Saturday, April 16, 2016

Matthew Goode, Matthew Rhys: The Wine Show: it's Top Gear for booze … I hate myself for loving it

Stuart Heritage
11 April, 2016

When ITV ran its first trailer for The Wine Show about a month ago, you could be forgiven for thinking the whole thing was a joke. An obscene joke about two highly acclaimed actors – a wildly-bearded Matthew Rhys and an unstoppably plummy Matthew Goode – who’d exploited their star power to get smashed on plonk inside a beautiful Umbrian villa, while getting paid for it.

The trailer was startlingly awful in every conceivable way. The narration was awkward and stilted in a manner that suggested it had been translated into English and back again several times. The photography looked as if it had been shot for a CNN Europe commercial about the economic benefits of utilising Montenegro as a regional trade hub. And in the middle of it were the two Matthews, obsequiously yucking it up like a grotesque Fluck and Law parody of the coddled one-percent. It was like watching a piece of deranged Alan Partridge fan fiction come to life. It must have been a joke. Surely it was a joke. I watched the trailer over and over again, looking for the slightest wink to prove that this was all somehow an elaborate joke. The title? Was that it? Was The Wine Show supposed to be a deliberately awful pun on The One Show? Was that the joke

The two Matthews … I didn’t want to punch Rhys or Goode in the face nearly as much as I would have liked.

The Wine Show began on ITV4 last night. I watched it specifically to hate it. The fact that I couldn’t has made me almost irreversibly furious.

Because, god help the lot of us, The Wine Show is actually quite good. It is, in essence, somewhere between a Countryfile and a Top Gear for booze. Given time to breathe, the photography that came off as cheesy in the trailer is actually rather beautiful. The production values are astonishing. It’s dappled, woozy, HD travel porn that lingers on beads of early-morning vineyard dew and charmingly tumbledown magic-hour Italian villages in a way that immediately makes you want to chuck some shirts in a bag and head for the airport.

And the actual content is surprisingly grown up, too. Despite the trailer strongly suggesting that the series would consist of nothing but Rhys and Goode slowly contracting gout, the bulk of the presenting is left to wine expert Joe Fattorini. He’s a revelation, arguably the Attenborough of Oddbins. Simultaneously knowledgable and awestruck, Fattorini managed to turn the climax to a throwaway 10-minute segment about Napoleon’s favourite booze into a genuinely compelling piece of television. “This wine probably cheered someone up when Mozart died”, he quavered at one point, and it didn’t even sound a tenth as stupid as it looks written down.

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