Foody Almanac : The Beast From 20,000 Grapes – The Wine Lover’s Guide to Horror Films


If anyone thinks it’s a stretch to pair monsters with wines, hopefully, the following article will change your mind.

Essentials Magazine is a delectable, glossy publication that largely concentrates on promoting the sensory delights (food, wine, boutique accomm
odation, art, etc) of North East Victoria. At the time of pimping my Monster Movies book, I was a regular contributor to the magazine, and had sipped and supped my way across the region. Seeking to latch onto any promotional opportunity, I facetiously asked editor/publisher Jamie Durrant if he was going to publicise my book in the next issue. “Cool – what’s the angle?” he asked, somewhat unexpectedly.

Now that’s the thing about Jamie – he’s never deterred by ideas that may be a little out of the ordinary. In fact, he’s the type of person who flourishes under a creative challenge.

I believe I might have stammered a few seconds until a thought sprang to mind: “How about I take each chapter of my book, which looks at a particular monster type, and then pair that monster type to an appropriate wine?”

“Great idea,” says Jamie. “Let’s do it.”

Essentials’ readership was hardly my target audience, but all publicity is good publicity, isn’t it? At the very least, the Australian wine producers were thrilled to be able to promote their product beyond the somewhat stuffy confines of traditional wine marketing. I don’t know whether I sold any books with the following, but it certainly was fun to write, and is one of the pieces of which I am most proud.

Wine Matching and Monsters
First Published in Essentials Magazine, 2008

Someone once told me that if you’re ever to join an organisation or guild in the creative arts, make it one for writers – they hold the best parties. As the generalisation goes, writers are notorious lushes; their tools of the trade a typewriter (far more romantic than a laptop computer) and a glass of red, wielded in one hand like some sort of weapon as they hammer at the keys.

Why the two ‘w’s – wine and writing? Apart from sharing a few letters, why do these seemingly disparate pursuits work so well together? The answer is far more obvious than what one may initially think: writing is what you get when the creative juices are flowing while wine is the creative juice. Not beer, mind you. There’s something of the ritual – the experience – of drinking wine that goes beyond slamming down a few drinks with friends. A well-chosen drop is the stuff of inspiration and evocation. Smell the bouquet, taste the subtlety of its layers, admire the feminine curves of its bottle. Little wonder that, with a glass of wine, the words start flowing freely.

The challenge handed to me last year was to write a book about Monster Movies for a line of movie and moviemaking guides called ‘Pocket Essentials’. As any author faces with a long project: where to start? My answer: Simple, with a bottle of wine. Just as these monster films create mood, so do wines, which means it was imperative to partner my movie viewing with a complementary beverage – the perfect companion for the ‘type’ of monster in which I would be categorising my films.

Now that my book has been put to bed – the final product rolling off the printing presses in the UK – it’s time for me to share some of my literary secrets. What wines for which monsters? Below is a list of the chapters contained in the guidebook and, under each chapter, the wine that I personally think encapsulates the characteristics of that particular type of monster. You may disagree, but that’s the thing about wine (and also about writing), it’s all subjective… Cheers…

Watch Those Chemicals!
Big Monsters that Stomp on New York and Other Cities

Films: King Kong, The Host, Q – The Winged Serpent, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Cloverfield, The Lost World, Jurassic Park, Them!, Jason and the Argonauts, Gamera

Wine: Baileys of Glenrowan 1920s Block Shiraz 2006

These monster films are HUGE in size and status. They boast fine pedigrees – including such classics as King Kong – which means they require a wine that won’t be easily dwarfed. Baileys’ 1920s Block Shiraz hails from an over 80 year-old patch of shiraz vines, producing a rich, full-bodied drop with floral aromas and hints of plum, mulberry and cherry. Don’t be scared to allow it to mature through long-term cellaring. Best enjoyed with the most succulent of red meats and game.

It’s Alive… Alive!
Man-Made Monsters

Films: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Fly, The Invisible Man, Re-Animator, Black Sheep, The Killer Shrews, Fiend Without a Face, House by the Cemetery

Wine: Rutherglen Estates 2007 Sangipop

While these films warn against unbridalled risk-taking, a little bit of experimentation can go a long way. Rutherglen Estates discovered a ‘cherry bomb’ delight when pressing a little bit of sangiovese off the skins early. They gave it the name ‘Sangipop’ and marketed it as a summery sweet rosé, which tastes fantastic over crushed ice with a sprig of mint. It just goes to show, not all experiments end with Frankenstein’s monster…

Hubble Bubble Toil and Trouble…
Demonic Monsters

Films: The Exorcist, Night of the Demon, The Mummy, Suspiria, The Golem: How He Came into the World, Hellraiser, Jeepers Creepers, Brainiac, The Evil Dead, Devil Doll, The Omen

Wine: Michelini Sparkling Merlot

The thing about demonic monsters is they have a way of getting under your skin. They tantalise you, they possess you, and eventually, you’ll fall under their spell. It doesn’t take long to get hooked on Michelini’s Sparkling Merlot, a fine example of one of the few Australian winemaking inventions, full of fruit characteristics on the nose with a hint of oak and a firm tannin finish. Not only that, but the bubbles are sure to make you heady much faster. Deliciously addictive.

