jamie goode's wine blog: Oz and James and their adventure

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Oz and James and their adventure

Last night saw the return of wine to prime time national televsion, in the form of Oz and James' Big Wine Adventure. James May, of Top Gear fame, is the newbie who knows nothing about wine. Oz Clarke, a gifted taster who achieved a degree of celebrity status as wine expert on the Food and Drink Programme, has the task of convincing May that French wines are interesting. He's cast as the 'wine ponce', and James begins by predicting, 'I think Oz will turn out to be quite an annoying man'.

Oz concentrates on getting James to recognize smells he might later encounter in wines. He even gets him to sniff cow pats. James retorts by introducing a whistle which he christens 'the Ozzilator', destined to be blown whenever he deems Oz to be entering wine bore territory.

The first wine stop is Bordeaux, and Pichon-Longueville Comtesse Lalande. Here the producers decide to tackle the drink-drive issue head on: James doesn't taste the wine at all. Sensible enough, but it does make it rather hard for the poor chap to learn anything.

Then we have the embarassing scene where Oz and James share a Jacuzzi of grape juice and are later hosed down wearing nothing but some rather odd-looking posing pouches. Next stop is Pichon Baron with a rather bemused Christian Seely and his wife, who serve three wines to our hosts. Here are James' comments:

2001 Suduiraut - model aircraft dope
1989 Pichon Baron - Trebor fruit salad (an old sweet)
1988 Pichon Baron - Bonfire. Bakes Sausage. Pork fat high note. Virginian tobacco.

After a stunt where Oz drives a 2CV across a field with a basket of eggs on the passenger seat (they don't break), it's off to the Roussillon to pick grapes and try making wine. Interstingly, the featured domaine is Matassa, which is run by Tom Lubbe and Sam Harrop (who I know well).

Next stop is Provence, with Oz' brother, and then Oz and James try their hand at making their own wine from some supermarket grapes. They then present this wine blind at a market, with two other wines - one expensive and one cheap. Almost everyone prefers the expensive wine, although one nutter opts for the bizarre homebrew.

Overall, not a bad programme. It's great to see wine on TV again, and given the constraints of making a wine show for newbies, this was pretty good. The pace was about right, and both Oz and James are good on telly. My only worry is that the contrast between the two (enthusiastic wine ponce versus Victor Meldrew-like curmudgeonly cynic) will be hammed up just a little too much.

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At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Wouldn't it be luvverly if television was to treat the subject with a modicum of respect and an iota of intelligence? The whole "Adventure" set up reeks of Holidays from Hell and Wife Swap (it should really be on ITV when you think about it), although you have to wonder how much ham constitutes this particular TV sandwich. In every wine programme the presenters invariably take centre stage; never the wine, the vineyard, the landscape, the culture, the history, and God forbid that we actually settle in a region long enough to take a look around and get a sense of place. And then the gimmicks; these remind me of Robert Altman's wonderful movie The Player wherein would-be directors pitch dafter and dafter ideas to producers to find the perfect "hook" for their movie. Finally, this idea that wine is middle-class and poncey: when are we going to bury that dead canard? It's so facile setting up conflict based on perceived matters of taste or issues of class.

So it's a prog for wine newbies (or Top Gear presenters). Much as I love Oz I don't think he's the ideal foil for James - too operatic; it should be Jancis. Now that would be TV I would pay to see!

At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

A girl in my office, who is a total not a wino, said it was the worst piece of television she had seen in a while, and was disgusted by the ignorance and ineptitude that James May seems to put on.

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous farley said...

Ah, well. It could have been something. Not that I could view it anyway over here in the States. But I agree with Doug that Jancis would make a marvelous wine expert for this situation (or any).

At 12:16 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Hmmm, James does seem to be coming across badly. Let's hope he improves in the second episode.

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