For Christmas we were given the DVD of John Cleese’s Wine for the Confused. Although we’re not quite as confused as the intended audience, the gift hit upon two of Kevins favorite things: Monty Python and Wine.
Last Saturday night, we sat down to watch the flick. Originally a special for the Food Network, the show has a distinctly PBS feel to it. It’s fairly low-budget, which actually makes it a bit more personal. You get the feeling that making this was a personal and important thing for John Cleese – that he is incredibly passionate about wine and wants it to be less intimidating for others. The film crew used the Cleese home outside of Santa Barbara as their hotel and base of operations. They hopped into Cleese’s Land Rover and visited nearby wineries in the Santa Ynez valley. They even filmed several segments in and around Cleese’s home.
Cleese was a great choice to host the video. He truly has a passion for wine that he wants to share. He was able to ask questions to the winemakers without sounding like a moron, and truly sounding like he wanted to know (although you KNOW he already knew the answers).
The show itself is Wine 101. With winemakers, Cleese reviews the basic process for making wine, the differences between reds and whites, and then talks a little about Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. While I didn’t learn anything new, I did learn some great new ways to explain things. For instance, I loved when terroir was described as "the harmony of a place." I’m completely stealing that line.
A really great portion of the show, especially for the intended audience, was a section on ordering wine. Cleese really wanted to get across the point that you should be honest with your sommelier or wine retailer. If you can accurately describe the flavors you want and the price range you want, the sommelier or retailer should be able to help you find exactly what you’ll like.
In fact, Cleese really tried to drive the point home that describing wine whenever you drink it will help you immensely. You don’t have to use standard terminology, but try to identify what you taste. Throughout the presentation, we kept returning to a tasting party hosted by Cleese. While I thought some of it (including Brendon Fraser) was just silly, there was an exercise I’d like to try with my own friends. All of the wine was bagged and numbered. Everyone was asked to just identify what flavors and words they could come up with to describe the wine. No one had to guess what type of wine or anything, but the sharing of identifying words was insightful. It’s a good exercise.
The DVD extras were, in my opinion, better than the DVD itself. Sort of Wine 102. There were extended interviews with the winemakers, as well as many extemporaneous thoughts from Cleese.
This would be a great gift for someone just starting to get into wine. That was us, not so long ago. But overall, this enjoyable little DVD doesn’t tell you anything a winery tour and a few questions won’t answer as well.
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