The Wine Show – Series One Round-up & Review

Last weekend saw the broadcast of the final episode of The Wine Show, the first UK mainstream channel series devoted to wine since Oz and James left our screens in 2007.  The series was independently produced by Infinity Creative media and tendered out to the networks as a finished product.  Without the guarantee that the show would be picked up it’s all credit to those involved for having the foresight and production values to be able to get wine back on the small screen without a direct commission.

wine show 1

Hosted by actors and self-confessed wine novices Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode, their journey to becoming better acquainted with the world of wine is supported by experts Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer.  Together they make a great team who are always engaging on screen, with particular praise going to Matthew Rhys who is naturally funny and always ready with a witticism.

Joe: “Why did you choose this wine?”

Rhys: “Mine was the cheapest”

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Joe: “I have a dilemma”

Rhys (who is Welsh): “I know Dai Lemma, lovely boy!”

They’re clearly all having a great time and this selection of bloopers shows you just how much.  It’s also a pleasure to see that Joe, true to his word in the show, is readily available via Twitter and happy to chat to you about wine.  He truly seems like a chap you could go for a drink with.

Each episode follows a standard format, beginning with a filmed section from somewhere in the wine world, followed by a look at wine gadgets, food and wine matching, choosing a bottle of wine to create the perfect Italian case, and then one final filmed piece.

As a lover of wine facts and wine education, something I initially struggled with was the radical change of presentation style that’s been used.  Gone are the days of an introduction as to how wine is made, what styles are available, and why it is made in the countries that it is made in.  With this show you are straight in to a wine adventure, picking grapes at 4am in a vineyard in South Africa.

When I try to help others to understand the complex world of wine I always start with a few core fundamentals to give them something to balance upon; key grape varieties being one obvious example.  This didn’t seem like a first concern here and I was amused to note that the first mention of a grape variety comes a full 27 minutes in to the programme (and even this was by the guest chef rather than the hosts).  Consequently I struggled to identify whether they were trying to make wine look sexy for novices or to teach people already interested in wine, facts that they wouldn’t find in a textbook (which is done amply in the stunning location shoots).

Even though Joe is on hand to clarify the finer points, both Matt’s tasting notes frequently start and stop with “ooh, that’s good” or “I like that”.  Bottle labels aren’t poured over to wean out details such as alcohol levels, and scarcely any mention is given to bottle price, retailers or availability.  To their credit, all of the information is available on their website and signposted as such in the show, so is completely available should you wish to delve deeper.  Keeping it simple on screen allows each piece to remain relevant to all without becoming bogged down in the detail.

Once the series hit its stride my concerns were alleviated (episodes 3 and 7 are particularly brilliant in storytelling wine history and wine future) and, as each episode is standalone and could technically be slotted in anywhere in the series, I do wonder if they just started with the wrong episode?

Perhaps it was chosen as it was the only one to feature wine stalwart Bordeaux?  Opening proceedings with the sweet wines of Constantia before going on to talk about a £300 cork removal device seemed just a little bit too niche for the average viewer in my opinion.

Created initially for my own reference, I thought I would share my personal view of the series content and where I think each item sits in terms of accessibility (green indicates accessible to all, amber less so).  It’s worth clarifying that all of the content is interesting, but where gadgets/bottle prices have slipped in to the £100’s of pounds, or chef created food dishes move on from what the average viewer is likely to re-create (lobster with cabbage and strawberry cake, for example), I’ve moved the accessibility up to amber.

For completeness, I have colour coded the intro’s/outro’s in dark blue and advert breaks in grey.

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As you can see from the above, the series covers 11 countries: Portugal, Chile, France, South Africa, Australia/Tasmania, Italy, USA, Moldova, China, Santorini, and Israel.  Making full use of the allotted travel budget (and who could blame them) there were multiple films from some of the further flung places, whilst other regions were left out of the mix.

I can only hope that a second series is quickly commissioned and we get to explore the absent big hitters such as Spain, Germany and, dare I say, England!

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Aldi (7th Panel) Wine Club Tasting #3 – Exquisite Limestone Coast 2014 Chardonnay

On to the third of my Aldi tastings now and we’re back in Australia, but this time dealing with something a little bit more special.

When reviewing a wine I like to consider all aspects of it and, if having the word ‘Exquisite’ in the name is not enough, this wine hails from the Limestone Coast, which I find quite an exotic term and it transports me immediately to sunnier and foreign climes.  For me, I can almost taste the minerality and warmth.

The Limestone Coast is fairly obviously named to highlight the geological make-up of the base soils of this region of Southern Australia, and that’s important when knowing that you’re about to try a Chardonnay.  Chardonnay is of course a French grape, happiest in the quality wine regions of both Champagne and Burgundy.  What may not be so well known is that both of these French regions have a Limestone base, and this bodes extremely well for this wine.  As they’ve planted the right grape in the right place you know you’re probably in for a good tasting.

