Thursday 5 May 2016

This Week In The Wine Show

So is this the time to talk about The Wine Show? It's been on for a few weeks now, and there are some reviews. The Guardian fessed up and announced that 'To my eternal fury, I was won over'; Will Lyons tweeted 'Brilliant first episode. Bravo'; something called The Verge demanded 'Six seasons! I demand a movie!'; Phillip Schofield called it 'Great fun and really informative'. And after Schofield has spoken, is there anything left to add? The only sour note I can find was voiced by Jamie Goode, who reckoned that 'If you are into wine, it’s not interesting. If you aren’t into wine, it’s not really interesting either' - a note which was picked up on his blog by a handful of drizzle bags who called the show 'Scripted, derivative and cheesy', 'A let down' and 'Pointless'.

And here at Sediment?

First, full disclosure.

- Yes, PK and I have had, in the past, some nervous conversations with TV producers about a telly Sediment. Needless to say, when faced with the actual prospect of putting two red-faced, grey-haired tosspots in front of the camera, those same producers quickly decided that no was the only way forward, although it was a pleasure to meet us and can we find our own way out of the building?

- On the other hand I have presented a TV series in my time and know from experience how many committed, intelligent people it takes to produce a shedload of crap.

- I had never heard of The WIne Show's star presenters - Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys - before. Apparently Matthew Goode (not related to Jamie, surely?) has, among many other things, been in Downton Abbey; while Matthew Rhys starred in an American TV series, The Americans. Either way, they're both youngish, personable, a tiny bit vapid, called Matthew and possessed of the same pleasing light baritone, which can make it hard to tell who's doing the voice-over. They're also about a thousand times better-looking than me or PK, for which I think we should all be grateful.

But the show? If you haven't seen it, or can't yet get it, it's a thirteen-part series of one-hour episodes, fronted by the two Matthews in a fabulous Tuscan villa, with expert wine advice provided by someone called Joe Fattorini, plus roving eyecandy from Amelia Singer, a wine industry hotshot who gets to walk around in cuttoffs. I've caught episodes one and three so far, and it boils down to this: Matthew, Matthew, Joe and Ameila explore photogenic wineries and wine-related events; the three boys sit in the villa drinking some of the wines that they've explored; about half-way through they give over the show to a high-end restaurateur (different one each week) who talks about his favourite wines at the same time as he gets a monumental free plug for his restaurant. In a nod to high-end drivel such as The Apprentice, Joe Fattorini sets the Matthews little challenges (drink something obscure, take part in a charming Italian ritual involving wooden butts, that kind of thing) which gives them something else to ponder back at the villa. Amelia saunters across the screen in her cutoffs and seems astonished by the production of a sparkling white. It all looks stupendous, no shot unconsidered, beautiful lighting, mellow travelogue TV even if you don't care about wine. So?

The problem - if there is a problem - is nothing to do with The Wine Show, which I guess succeeds on its own terms quite happily. The problem is to do with TV. Factual programmes - anything from Horizon to Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away - are now mostly so content-light that if you watch them with any degree of attentiveness, you simply lose the will to live. YouTube has interesting stuff. Mainstream telly doesn't. It's just the way things are. The upshot, in the case of The Wine Show, is a weekly hour of chic sunsets, stone walls and focus pulls, with this (taken at random) as the spoken material:

- That's a really lovely wine
- That is lovely
- That is such a gorgeous view
- Nice to meet you
- I just love the taste of it
- Doesn't have the same lovely colour
- I like it
- You don't need grey hair to enjoy sherry with food
- It's very stylish and elegant
- Those trousers are a bit snug
- It's a very good wine
- I love this

Okay, you can't expect Playschool to be Newsnight. Nor can you expect any sort of wine TV to avoid the platitudes of musty cellarages + luscious swirlings of fine reds by candlelight, both of which are keenly embraced by The Wine Show. Nor, I suppose, can you expect it not to further the idea that wine is still inherently something of a luxury, a prestige drink, a drink with such a deep and complex hinterland that it can only be discussed with the kind of seriousness normally reserved for Wagner or Communism.

There you go. Lower your expectations, find something additional to do while the programme is on, and soon you'll be of the same mind as one of the Matthews, who says, at the start of every episode, 'I quite like it!'



  1. You're right, I think; it's down to TV.

    With the "Can't pay..." you mention, and "Benefits in...", "Super/local vet person", countless antique/auction derived programmes, and loads of location/buying/selling/living abroad-type property programmes, there's not much of value on the box these days.

    Where did all those Open University programmes late at night on BBC2 with guys in kipper ties go?

    However, having covered Constantia sweet wines, Arizona, left-field Australia, Vin Jaune, and tonight Moldova, you can't say that The Wine Show is sticking to the comfort zone.

    Biggest problem is the jarring way it's stitched together.

    Amelia Singer's only been in 3 of the 5 episodes so far. And the section where Joe Fattorini comes back with 2 bottles for the 2 Matthews to try hasn't seem them change clothes over all 5.

    I'd guess they had to bring the Matthews in to sell the programme and whisked them off to Italy and filmed all those bits in a week or so.

    For a £2 million budget series, you'd think they'd have got a few different shirts at least.

    Production values aside, at least they're opening wine up to an audience that's never heard of some of these wines/regions.

  2. I take your point(s) and yes, at least The Wine Show is making an attempt to get wine out there on the TV - and quite stylishly, too. But it seems so unambitious - I think that's the problem: it's content to live with such a modest level of intellectual engagement...


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