Series 3 Episode 2
Any Old Port in a Storm

Episode Overview

Series 3

Episode 2

First broadcast: 1973

3 cigars

“If Columbo was a less classy programme, this episode would probably be called 'The Grapes of Wrath' or something.“

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It's a happy Sunday and winemaker Adrian Carsini is at his vineyard with four fellow wine connoisseurs. Leaving the room under the guise of getting a new bottle of wine that is breathing in his office, he listens in on the intercom as his tasters discuss and agree making Adrian the wine industry's Man of the Year.

Whilst out of the room he bumps into his secretary, Joan, who is making some last minute preparations for their trip to wine auctions in New York. She informs Adrian that his younger half-brother, Ric, is in the building.

Playboy, adventurer, scuba-diving and fun-loving Ric was given ownership of the vineyard land on the death of their father, whilst Adrian was given the money and the business.

Infuriated by what Ric sees as Adrian's squandering of the money on collecting expensive wines, Ric informs Adrian that he is getting married, wants some money and so will be selling the land to a rival, bargain basement vineyard. Adrian is incensed, proclaiming that it is Ric who has been wasting money all his life.

The argument climaxes with Adrian attacking Ric with a vase from the desk, knocking Ric unconscious.

After celebrating his man of the year nomination and seeing his guests leave, Adrian hides Ric's body in the wine cellar and ties him up. Turning off the air conditioning and humidifier, Adrian leaves the building, hides Ric's car and heads off to New York where he spends a fortune in wine auctions. On his return a week later he finds Ric now dead, dresses him in scuba gear and drives Ric's car up to a secluded point and throws Ric's body in the sea.

Whilst he's away, Ric's fiancée Karen heads to the police station late at night and finds Lieutenant Columbo and reports Ric missing. The body is washed ashore shortly after...

Cleverness of the way Columbo catches out the murderer

Columbo often proclaims that it's the little things that get to him on an investigation - the little things that niggle away and make him want to dig further. That little thing that sets him off in this case is Ric's convertible parked on the cliffs with the hood down. Whilst most are assuming it was a tragic diving accident, Columbo has one his doubts and on hearing how long Ric has been dead, starts thinking.

Death is supposed at Tuesday, but he recalls Tuesday having some bad weather - if the car had been out, it wouldn't have been as spotless as they found it. Later he finds out that Ric hadn't eaten for two days...

Meanwhile he takes his time to find out more about Adrian Carsini and wine. Carsini takes Columbo under his wing and tries to teach him a little about the fine grape, and shows him the wine cellar where his fine wines are stored - taking great interest in the cooling and humidity systems.

Columbo also remembers that whilst the weather had been particularly hot shortly a few days after the bad weather, and realises that his the air-conditioning system had been out of action, wine in the cellar would have gone off. Under the rouse of being shown that no one could get stuck in the wine cellar, he steals a fine bottle of port

Meanwhile Joan has become suspicious of Carsini's behaviour and proclaims to Columbo that she saw Ric leave the vineyard on the Sunday, and uses the cover up to try and emotionally blackmail Adrian into being her husband.

Under the guise of apologising to Carsini for his behaviour, Columbo invites Carsini and Joan to a swanky restaurant of Carsini's choosing. Columbo goes on to impress Carsini by suggesting fine wines for each course, culminating with a rare and expensive bottle of port.

On tasting the port, Carsini loudly proclaims that it has been ruined by exposure to heat. After leaving the restaurant in a loud scene, Carsini heads to the vineyard and realises that whilst he was in New York, his expensive wines had been spoiled.

Columbo catches Carsini throwing bottles of wine off the cliffs and reveals that the port came from Carsini's own cellar. Carsini realises he has been snared. He is one of the few people in the country who could have noticed the port had been spoiled and Columbo has ensured that his own knowledge has caught him out.

Convolutedness of the murder

Unlike most Columbo murders, this one was not planned. A strike to the head by a blunt instrument is not particularly convoluted. That said, death is actually by suffocation caused by the body being placed in the wine cellar. Although that's still not hugely convoluted.

How annoyed does the murderer get with Columbo?

Another rarity in Columbo. Carsini remains calm and seems to like Columbo. Indeed there is some admiration felt on both sides. Columbo's humour and style seem to gel with Carsini, although less can be said about that by Carsini's secretary who doesn't seem to get on with the master detective quite so well.

The smug-richness factor

You might be sensing a theme. Carsini's not a smug rich git, although does spend a fortune on wine. That said, he is a bit of a wine snob.

Quality of sub-plot

The sub-plot consists of little more than Carsini's secretary being secretly in love with him. Not much of a sub-plot as they go.

Mentions of Mrs Columbo

Mrs Columbo gets few mentions, bar a suggestion she might be at the meal in the restaurant subject to them getting a babysitter.

