I think it’s a fact of nature that we are often drawn to the things we cannot have. Be that expensive things we should not be buying (cars, clothes, shoes, houses!), foods that we shouldn’t be eating (either due to allergy or sheer decadence), people who are probably not the best influence but are certainly lots of fun, or else other vices that make life interesting – alcohol, etc. And when I was pregnant, it was that last category that did me in. Alcohol – not the “etc.”, because I’m not an “etc.” kind of person. True that while doctors recommend you don’t drink AT ALL during pregnancy, there have also been studies that show that if you have a little bit, there won’t be any lasting damage. But the hard part there is in figuring out how much is “a little bit”, and at what point you’ve crossed over to “too much”. So I tended to limit myself to less than a half glass of wine at special occasions, or else just sips of someone else’s drink. Very boring when you had previously quite enjoyed an evening tipple.
I am also the kind of person who is terrible with willpower, so if I want to keep away from a thing, it’s best to have it out of my sight and out of my house completely. All of this is preamble to say, I don’t know why I started watching The Wine Show when I was pregnant. I think it was longing for the days when I would be allowed to drink again, because I often found myself thirsty while watching the show and imagining what a good glass of wine would taste like at that moment.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – what even is The Wine Show? Well, it’s a British production (thank you iTV!) that paired actors Matthews Goode and Rhys who are friends in real life. Matthew Goode has been on Downton Abbey, The Crown, and more. Matthew Rhys was on Brothers and Sisters, but I know him from my obsession with The Americans. The Matthews are the nominal stars of the show, who have “taken an Italian Villa in order to learn about wine”, but they are heavily aided by wine experts Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer who contribute a couple pieces to each episode that explore wine making in other areas of the world.
The formula is very standard – we get a preview of all the segments, start with a short film featuring Joe going somewhere wonderful where wine is being grown/made/sold in an interesting or historically important way, and bringing back a couple bottles to taste with the Matthews. Then there’s a segment where they try out wine gadgets that is usually quite funny. There’s a portion where a notable chef chooses a wine, and then makes food to pair with it, and then the best segment of each program: the boys and their wine scavenger hunt. “Each week” Joe sends them out with a mission to find a wine for their “WIne Show Case” to highlight a particular style or idea surrounding Italian wine. He gives them “a hint” which is usually a location and a person who introduces them to a handful of appropriate wines, and they each choose one to bring back to Joe, who then chooses a winner which gets added to the case. This segment is usually very funny. We conclude with another short film about wine made elsewhere in the world, and Bob’s your uncle, the episode is over.
If that sounds like it could get repetitive, and also have the possibility of turning into an hour of paid advertisement for various winemakers, products and others…it’s a thing that probably happens. But it turns out that while watching, you really don’t care. Whoever did the filming for the show did not skimp on the landscape porn – there are beautiful shots of misty vineyards sitting just below the mountains, sunny vineyards, colorful bursting-with-fruit vineyards, and it’s all a sight for the eyes. It makes one want to go traveling. It doesn’t hurt that watching Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys interact is pure joy. They are obviously friends in real life, and have such an easy camaraderie and repartee that any segment in which they are featured instantly becomes enjoyable.
And while many of the wines that are featured on the show are likely out of reach for the everyday wine drinker (unless you are fancy), it still inspires one to step outside of your comfort zone. Seeing and hearing about delicious bottles from all over the world makes me feel like I ought to buy more from countries that are not my regular choices. I am partial to Argentine reds, but why not try something from it’s neighbor to the west, Chile, which will have produced something similar but also very different due to the microclimates in which these wines are grown? Instead of falling back on a New Zealand white, why not something from South Africa? Or if we’re getting more adventurous – why choose a Cava (Spain) or Prosecco (Italy), when England has been making some very good sparkling wines in recent years?
Are you thirsty yet? I know I am, and it’s way too early in the morning for a drink of anything except a mimosa! Thankfully my baby is on the outside, and while I still need to watch how much I drink because of breastfeeding, there’s nothing to stop me now from finding and enjoying new wines. Which I think was the point of this show all along.