Aldi Chard

Exquisite Collection Chardonnay 2014, Limestone Coast, South Australia, 13.5%, £5.79

The wine is bottled under screw-cap, and I love the effect that the colour scheme has on the overall presentation of the bottle, with the ‘Royal’ blue off-setting the green/yellow of the bottle/contents very well.  A nice clean scripted label compliments the whole, which also tells us that this is the product of one year, and that the wine is unoaked.  This is an important point, as many New World Chardonnays faced a backlash a few years ago due to the addition of too much wood flavouring to bolster the sometimes neutral flavours of Old World Chardonnay.

Upon pouring the wine is a nice clear light straw colour with touches of gold.  The nose is good, clear and nicely intense, almost plump (if that’s possible for just a scent).  You can immediately understand that this is a rich creamy wine with a clear lemon and lime citrus hit, but also with deep honeyed characters and tropical pineapple.  It’s an incredibly fresh sensation which again brings me back to those warm and sunny days, and I swear (if it’s not too wine-geek-fanciful) that I could taste ‘blue skies’.  No?  Let’s just say then that it is a full, evocative nose.

On the palate you again get the sensations of a pleasing density and fullness and, alongside the good weight you get the fresh burst of yellow fruits including lemon, Galia melon, and the aforementioned pineapple.  There’s also a touch of florality, and a touch of honey (which I will assume to be the honeysuckle referenced on the label).

In addition to the clear fruits, this wine has much more to offer.  There’s the added warmth from the 13.5% alcohol, a lush creamy spice (which comes from its time ageing on its yeast) and a discreet smokiness that rounds out the end palate.  Overall this is a well-crafted, densely populated wine, and it’s easy to see why it forms part of the ‘Exquisite’ line.  The length was equally as impressive as I’d gone away to do something else and realised some five minutes later that I could still taste it.  Wonderful stuff.

I really like unoaked Chardonnay so didn’t actually pair this with food for this tasting.  Whilst it was absolutely perfect on its own, the smokiness and richness of the flavours would pair very well with a sauce of the same nature, or seafood and light bites in order to bring out the yellow fruit notes. A sure-fire winner and another one which, at the price-point of £5.79, is truly remarkable value for money.

With thanks to Aldi UK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.

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Laithwaites Premiere Wines – February 2016

Time for another Laithwaites Premiere tasting now, and for February we’ve been selected a South African Sauvignon Blanc and a Portuguese Red blend.  Both of these wines are new to me, so the scheme continues to offer up a low price way of trying new wines.

Laith Prem Feb16

Farmhouse Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Breedekloof WO, South Africa – 13.5%, £9.99

Another top price offering for the Premiere wines (they generally cap at £10), and an interesting one to receive, coming as it did with a case of my current favourite New World Sauvignon Blanc (which, for the record, was a former discovery via the Premiere scheme!).

Made by award winning estate Spier, this wine hails from the world famous Stellenbosch region of South Africa, which gives a clue as to the full body and ripe fruits one can expect from such a bottle.

Visually the wine is a nice clear pale lemon in colour, and on the palate there are the usual Sauvignon Blanc character traits of a green grassiness, gooseberries, passion fruit and bell pepper.  The body is mid-weight and adds cream as well as yellow pepper, dried tropical fruit, and a hefty dose of lime juice.  The acidity keeps the pace moving and, whilst refreshing, the wine for me fails to make the huge impression I expect of a New World SB.

The wine has ripe fruits and gives a decent length so perhaps I need to try it again with food, or perhaps not so close to the Chilean SB I bought it with (at the same price-point), which for me is a world class example of how to treat the grape in a New World climate.  In summary, a perfectly good weekday wine, but not top of my list for this grape at this price-point.

Stones & Bones (Red Blend) 2013, Lisboa VR, Portugal – 14%, £8.99

Not for any particular reason it has been a while since I’ve had anything from Portugal.  Loving Spanish reds as much as I do, this country tends to get pushed to the side (pun intended!).

This wine gets its name from the landscape from whence it hails, which is scattered with ancient boulders and fossils.  Winemaker Diogo Sepúlveda has previously worked in both Pomerol and Barossa, and so brings a wealth of talent, capable of bringing richness to this blend of Touriga Nacional (40%), Syrah (30%), Tinta Roriz (20%) and Alicante (10%).

The colour is a nice clear youthful purple, and the nose is at once full of ripe black fruits and brambles, as well as touches of milk chocolate and vanilla.  From the richness and depth of the nose alone you can get a sense of the warmth that will come from the alcohol (14%), as well as the touches of sweet well ripened grapes.

The palate is voluptuous, well rounded, and as full as the nose suggested.  The fruits continue to be led by black cherries and berries, joined by the spices and chocolate (erring towards dark chocolate now).  Tannins are light, and there is a lush lean refreshing acid running throughout.  This keeps the overall sensation nice and clean, even though I could describe the overall weight of the wine as ‘chewy’.  The length of the wine is substantial and somewhere over medium plus.

The literature says that the wine is best enjoyed by 2021 and I can well believe it.  My own notes describe this wine as having a palate that you can almost tell is on the cusp of something greater.  There is a complexity just waiting to burst out and, as pleasant as this is to drink right now, it will be really interesting to try this again in a few years time.  A well-made wine and a good find.

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