The Wine Show: hit or miss?
Finally, wine gets another go at being on the box.
It's been a decade since Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure, so the buzz surrounding The Wine Show has been humming for a while
Fronted by Matthews Rhys and Goode, with Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer in supporting wine "expert" roles, it's a very glossy looking production (as you'd hope if it was £2 million of your money spent on it).
Unlike Oz Clarke and James May's foray into wine back in 2006, this is a colossal 13-part series, so it's undoubtedly premature to judge it fairly when just one episode has been broadcast (catch it again on ITV next Saturday at 16:25).
Deciding to base the two actors in Umbria, and so placing Italy at the epicentre of the show is a brave and brilliant choice. Sure, France gets a look in (no less than Chateau Margaux in this first episode), but it's fantastic to see somewhere else given the focus for a change.
As yet, of course, it never rains, nor is overcast in wine country. But this is television, so we wouldn't necessarily expect to see that. Vines are in rude health, laden with leaves and ripe grapes. But again, bare canes and pruning don't make for great TV.
Apparently it was originally conceived with Fattorini/Singer as sole presenters, and you can't help but feel there's a jarring between the sections with Rhys/Goode in their Umbrian castle and those sections where the winos go off on their travels.
Running at 50 minutes an episode, there didn't seem to be a common thread to link everything together. Unless of course you count the ruthless add-on marketing, with Joe Fattorini regularly imploring us to check out the website and Twitter.
There you'll find plenty of plugs for series sponsor Aldi, and if you check on the wines featured, they're all available to buy on Amazon, from The Wine Show of course. In fact, pop "Joe Fattorini" into the search box on Amazon, and you'll find out what's coming up in the next 12 episodes, since they are already listed and for sale.
To be expected I suppose, if you've taken £2 million from investors.
The Coravin section though (a fancy device for taking a sample of wine from a bottle that'll set you back a good few hundred pounds), was clumsy product placement at its worst. Though Fattorini's obvious delight at the contraption was beautifully displaced by Rhys'
The slightly awkward smiles on Goode and Fattorini's faces as the former read out the safety instructions you can't help but think were down to Coravin's demands. (It puts argon gas into the bottle as it draws out a sample, and some poor bugger had one explode in the States, so you get a neoprene jacket to go over the bottle now).
There was a particularly cringe-worthy section where Fattorini did his best Dr Evil impression, sat in a leather chair, fire roaring behind him, to ask the Matthews,
Despite Rhys' attempt at "pizza toppings", he triumphantly tells them, "Italy's noble families."
Which would be all well and good; except neither Machiavelli nor Vespucci were born into noble families. You'd think £2 million would get you decent research too.
This is all a lead in to sending them off to check out some (very nice) Italian wines called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
One problem; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has nothing to do with "Italy's noble families". It was invented in 1925 by Adamo Fanetti.
There was also scant attention paid to the grape variety that goes into Vino Nobile; Sangiovese (known locally as Prugnolo Gentile).
This is a shame, since many a non-wine buff watching the programme will probably pick a bottle of the much more common Montepulciano d'Abruzzo from their local supermarket, and wonder what on earth the presenters were making such a fuss about. (made from Montepulciano grapes; very different in flavour)
At least, albeit a tiny section, food is coming into it too. Just wish there was more; and after all, food programming is a tried-and-tested formula (look at old Rick Stein; they'll be trotting him out with his Zimmer before long).
Whatever its failings, it could be another decade before wine is on TV again. So give it a chance; you might enjoy it.
Will it win over any converts to wine? I wonder, but somehow doubt it. Really hope they feature it on Googlebox though; that would be good television.