We all wish you a very happy New Year that brings you all that you wish for. Tam's book reviews resume tomorrow for the rest of the week.
My New Year news is that, after a brief interlude this morning discussing sobriety on BBC Radio 4's Today programme (really), I'm returning to the small screen, at 7 pm every Friday night for seven weeks from Friday 12 January on Channel 5 in the UK. I have a bit part in the second series of the admirable Wine Show that aired initially on Saturday afternoons on ITV in 2016 in the UK. Read Alex Hunt MW's enthusiastic review of the first series. In this first series actors Matthew Rhys (The Americans, Brothers & Sisters, Burnt, The Papers) and Matthew Goode (The Crown, Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, Matchpoint, Brideshead Revisited) were sent off round Italy in search of worthy bottles to please the engaging principal host Joe Fattorini (above left), who worked for many years for UK wine merchants Bibendum. He was backed up as a presenter by Amelia Singer, who, as Alex pointed out, was a little under-used in the first series.
While this second TV series was being shot, in southern France last year, Rhys was busy starring in Steven Spielberg's film about The Washington Post, so his place was taken by James Purefoy (Rome, Episodes, The Following, Hap and Leonard). The brief for the two actors this time was to choose French wines to go with a six-course meal cooked by Michelin-starred chef Stéphane Raynaud (between Matthew Goode on the left and James Purefoy on the right in the back row below) and my job was to decide which one of them did the better job.
It was tough sitting out there in the grounds of their Provençal 'villa of vino', eating and drinking in a heatwave and lording (ladying?) it over two handsome actors who were not short of a sense of humour. But I pulled through. And I believe the fruits of my labours are interspersed throughout the series.
Matthew Rhys (clean shaven this time) puts in a cameo appearance testing out some gadgets at Berry Bros & Rudd, and the seventh episode is given over to filming various chef-and-somm partnerships such as at Bubbledogs in London and Belcanto in Lisbon. But the real meat of the thing is the presenters' travels around the world. I have yet to see any of them but my curiosity is well and truly piqued by this description from the canny producer Melanie Jappy of Infinity Creative Media:
'Amelia Singer and Joe find out how the local sheriff is helping with the labour shortage in Mendocino county, new presenter Jaega Wise heads to Japan to learn about sake. Jaega also joins Joe in a very festive Munich to find out why that city can lay claim to being just as much a wine destination as a beer mecca. New wine region British Columbia, Canada, gets a visit from Joe and Amelia too. The Médoc Marathon is run by Joe Fattorini with adventure runner Jamie Ramsay – in fancy dress. Joe heads to Georgia to find out if this country's claim to be the cradle of wine is true. He's in Bosnia to find out how winemaking is healing wounds in a war-torn and still fragile country and visits San Sebastián in Spain on a mission to find wines for that city's oldest gastronomic society. But Joe's biggest challenge is in the first show where he heads to California to try and convince wine-hater comedian Gina Yashere ( The Daily Show) that there is a wine she will like. But Gina has a surprise of her own … and Joe has 24 hours to perfect a five-minute set of wine jokes which he must perform at the toughest comedy club in Los Angeles.'
So, clearly, the aim here is to get wine out of its sniff-and-spit tasting ghetto and have it as an almost subliminal backdrop to a series of strong stories. I haven't seen a second of finished film (and hate watching myself anyway) but I will be watching the bits without me in them – which constitute by far the majority of these seven one-hour programmes that have already been shown on Hulu in the US. Sales to many more markets are anticipated and are likely, to judge from the success of the first series that was sold to 24 licensees covering 100 countries including
Germany - RTL
Italy - Sky Italia
Canada - GustoTV
Australia - FOXTEL Lifestyle and Food
Middle East (UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, etc) - National Geographic
Japan - Wow Wow
China - Billy Billy, Conde Nast Traveller TV
South America (most countries) - Globosat
You can find out more from www.thewineshow.com, and can see a fascinating introductory clip here. You will see from the show's website that the producers are up to all sorts of wheezes that a more commercial outfit than JancisRobinson.com would presumably be engaged in: selling gadgets, cruises, celebrity events and the like.
Remember, you wine-loving UK residents: 12 January to 23 February, 7 pm on Fridays on Channel 5 or at 8 pm on Channel 5+1.