The Wine Show: at last, wine on mainstream TV in the UK, but is it any good?

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So, wine is on mainstream TV. A new series of 13 one-hour episodes has just started airing on prime time Sunday evening ITV4, and will be repeated the following weekend at an earlier slot on ITV. It’s called The Wine Show, and this evening on catch up I watched the first episode. The wine trade has been quite excited to see this show arrive, and it’s had some very positive reviews. What did I make of it?

The series was made by Russ Lindsay’s Infinity Creative Media, which describes itself as making ‘investor funded television’. So they raise funds, make the series (they have made several similar series in this 13 x 1 h format) and then sell it to networks, rather than the usual commissioning method where a production company pitches an idea and pilot and then makes the series once it has been bought.

The Wine Show is built around four presenters. There are two actors, the Matthews Goode and Rhys, who are joined by wine experts Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer. I have to declare here that I know both Joe and Amelia, who are really nice people, so this may slant my objectivity here. Both the Matthews are cast as the novices who need educating by Joe, who seems to be the main focal point of the show. In the first episode, Amelia is just filmed on location.

Things begin in an Umbrian villa, where both the Matthews are resident. The idea is that Joe brings back wines for them to try, and this then leads into a filmed segment showing Joe in situ finding these wines. For this first show, he’s in South Africa, telling the story of Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance. He finds himself in the vineyard at 4 am in the morning. Why am I here? he asks, as if he had no idea he was about to witness grapes being picked. While it’s nicely filmed, the segment sounds like an advertorial for Klein Constantia: it’s just so flattering and glowing (there was no payment for inclusion: this was purely an editorial decision, which makes the sycophancy even worse). When Joe gets to taste the wine, he builds up the reverence and excitement. It’s as if he’s never tried Vin de Constance before.

The next segment is back in Italy, where Joe is taking the Matthews through some wine gadgets. This also looks like an advertorial, even though it isn’t. After this, there’s a lengthy food segment, where a chef chooses a wine and then makes a dish to go with it. This will be repeated each week with a different chef.

Then we are back to Italy where Joe is tasked with introducing the Matthews to Italian wine by sending them around the country. Their first stop is Montepulciano, where they try some Vino Nobile with an Italian wine expert who talks jargon that must have left them quite confused. They have to select wine to take back to Joe. They clearly are well out of their depth. Then we see a barrel-pushing race in the town.

Next: Joe and Amelia are sent off to different locations to make wine. Amelia goes to the Clare Valley in Australia, while Joe goes to Château Margaux. Amelia does some punch downs, while Joe does some pump overs. This also gets jargon filled (the fault of the winemakers, not the presenters), and some of the terms are a bit confused: since when is pressing to barrel ‘clarification’, and when is a press a ‘crusher’?

I watched the whole hour and came away with mixed feelings. The locations are lovely, and all the presenters do a good job. You’d expect actors to be good on camera, but Joe and Amelia are also really good.

But the show itself is a mish-mash. If you are into wine, it’s not interesting. If you aren’t into wine, it’s not really interesting either. And the wines featured in the first episode are an odd bunch. Start a popular wine TV program with a sweet wine? Really? It’s lots of little segments, joined together, with no real narrative structure. It all feels a bit retrofitted: Joe and Amelia have travelled the world shooting material, and then someone has tried to stitch it altogether with the actors and the Italian filming, and some cookery segments thrown in for good measure. I’ll give it a second chance. But the Top Gear of wine it ain’t.

12 comments to The Wine Show: at last, wine on mainstream TV in the UK, but is it any good?

  • Jamie,

    Half a lifetime ago I was involved in such a project as this show, although not about wine.The Ontario provincial public broadcaster (TVOntario) contracted a production company to do a vast number of short series on various topics. The stipulation being that each series be a blend of information with a significant How-To/DIY component. The most popular topics included beer, cabinetry and kites.

    I was one of the hosts in the kite series, called Kite Crazy. Thankfully, it predated the internet so I cannot give you a link to see that younger me.

    This series was profoundly successful. So much so that the production company inquired as to the networks potential appetite for follow-on shows on the most popular topics. The response was a most resounding and resolute, No!

    There’s an audience for entry-level-anything (Wine 101, or WSET 1 if you prefer), because there are huge numbers of people unfamiliar with any topic. Try to do anything in depth (WSET Advanced?) and the potential audience falls off dramatically, so broadcasters have no interest.

    I suspect that a series on wine is likely to be unsatisfactory all around. Too general for the Wine Enthusiast (or Spectator.) Too much random detail & lingo for the novice.

    Wine is really a lot of what the Yanks call “Inside Baseball.”

    Keep up the good work,

    Michael

  • Philip

    I watched with great anticipation, unfortunately the show was a let down. clearly not due to lack of budget but lack of decent presenters. all I witnessed was a bunch of adults acting like children who had never been in front of a camera before.

    when they finally did taste wine, it was simply monosyllabic comments regarding what they were drinking, with no real detail or the region, variety, production or tasting notes. a real shame, this could have been a great outing for wine in the mainstream.

    as a passionate wine enthusiast, I was very disappointed.

