal of money, got mixed reviews yet grew in stature over the years. It aged well, one might say, if one was intent on spinning this narrative into a wine pairing. Which I am.
Believe it or not, there is a Holy Grail Winery, but it’s not in Australia, nor England. It's not even in California. It's in the Show-Me State of Missouri. Mizzou winemakers are deservedly proud of the juice they bottle, and many of them do wonderful things with the Norton grape, which at one time, was America's top fine wine grape. If you can't find the Holy Grail anywhere, try anything from Stone Hill Winery, which is located not far away.
In 1979's The Life of Brian, the Python gang had their come-to-Jesus moment. It was actually their come-to-Brian moment, as Brian, the Messiah's neighbor, was given the crown of thorns in a case of mistaken identity. Once again, there was trouble with a movie studio and their money. Once again, a rock star came to the rescue in the form of George Harrison, who financed the film.
The theme of the movie was taken as blasphemous by some, and several nations actually banned the movie from being shown. The ad campaign in Sweden reportedly boasted, "So funny it was banned in Norway." Actually, the film's message is a simple, "You don’t need to be a follower of anyone."
What does the movie say that the Romans have done for us lately? "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?" Yes, the wine. As nasty as it must have been back then, there was the wine.
I have seen speculation that the wine consumed by Jesus at the Last Supper was probably something like what we now know as Amarone, an Italian wine made from dried grapes. Bertani makes a hell of an Amarone, and vintages from multiple decades are available to buy. I'm sure Brian would welcome a glass at his last supper.