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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly witty and wonderful, 26 Mar. 2008
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This review is from: Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure: Complete BBC Series 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD] (DVD)
Not having seen the series, I was urged to buy this boxset by an insistent friend, and I confess to doubts - lots - not least because, with a couple of exceptions, I've never found a wine that didn't leave a horrible metallic aftertaste and harsh acidity. I've always been convinced that old saw 'the more expensive the wine the better it is' was just a rip-off ploy by vintners!
On Top Gear James May's 'character' is vital, but subtle - he is the straight man, the foil for big shouty and little angry; to be the understated Everyman always almost but not quite in the limelight.
But I had real doubts as to how well that would translate in 'Big Wine Adventure'. True, May's affable irony and wry self-deprecating wit on TG were tempered by occasional flashes of a darker, inner bleakness, as he sometimes inadvertantly let slip a tendency towards melancholia(quote: "that moment of Black Dog despair") but away from Hamster and Jezzer, wouldn't it be bland and boring? I didn't really see how the combination could work - Oz Clarke, genuine theatre thespian dahlink and leading Brit wine critic alongside a beer-swilling, petrolhead pianist with depressive tendencies. I prepared for boredom or one of those celeb obviously-in-it-for-the money jaunts.
And I'm very, very sorry, because the DVDs are worth every penny. Both seasons were perfect examples of what documentary shows should be - funny without descending into juvenile puerility, and you learn useful stuff almost without noticing it. Season 1, as these two disparate men adjusted to each other brought forth several moments of hilarity: sharing a tent, the naked Spa pool, and my personal favourite was the Ozilator, a penny-whistle James blew whenever Oz went on too much in that sort of pretentious waffle usually only seen in an AA Gill food review column in The Times. Who hasn't craved such a thing to shut up some pontificating windbag at some point? Priceless!
But Oz wasn't obnoxious. Despite his occasional lapses into overblown oratory, he loves wine, he's interested in the history and the culture and his enthusiasm makes the viewer interested as well. Likewise James stayed true to his 'affordable wine for normal people' stance without being offensive, boorish or an 'inverted snob' about it. And both men clearly genuinely got on well with each other. JM has always been diffident about admitting to any real emotion on screen (remember Hammond's return to TG after the accident - Jeremy launched in with a bearhug, James backed away from Hamster like he was a live cobra and proffered a handshake). Oz gently poked fun at James' aversion without being cruel or offensive about it. It was...nice TV, pleasure-to-watch TV.
And the California one was, in my opinion, even better. I'm trying to avoid spoiling it because my advice is to buy the boxset - Amazon making both seasons available as a boxset is an excellent idea - and I sincerely hope it doesn't end there. I can surely hear all non-French/Californian vintners gnawing their livers in frustration at how much Franco-Californian wine sales must have increased - what about Italian/Spanish wines, or Latin wines (Chile, Brazil), then there's Eastern European wines (Hungary, Romania, etc) and of course, the Antipodes of Australia and New Zealand. I can just see the tagline for Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure Series 3 now; "Oz does Oz in May..."
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Location: Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 184,913