    @Jamie, its a shame they didn’t ask you to present

  • BT

    I’m glad at least one person professionally connected with wine has been able to exercise some critical judgement. Most wine writers I’ve seen commenting on Twitter have given the programme an amazingly easy ride.

    I thought Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer both seemed like decent broadcasters who knew their subject, but the cringy Apprentice-style scenes where Joe sets the Matthews a ‘challenge’ and sits in judgement on them when they return were a big fail. He can’t fill up that wine carrier fast enough, as far as I’m concerned, but I guess it’ll take him all series.

    The two Matthews were smug and managed to be neither informative, charming nor entertaining. Overall it seemed scripted, derivative and cheesy. And, like you, I disliked the advertorial elements and thought it was odd to start with sweet wine. I forced myself to watch to the end but one episode of the Cheese and Wine Show was more than enough.

  • Good review and comments. I haven’t seen it yet, to be able to add anything. I suppose there aren’t enough hardcore winos around to do a geeky show.

    Would something like Qwoff TV work?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mukImrrcGs8

    Two amiable presenters who really are into wine, interviewing some of their heroes in an informative but amusing way.

  • Matthew Rhys stars in my favorite show! Has he choked anyone to death on this one yet?

  • Damien

    That’s quite funny you picked up on Qwoff Andrew. I always thought their work really good, but having shown quite a few people in the UK, most recoiled from its “too Aussie” angle.

    Those 2 guys of course went on to found the very successful Vinomofo (with more videos like that on their site), and with $25 million in venture funding, they’re planning on small scale, pop-up businesses in the UK, New Zealand, USA, Singapore, China and Hong Kong over the next few months.

    So I guess, yes, that style clearly can work! Think they’ll knock the established online retailers for six TBH

  • I think it’s great that there is critical review coming out on this too – as should be with all things. I haven’t been able to see it yet, since (as usual) SA broadcasting must first show us every episode of Friends and Top Gear season 1-51 before they deign to give us anything new to watch but I’m trying to “find” it online so I too can decide for myself.

    I have to say, there’s been something uniquely charming and almost endearing about the way it’s been marketed and put to the viewer. Let’s be honest here, the choice of Matthew and Matthew to host will in itself draw a couple of demographics simply because they’re handsome and already popular in their own right as actors. Smart move there. And taking nothing away from Oz Clarke and James May (both of whom I love watching), for example, but eye candy backed by substance never goes amiss. I can’t judge the substance of the show in entirety since I’ve only seen the trailers and snippets though.

    I personally don’t think the series presents itself AS a “wine 101″ format (compared to, e.g. Gordon Ramsays Ultimate Cookery Course which was a 20 part series walking people through some basic cooking skills and recipes to boot) so the fact that it doesn’t begin with the usual Introduction to Wine narf is great (she says, again, only able to garner a partial view from the trailers).

    Will people watch this? Will they learn something from wine (even if it is only a jot here or there)? I think so.

    Or maybe I’m just gagging for something of similar theme and quality to be produced locally, here in SA. The dregs we are left with sometimes leaves me utterly bereft.

  • Matt

    It’s not rocket science. It’s an easy on the eye and humorous hour of Telly. Don’t over complicate it. I think the ratings will grow and this will have some legs.

  • Damien

    Episode 2 didn’t improve much; some real clangers on the whole Super-Tuscan section. Sad the wine they end up tasting with Fattorini from Col d’Orcia is actually a Sangiovese-Ciliegiolo blend, and so not even a Super Tuscan.

    However, it’s only available in the UK from The Wine Show via Amazon; neat product placement.

    Came across this (very) American antidote though, on demand to download. Features Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen in Arrow), and Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), so think will appeal much more to the sub-30 millienial group.

    http://www.dudesbeingdudesinwinecountry.com/

  • @Damien ; Re Dudes Being Dudes, apparently it didn’t appeal *that* much. Seems only 2 episodes made (or released) and that was a year ago… Maybe too Dude-y?

  • JW

    I have to agree with Philip on this program, two actors who appear to be acting O/T with racous laughter about unfunny lines does nothing to draw you in, it is not a question as to whether this is a good wine show, the question is it a good show period and it fails.
    In it’s efforts to be all things to all men the simplistic bit was so overdone as to be pointless, lot of money has been spent on making this show look good and that sadly is about it.
    Rhys by the way had never tasted wine pre the show, fine but suddenly you are on a juncket round Tuscany and giving an opinion on the stuff, the wife who is not into wine summed it up in two words “nice pictures”, so I suppose some will watch for that alone.

  • Ben

    I would like to watch this show to broaden my limited knowledge of wine but I cannot bear one second of smug middle class twat Matthew Goode. Yes I probably am a little smug-middle-class-twat-a-phobic which I think is understandable since I live in nappy valley. However Goode is on another level rivaling George Osborne as being instantly dislikeable.

    I didn’t realise he was successful actor which is depressing. So two of the three ways for working class people improve their lot acting and music (the other being sport) have been taken over by the private school educated elite.

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