Daaaaaaa…dum… Daaaaaaa…dum
Monsters from the Deep

Films: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla, Jaws, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Deep Rising, Rogue, Piranha II: The Spawning, Anaconda, Attack of the Crab Monsters, It Came from Beneath the Sea

Wine: Feathertop Pinot Gris 2008

If ever there was an argument for environmental awareness, these monster films are the rude awakening. Our oceans’ inky depths are the ultimate incubators for all manner of hostile creatures, which makes sipping a clean and crisp wine during viewing the perfect antidote. This fresh, fruit-driven drop offers a ‘minerally’ palate with distinct flavours of pear, nectarine, lime and honey suckle. Just like taking action on saving our environmental, if wondering when to drink this wine, the time is now.

I’ve Got Protection from Your Infection…
Monsters Spreading the Monster Disease

Films: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, Day of the Dead, Ginger Snaps, Daughters of Darkness, 28 Days Later, Dracula, Horror of Dracula, The Wolf Man, Shivers, Dog Soldiers

Wine: Battely Syrah 2005

This chapter is full of ‘grab you by the jugular’ bloodsuckers, monsters of which can only be matched with the richest of reds, the most seductive of wine personalities. When savouring the plush fruits of this syrah, you’ll notice aromas of blackberry, raspberry liqueur, apricot kernel and peppery spices. Your tongue might feel a little warmed, but that’s the appeal of indulging in this intense little drop. Just sink back, relax and enjoy the experience… It won’t hurt one bit…

They Come in Peace… Or Do They?
Monsters from Outer Space

Films: Alien, The Thing, Forbidden Planet, The Blob, Pitch Black, 20 Million Miles from Earth, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Starship Troopers, Not of this Earth, Predator

Wine: Oxley Estate 2005 Graciano Merlot

These monsters hark from galaxies far, far away; unlike any creatures you’ve ever seen before. Just like this ‘Graciano Merlot’ – an ambitious blending of Spanish graciano and French merlot grapes to produce an Australian-made wine that even its producers admit ‘risks raising a few eyebrows’. It might not be traditional, but one sniff of this intensely fragrant, brilliant crimson concoction, and you can tell it is simply out of this world.

I’m Not Quite Feeling Myself Today…
Monstrous Mutations

Films: Freaks, It’s Alive, Teeth, The Brood, Cat People, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Eraserhead, Basket Case

 Symphonia Quintus 2000

Films of the ‘freakish’ variety require a wine that’s something of a mutation – not just your everyday varietal. What makes these monsters unique is that they’re abominations of the expected form, something to which Symphonia’s Quintus can easily relate. Literally named ‘five’, Quintus is a one-of-a-kind marriage of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, saperavi (Russian), tannat (French) and tempranillo (Spanish) grapes. The result is an exquisite blend that proves some things that might initially sound a little weird can actually be better than the norm




Emma is a writer, reader and horror movie aficionado. When not having the bejesus scared out of her, she wrangles content creation for her company, Bakewood.


  1. Emma – nothing takes my attention quite like a discussion on wines. This is an outstanding idea. The options are almost endless. What would you couple with “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”? (A monster movie of sorts – see Nurse Ratched).

    I have a Bailey’s 1920s Block Shiraz. Its only about 400 years old so I’ll keep it a bit longer before opening.


  2. There is such an obvious answer (insert name of well known grog monster) + anything fermented.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great list Emma, wine and horror.
    What do you recommend for ‘The Conjuring’?
    Is there a wine strong enough?

  4. neilbelford says

    Brilliant. I think you need to follow up with sic fi movies – by projection Oxley Estate 2005 Graciano Merlot would suit Bladerunner so as I am planning to watch that again soon I will have to track some down – or have I made the wrong projection – do I really need Symphonia Quintus 2000.

    Q. What should I drink while watching Apocalypse Now – I am planning on getting my hands on the full length version of that soon too.

  5. Loved your creativity Emma, and I would certainly be partial to the Michelini Sparkling Merlot and the Feathertop Pinot Gris.
    But at risk of being the gloomy gus, I found the intro didn’t ring true for me. Sad to say there are many 200 word stories littering my desktop because the second; third; fourth glass found me 800 words short of a conclusion.
    From my own experience as a sometime overly contemplative depressive, I find that the second glass has me staring dreamily into space while my brilliant creative impulses disappear with the last remaining serotonin (alcohol is after a depressant despite what those cheery ads would have us believe).
    I thought of 2 articles that make the point – one from the New Yorker chronicling Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Dorothy Parker et al. There are a few late chapters missing in that group thanks to booze, shotguns, cancer and cirrhosis.
    The other by the great writer and recenty deceased film critic Roger Ebert about his recovery from alcoholism –
    I liked his line “I worked every day while I was drinking, and my reviews weren’t half bad. I’ve improved since then.”
    For mine, I find that not drinking or strictly keeping to one improves the quality and definitely the quantity of my writing output.
    A few drinks is great, but not to be romanticised too much.

  6. Emma Westwood says

    Dips – For ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, I suggest a little something called Bottle #3. And, hold onto that 1920s Block Shiraz just a little bit longer… or until you invite me to dinner.

    Mulcaster – pairing of monsters to wine is endless and, of course, subjective. As is any artform.

    Phil – ‘The Conjuring’… hmmm… A possessed mother trying to kill her children. Let me ponder that. I’m guessing whatever the choice, you could pair it with ‘The Exorcist’ too.

    Neil – ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’. Good call. The Oxley Estate will prove an affable viewing companion.

    PB – You’re absolutely right. I should have included a disclaimer ‘Always drink (and write) responsibly’. There’s a fine line between inspiration and then complete drivel. And often that line is just one glass.

  7. Wine and writing: two fine choices. So why not combine them.

    Cracking idea and piece.

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