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.
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”
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.
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!