In the prologue, a young Max Skinner, whose parents have died in an accident, spends his childhood summer holidays learning to appreciate the finer things in life at his Uncle Henry's vineyard estate in Provence in south-eastern France. Some 25 years later, Max is an unethical yet very successful hard-working London-based bond trader with a sense of humour.
Following his uncle's death, Max is the sole beneficiary of the French property. He travels to Provence to prepare a quick sale. Shortly after arriving he almost knocks a local café owner, Fanny Chenal, off her bicycle as a result of his careless driving. Subsequently, he discovers that his latest City financial stunt has caused real trouble for the owners of the trading company he works for, and the CEO orders him to return to London as soon as possible.
To assist in his planned sale of the property, Max hurriedly snaps some photos and in the process falls into an empty swimming pool. He is unable to escape until Fanny Chenal, driving by and spotting his rental car, appears and turns on the water supply in retaliation. This delay causes Max to miss his flight and, having failed to report to the directors in person, he is suspended from work and trading activities for one week.
On Henry's estate, Max must deal with a gruff, dedicated winemaker, Francis Duflot, who fears being separated from his precious vines. Duflot pays a vineyard inspector to tell Max that the soil is bad and the vines worthless.
In the meantime, they are surprised by the unexpected arrival of young Napa Valley oenophile Christie Roberts, who is backpacking through Europe and claims to be Henry's previously unknown illegitimate daughter. Like Max, Christie finds the house wine unpalatable but is impressed by Max's casual offering of the boutique Le Coin Perdu ("the lost corner") vintage, noting some intriguing characteristics. Max is concerned that she might lay claim to the estate and brusquely interrogates her during dinner at the Duflot house.
Max gets updates on office politics from his assistant Gemma, who warns him of the ambitious antics of other employees. To ensure he is not usurped by Kenny, his second-in-command in London, through whom Max continues to direct trades, Max intentionally gives the ambitious young trader bad advice, getting Kenny fired.
Max becomes enamoured with the beautiful, feisty café owner Fanny, who is rumoured to have sworn off men. He successfully woos Fanny into his bed, where she leaves him the next morning, expecting him to return to his life in London.
A disillusioned Christie also decides to move on. Max finds his uncle's memoirs, which contain proof of Christie's heritage. However, he bids her farewell while handing her an unexplained note inside a book she was reading. While informing Duflot of the pending estate sale, Max learns that the mysterious expensive Le Coin Perdu was made by Henry and Duflot with "illegal vines" from the estate, bypassing wine classification and appellation laws.
The estate is sold and Max returns to London where Sir Nigel, the company chairman, offers him a choice: "Money or your life" - either a discharge settlement, which includes "a lot of zeros," or the partnership in the trading firm, where he would then be "made for life". Max asks about Nigel's art in the conference room, which Fanny has a copy of in her restaurant. Upon Nigel's dismissive comment that the real one is kept in a vault and the $200,000 copy in the office is for show, Max reconsiders if he wants to still be like Nigel.
Max invalidates the estate's sale with the farewell letter he gave to Christie, which he forged, along with real photos confirming Christie as Henry's daughter with a valid claim to the estate (as a child Max signed cheques for his uncle, and is able to replicate his handwriting and signature).
He puts his London residence up for sale and returns to Provence, entering into a relationship with Fanny. Christie also returns and she and Francis jointly run the vineyard while trying to reconcile their vastly different philosophies of wine production. Meanwhile, Max is now able to focus his entire attention on Fanny.Russell Crowe as Max Skinner
Albert Finney as Uncle Henry
Marion Cotillard as Fanny Chenal
Abbie Cornish as Christie Roberts
Didier Bourdon as Francis Duflot
Isabelle Candelier as Ludivine Duflot
Freddie Highmore as Young Max Skinner
Tom Hollander as Charlie Willis
Rafe Spall as Kenny
Richard Coyle as Amis
Archie Panjabi as Gemma
Kenneth Cranham as Sir Nigel
Daniel Mays as Bert, the doorman
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as notaire Natalie Auzet
Giannina Facio as Maitre D'
Ridley Scott had owned a house in Provence for fifteen years, and wanted to film a production there. Scott Free president Lisa Ellzey recommended the works of author Peter Mayle, who had written best-selling books set in the south of France. Scott and Mayle were acquaintances and neighbours, having worked together in advertising and commercials during the 1970s, but as the author did not want to write a screenplay, he instead wrote a new book after discussing a film plot with Scott. Screenwriter Marc Klein was brought in after Scott read an adaptation he did of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing – eventually released in 2007 as Suburban Girl.