What new-fangled thing does Columbo learn about this episode?


Was anyone given sedatives?

People were given wine - does that count? I mean, it does make you sleepy if you have enough of it...

Deviations from the norm and inconsistencies with other Columbo episodes

Although they're not specifically mentioned, Columbo's statement that Mrs C couldn't get a babysitter suggests they have children, and relatively young ones too. There can be few episodes - if any - where children are mentioned, and none are certainly ever seen. In one later episode, RIP Mrs Columbo, he even proclaims he has none. None are seen at any wedding Columbo attends (which must be, what, all one of them?) and none are mentioned when the pair go on holiday on a cruise and to Mexico. Still, that doesn't mean there aren't any, just that mentioning them is rare.

And of course the babysitting excuse was probably just an easy one to make Mrs Columbo's absence excusable.

Appearances by the Regular Cast

If I was to say Italian maître-d, what would you say? I'd say Vitto Scotti and I'd hope you would too.


If Columbo was a less classy programme, this episode would probably be called "The Grapes of Wrath" or something. But it isn't so it wasn't.

Despite breaking most of the Columbo rules about rich, obnoxious murderers who hate the detective, this is a fine watch. It's a good example of a simple episode which has a lot of fun on the way.

Your View


Posted on 24 September 2012 at 6:12 AM

The wine got hot and that gave Columbo the info that the guy killed his brother? I don't get it. My least favorite episode I've ever seen.


Posted on 12 October 2012 at 7:12 PM

Adrian Carsini was one of the very few who could have noticed how heat changes the wine's properties, and since the bottle had come from his his own cellar, Columbo knew Carsini was the murderer since Carsini had turned off the air conditioning, allowing the heat to ruin his collection.

Floris Frieswijk

Posted on 18 October 2012 at 12:16 PM

I just saw this episode today, and I share Humphrey's feelings. I didn't get it at first, and still I don't see it as evidence for the murder. Besides, I don't get why turning off the airco was essential at all for the murder!? With the airco on, the guy would have been dead as well by the time he got back. So for us to link this to his wine being spoilt as final proof for him being the killer is beyond me. Leaves with a bit of a funny feeling (have I missed something?) for an actually very classic Columbo episode.


Posted on 1 December 2012 at 12:43 PM

One of my favourite episodes. I enjoyed the rapport between Carsini (Donald Pleasence on top form as his usual diffident character) and Columbo. I think it makes a nice change from the usual smug/adversarial suspects. If I remember rightly, they even shake hands at the end when Carsini is taken away.

Oh and by the way, Carsini had to turn the air-con off to ensure that his brother died from heat exhaustion/suffocation in the sealed cellar. With the air-con and humidifier switched on, he could have come round and survived.


Posted on 24 December 2012 at 2:16 PM

I've never understood how the spoiled wine proves anything about the murder at all. I love Columbo, but this is one of the lamest endings ever.


Posted on 12 March 2013 at 11:41 PM

One of my favorite episodes.

Glen Ulrici

Posted on 21 March 2013 at 9:40 PM

Yes, this episode of Columbo is a tough one to reconcile. What does the temp inside the wine cellar have to do with the murder? I think it goes like this- Adrian Carsini lives for one thing- his wine & his wine collection. He says as much in the episode. Other than this one "flaw" he is a decent man one who wouldn't normally break the law under any circumstances. Columbo has suspicions plus some circumstantial evidence against Mr Carsini but knew nothing but a full confession would convict. Columbo cleverly lets Mr Carsini discover that his wine collection is ruined by his own actions therefore rendering his collection worthless & all the effort, time, & passion of the best years of his life (in his eyes)- a waste! Therefore he killed his brother for nothing- what else is left but have a last sip & turn himself in.


Posted on 23 April 2013 at 10:13 AM

This is a great episode as far as character development, but very weak with the supposed "evidence". I know Peter Falk himself loved the episode (the only one of the "Columbo's favorite Columbos" I managed to tape in 1996), as did Mark Dawidziak who wrote "The Columbo Phile", but, yes, the ending is quite inexplicable, although good for dramatic purposes.

I love the Carsini character, especially his "theme music"- the recurring melody that is done in an especially dramatic way in the closing credits. The setting's great, too, and is a great contrast from the locations from the episodes right before and after. Overall a good episode, but not for those who expect the show to be an accurate portrayal of police work.

Andras Hirschler

Posted on 21 June 2013 at 9:36 PM

I fully agree with Humphrey and Floris. This episode is full of inconsistences. Why did he turn off the aircon? It made no sense. Plus: autopsy finds that Ric had not eaten for two days. But if he was in the cellar for a week - his involuntary starvation must have lasted at least a week.

Sean Cross

Posted on 29 June 2013 at 11:17 PM

I also have the opinion that this episode features a quite uncharacteristic Columbo with a plot as easy to swallow and taste as Carsini managed with his simmered 'Vintage Ferrier 1945'

His brother was shackled and would have died after a week without water; besides the large cellar had enough air if his brother had regained consciousness, and managed to get to his feet, for him to open the safety door. Carsini would not have turned off the air-conditioning protecting his preciously accumulated lifetime of crimson love, ahead of a 7 day trip.

Carsini could quite easily have played the 'air-conditioning must have failed in the heat' card anyway. Finally, Columbo sharing a sentimental 'Monte Fraiscone' moment with a cold-bloodied murderer rings decidedly off-key.

This episode tasted corked :/


Posted on 30 June 2013 at 9:37 AM

This episode is a curate's egg. The chemistry between Columbo and Carsini is good but the pay-off at the end is one of the least satisfactory.
Also, although it is rather glossed over-the murder of Carsini's brother is one of the most unpleasant in Columbo's history. He is left to die -slowly- in a cellar, while Carsini is happily off enjoying himself. This being the case, it is hard to reconcile how Columbo would warm to hi quite so much.


Posted on 15 July 2013 at 9:59 PM

Thanks for great comments. I have this episode on DVD. I think, thought I am not sure, that the DVD is defective and that I have missed an important scene or two. When Columbo calls Carsini to apology for the way he has treated him, and with the hope that Carsini does not call his superiors, I have to wonder why. From what I see Columbo does not harass Carsini at all.
I with all. The murder is gruesome. (I do not know how Columbo could like or respect a fratricide who left his brother to die miserably and slowly.) And the ending leaves much to be desired.


Posted on 16 July 2013 at 8:45 PM

I must say I am somewhat relieved to see that I am not the only one to find this episode barmy. I have watched it 3 times, one after the other, because I was convinced that I'd fallen asleep and had missed a few scenes. At the end of the 3rd viewing, I simply had to admit bafflement. Why would Carsini have turned the aircon off in the cellar containing his life's work, knowing that his wines were super sensitive to the temperature, and then go off for a week? How did Columbo know that Carsini had left the body (living or dead) in the cellar with the aircon off? Ludicrous plot, to say the least. Also, Columbo told a little porky when he said he'd taken the opportunity to steal the bottle of port that he used to 'trap' (I'm still unclear as to how!)Carsini, when Carsini supposedly demonstrated how to get out of the cellar when the door was closed. When the two of them are walking away afterwards, there is no bottle to be seen anywhere on Columbo's person, hidden or otherwise. And by the way, Carsini (Donald Pleasence) couldn't possibly have lifted his dead weight of a brother the way he did. Pleasance is not the tallest or heftiest dude around and his 'brother' was twice the size of him. Very below par all round for a Columbo! As was said by someone else, I think the whole episode was somewhat 'corked'!


Posted on 21 July 2013 at 6:50 PM

Nope, never understood the heat spoilt wine being proof of murder.
As a real Collumbo fan I have seen this episode 3 or 4 times and it still remains an oddly unsatisfying one.


Posted on 19 August 2013 at 7:45 PM

Somehow I thought there must have been a power failure that week, so that's why the wine was overheated. Doesn't Columbo in the episode say something like that? Did I supply this idea myself, or is it in the script? And also, given that Ric's body was lying in a 150-degree room for a week, oh boy. Did Adrian actually carry this revolting, sickening thing in the Ferrari and nobody could smell it in the upholstery? The writers describe the abandoned car on the cliff as appearing brand-new, in showroom condition, and one of the detectives admires its carpet and says he wants some like that at home! But that doesn't bother me. What bothered me was that I couldn't see that the overheating proved the murder. It makes sense only if you don't think there was a power failure. But now I see it, only because of the comments on this site. Thanks!


Posted on 21 August 2013 at 6:41 AM

I loved the acting of Donald Pleasence. This episode has the dual feeling of when I read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Very good story and great character development, but the end was a discredit to the rest. The story, like the wine, went over a cliff. It's still one of my favorites. Donald Pleasance is the reason.

Concerned Citizen

Posted on 26 August 2013 at 5:03 AM

Kudos to all who saw the inconsistencies in this episode. I've often wondered how the massive cellar could get hotter (150 degrees) than the outside air temp. (109.)

Besides, wine cellars, being cellars, have large thermal inertia due to the earth around them.

And Columbo taking the bottle of wine? Without a warrant? That's stealing. That could render any evidence inadmissible.


Posted on 10 September 2013 at 11:02 AM

I have just finished watching the episode and while I too loved the interchange between Falk and pleasance, I could not understand the plot! Thanks to these post for reassuring me that I am not an idiot!


Posted on 19 September 2013 at 1:52 PM

Yes, I too am puzzled by the "evidence" and don't see how an overheated wine cellar proves anything, let alone elicits an confession! Nevertheless, love the typical "Columboness" of the investigation.

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