The Wine Show
Streaming on Hulu
Metadata: 2016 | 2 short seasons, 45-minute episodes
Genre: Travel, Documentary, Food, (British)
Why I watched: I love the two actors who helm the show (Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys), and I love wine, and I love travel shows. This combines all three! (But trust me, you don't have to love wine to enjoy this show.)
You might also like: I don't know how Goode and Rhys met IRL, but I like to imagine it was on the set of Death Comes to Pemberley in 2013, streaming on Netflix, in which Rhys plays Darcy and Goode plays the roguish Wickham. Goode is best known (to me) for being the only good part of Leap Year (2010), and for playing Mary Crawley's love interest in the last season of Downton Abbey. Rhys is outstanding as KGB spy Philip Jennings in the hit(man/woman) show The Americans, streaming on Amazon Prime.
The first thing you should know is that Goode and Rhys, The Wine Show's "stars," are totally irrelevant and unnecessary to the show's premise. And yet, they absolutely are the most delightful part of it. Their bromance is sweet and pure and cute; they have excellent chemistry, and watching them nerd out over wine is just so darn pleasant. They seem like two boys who have won the lottery and decided it would be a real lark to fund a show about wine. They swirl, and sniff, and taste, all while bestowing on Joe Fattorini, the show's wine expert, adorably cheesy honorifics like "Obi-Wine Kenobi." They also introduce each episode with punny quips like, "Whether your glass is half-empty or half-full, let us replenish your spirits." You will simultaneously cringe and chuckle gleefully.
The constant bandying of polite, light trash-talking (a la The Great British Baking Show) seems so quintessentially British. Goode and Rhys tease each other for sure, but so do Fattorini and Amelia Singer, another of the show's resident wine experts, typically in voice-overs as they each travel to various spots around the world to visit vineyards and interview winemakers. Fattorini has a classic TV narrator voice, but he also looks like he could be, with a little bulking up, a hitman in another life. (Singer, meanwhile, is cute as button—and all the winemakers she visits seem to like her a whole lot.)
In each episode, Fattorini brings wine from Chile, France, California, South Africa, and more, to a villa in Tuscany, where Goode and Rhys are just, well, hanging out. They taste and chat and test out wine gadgets. The two actors complete a challenge each week, set by Fattorini, that usually requires them to visit one of the great cities or regions of Italy. Famous chefs—one per episode—create a dish to accompany their favorite wine. The Wine Show's lineup is bright and pleasant and refreshing, a welcome respite from the heavy dramas, true crime shows, and cynical romances that typically populate my queue.
Yet this show does have substance. For example, in one episode Fattorini visits a vineyard in Israel, located right on the border with Syria. He says it's the most heavily protected one he's ever seen, noting numerous armed guards, and he can hear artillery fire in the distance. Ever the journalist, he is sure to ask the winemaker if the civil war going on affects the wine or the way people perceive it. The winemaker, of course, says no, why would it? But when Fattorini arrives back at the villa to share some of the wine with Goode and Rhys, he explains that it is a complicated wine to drink, and one that some may choose not to drink at all. "For the winemaker, this is the promised land. But for a lot of people, this is occupied territory." Whether you come to the show because you're interested in wine, or you just like beautiful scenery and beautiful actors, there's a lesson in this for you: what we consume has a history and a politics of its own. Where things comes from, and who makes them, matters.
For a show dedicated to wine, The Wine Show is totally unpretentious, largely due to Goode and Rhys, who are unapologetic about their tastes and seem to err on the side of liking everything (except for Rhys's serious aversion to sweet wine). And I think we can take a leaf out of their book when it comes to competition, too, friends. Before facing off to see who can make the best bolognese sauce, they turn to each other, shake hands, and say, "Best of luck, mate. I love you."
Happy streaming! Grace