Klein had to expand and alter the story of the book to make the adaptation "more movie-like". A particular focus was to add conflict, with changes such as turning Fanny from a gentle character to a stubborn woman who starts without sympathy for Max. Another addition was the scene where Max falls in the swimming pool, which Scott said was to demonstrate "[that] the house had not let him go". The director wanted to portray Uncle Henry on screen instead of just describing him. While writer Marc Klein first suggested depicting him as a ghost, Scott's attempts at that did not work so he used flashbacks which "occur just as another scene" where it would depict "the grooming of Max as child which will be used as payoffs for the three acts that follow". Klein described Henry as "sounding like Albert Finney" so Scott hired the actor, with whom he had worked in The Duellists. Scott brought Russell Crowe as the protagonist Max. The actor stated that it was a good opportunity for them to reunite after 2000's Gladiator as "it just seemed more fun to go into this smaller place, where the problems weren't as vast." The character was considered a change from Crowe's usual roles, with some noting it may reflect "maturity" or "contentment", with Australia's Courier-Mail dubbing him "A Mellow Fellow". Crowe said of his life at the time: "[I'm] relaxed ... Work isn't the most important thing in my life now. It's not even in the top ten." The actor also stressed the importance of his family. Scott also stated one of the reasons for the project was that he had "not done much in the way of comedy" and it seemed to be a good opportunity to "keep challenging yourself".
The film was shot throughout nine weeks in 2005, mostly in locations Scott described as "eight minutes from my house". French locations were filmed at Bonnieux, Cucuron and Gordes in Vaucluse, Marseille Provence Airport, and the rail station in Avignon. London locations included Albion Riverside in Battersea, Broadgate, the Bluebird Cafe on King's Road in Chelsea, and Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly Circus. The scene with the tennis match between Max and Duflot was added on the set, replacing an argument at the vines to provide "a battle scene". As the swimming pool on Chateau La Canorgue did not fit the one Scott had envisioned from the scene, only the scenes outside the pool were filmed there. The one after Max had fallen was dug and concreted nearby, and the original one had its bottom replaced digitally to match. The production team could not film the wine cave from La Canorgue as they shot during the period where it was being used, so the wine cellar from a nearby hotel was turned into a cave. While southern France does not have clay courts as the weather makes them hard to maintain, Scott wanted one for its dirty and beaten up aspect, so the tennis court was built from scratch, including posts straight from the Wimbledon courts. Fanny's cafe was shot in a Gordes restaurant, with designer Sonja Klaus decorating it with items bought from second-hand shops considering the character would have done the same. Klaus employed a kitsch decoration on Duflot's estate to show it was "a character keeping up with the Joneses – if it was in America, he would drive a golden Cadillac with leopard skin print seats", and decorated the large water basin of Cucuron with floating candles to "make it look like a fabulous event" for Max's dinner with Fanny.
Marc Streitenfeld worked as a music editor on Hans Zimmer's Remote Control Productions and was invited by Scott to make his debut as a film score composer. The soundtrack includes "Moi Lolita" by Alizée, "Breezin' Along with the Breeze" by Josephine Baker, "Gotta Get Up", "Jump into the Fire", and "How Can I Be Sure of You" by Harry Nilsson, "Hey Joe" by Johnny Hallyday, "Vous, qui passez sans me voir" and "J'attendrai" by Jean Sablon, "Le chant du gardien" by Tino Rossi, "Je chante" by Charles Trenet, "Old Cape Cod" by Patti Page, "Walk Right Back" by the Everly Brothers, "Boum!" by Adrien Chevalier, and "Itsy Bitsy Petit Bikini" by Richard Anthony. The CD includes only 15 songs from the film; several are left out.
A Good Year was theatrically released in the United Kingdom on October 27, 2006 and in the United States on November 10, 2006 by 20th Century Fox.
A Good Year was released on DVD on February 27, 2007 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The film grossed $42,061,749. As of 2010, it has earned over $7 million in US DVD sales.
The film received negative reviews from critics. It holds a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 129 reviews, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A Good Year is a fine example of a top-notch director and actor out of their elements, in a sappy romantic comedy lacking in charm and humor." In Variety, Todd McCarthy wrote that the film is a "divertissement" that is easy to watch, but "doesn't amount to much". Stephen Holden's review in The New York Times called it "a three-P movie: pleasant, pretty and predictable. One might add piddling". Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan said, "the fact that we know exactly what will happen [...] is not what's wrong with A Good Year. After all, we go to films like this precisely because the satisfaction of emotional certainty is what we're looking for. What we're not looking for is a romantic comedy made by individuals with no special feeling for the genre who stretch a half hour's worth of story to nearly two hours". Comparing it to Under the Tuscan Sun, Love Actually, and Roman Holiday, Jessica Reaves of the Chicago Tribune said The Good Year was "unbearably sweet and emotionally lifeless". British film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian that it was "a humourless cinematic slice of tourist gastro-porn".
In a book-length study of Ridley Scott's film career, Adam Barkman summarized the general critical response to A Good Year as "lightweight as far as most critics were concerned" and that it "offer[ed] little in comparison to the combined commercial and critical success of the next venture, [American Gangster], the biopic of Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas".