Director Ridley Scott came up with the basic story that author Peter Mayle wrote in the book on which this film's based upon. When the book was published, Mayle's ideas were actually very different from Scott's original premise. Scott then decided to film the story as he envisioned it from the very beginning.
The line that Max says while floating in the pool (as it is filling), "What is it, Major Lawrence that attracts you personally to the desert?....It's clean." This is from the classic film, Lawrence of Arabia. Ridley Scott has another Lawrence of Arabia reference in his film, Prometheus, in which Michael Fassbender's character, David, seems to have an affinity for.
When he is inspecting the vines on his first day in Le Siroque, Max takes some dirt in his hands, rubs it together, and inhales only to discover it is Chicken droppings. This is most likely a spoof of Russell Crowe's previous (and acclaimed) performance in Ridley Scott's Gladiator where Maximus Decimus Meridius, before fighting a battle or a duel, would rub dirt through his hands and inhale.
The American customer in the restaurant is not asking for pickles when she cries out, "Gerkin!" She is trying (unsuccessfully) to say the French word for waiter (garçon), which is more correctly pronounced "Gar-SON."