Blog: Olly WehringWhat the UK wine consumer's REALLY like

Olly Wehring | 20 December 2006

Wine, after a several-year hiatus, has made it back onto UK primetime television, and it has done so in some style. Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventure features well-known UK wine journalist Oz Clarke and James May, a presenter from the BBC’s motor show, Top Gear, as they travel France’s wine regions with only a tent in the back of their convertible car for shelter.

The premise is that, whilst James May likes his wine, he, like almost all of the UK population, knows very little about it. It’s Clarke’s challenge to try and convince him there is a fascinating, vinous world out there to explore. May spends most of his time dismissing “wine ponces”, preferring to ditch the tasting notes and just knock the stuff back.

It is an undoubted victory for the industry to get wine back on mainstream TV, but the programme has also served as a warning about how far the industry still has to go to educate the UK public in even the basics.

May becomes most baffled whenever the subject of terroir comes up. Last week he stood in a vineyard as Clarke and a winegrower waxed lyrical about the soil a particular vineyard was growing in. He wondered out loud how the vineyard owner could care so much about the soil when heavy-duty Renault trucks spewed diesel fumes all over his precious grapes every two minutes from the road that ran next to the plot.

“There is no English translation for terroir in the Oxford English Dictionary,” he says later. “But if there was, it would probably read ‘poppycock’.”

With some predictability, May does come round in the end, but this is after six weeks in France, with one of the UK’s leading wine experts, whilst filming a TV programme on wine.

What hope, then, for the average UK Joe?


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