35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Very good wine series from 1995,
This review is from: Jancis Robinson's Wine Course [DVD] (DVD)
This is a very good 10-episode TV production from 1995, shown on BBC 2, that mainly focuses on one grape variety per episode, and takes us to two to four regions where it has its origin or its best expression. This usually means that we get to see a bit of the old world and a bit of the new world in each episode, and get to know a bit more of the regions once they pass by. In each episode there is a combination of narration by Jancis Robinson MW and interviews with winemakers and some other wine personalities, together with a lot of nice scenery. In the episodes, Jancis is pedagogical and witty, and gives a very informed and balanced view of things, just as expected. Other wine-related info-bits, not exclusively related to one grape variety, such as barrel-making and wine competitions, are fit in at appropriate locations.
The 10 episodes are Aperitif (not an episode on aperitifs, but an introduction to the making and tasting of wine, Jancis own wine writing background and so on), Chardonnay (Burgundy, Australia), Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux, Chile), Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand, Loire, Chile, Bordeaux), Syrah/Shiraz (Rhone, Australia, California), Riesling (Germany, Austria), Pinot Noir (Burgundy, Oregon, California), Merlot (California, Bordeaux), Grapes and gas (sparkling wines, visting Champagne, Australia and California), Grape invaders (about the planting of well-known varieties in new places and the fate of lesser-known wine styles and grape varieties, visiting Italy, Spain and Languedoc).
It is probably very sensible to have the grape-by-grape approach rather than a region-by-region/country-by-country approach, since this will more naturally focus on taste in the glass. There are also some drawbacks to this approach, in my opinion. The viewer gets a somewhat simplified view of the varieties that go into a typical French red wine, fortified wines have been all together left out, very little is said about the different styles in such huge wine countries such as Spain and Italy, and several interesting regions (Alsace, for example) and countries (Portugal, for example) are not covered at all. Obviously, you do need to make some choices in a production like this, and I can understand the choices made, but the first words on the back of the DVD box “In an encyclopaedic tour around the wine producing countries of the world…” are hardly justified in light of this.
Now, don’t be misled by the title “course” and expect to learn how the wines actually taste by just watching these programmes. You learn more about existing combinations of regions and grape varieties, how wine is actually made and the various problems that winegrowers in different regions face. Jancis doesn’t even try to fill up the programmes with taste descriptions, which is probably a good thing, and a realistic approach. Therefore, I think this DVD is more suitable for those who have at least a little wine tasting experience than for absolute beginners to wine. I am sure even complete wine nuts will also enjoy it.
In one respect this DVD deserves real criticism. Nowhere do you get to know that this series was produced in 1995. Rather, the box and the discs both say ”Copyright 2004” and nothing else. Well, you do find “MCMXCV” in the very last frame of each episode, but that’s more for the detectives among us. This doesn’t mean that the content is aged in any serious way or not worth watching, but you do get somewhat surprised when a supermarket buyer hunting for low-cost merchandise tastes a 1993 wine at a grower, when Jancis claims chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon to be the future, and so on. It is still worth watching, and I know of no younger “substitute”, but it seems obvious that someone wants to hide the series’ age!
By the way, the series was released in R1 as early as 2000, and Jancis has written a companion book to the series.