The Wine Show: Episode 1
Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys star in this series about the stories behind some of the world’s most fascinating wines. From their villa HQ in the Italian hills they head to Tuscany for a barrel race and find a wine made by a woman called Dora. Expert Joe Fattorini visits South Africa where he finds out about whether Napoleon and Charles Dickens’ favourite drink has withstood the test of time. Chef Brad McDonald tells us about his favourite grape and cooks a dish to complement it and we learn about whether a wine made by a tattooed punk in Australia can have anything in common with one made at Château Margaux, one of the world’s most exclusive vineyards.
History forever at Klein Constantia
What was it like to be Napoleon? I mean I’m short, ambitious and I’ve been disappointed in Belgium. But what was his life like day-to-day? We know what life tasted like when Napoleon had his pudding. How? Because of Vin de Constance.
At 5.00am at Klein Constantia, grape picking is in full swing. And here it really is ‘grape’ picking. Grape by shrivelled grape. Each day the pickers go to collect newly wrinkled fruit. Each grape picked only when it’s packed with unctuous, luscious juice. It’s just as they would have done in the eighteenth century. Quiet work. But not silent. The pickers chat in Afrikaans, with modern headlamps winking in the darkness. As dawn approaches, more noises join in. Birds at first, then waking baboons calling each other in the trees.
Vin de Constance wasn’t prized only because it was delicious. With all that sweetness and marmalade acidity it also travelled well. To Dickens and Austen in Britain. To Napoleon on St Helena. It also means Vin de Constance lives a long time. There’s something special about drinking a wine like the one people enjoyed in the eighteenth century. It’s something else to try the wine people actually enjoyed in the eighteenth century. I taste a 1791. The year Mozart died. The year the first American ship reached Japan. The year the Brandenburg Gate was finished. It still tastes delicious. I still don’t know what it was like being Napoleon. But it tasted good.
Klein Constantia Vin De Constance 2011
Taste this wine and you taste the past. Enjoy the honeyed sweetness and orange-marmalade tang. They are the same flavours that captivated Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Napoleon. The heady, complex sweet and spice aromas tell you this is one of the great wines of the world.
Traditional Winemaking at Château Margaux
“Go and make wine at Château Margaux” they said. That’s up there with being asked to caddy for Jack Nicklaus. Or doing an internship at Google. Perhaps a shift in the kitchens at The Fat Duck. A dream come true. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the best of the best.
Château Margaux is full of brilliant people all grafting tirelessly with the greatest ingredients. We snip picture-perfect bunches of grapes from gnarled vines, all looking like bonsai oak trees. Then we stand by a shiny steel sorting table. We’ve to remove any imperfection in the arriving bunches. It’s more in anticipation than actual activity. Then I have the chance to do a pumpover, a vital, twice-daily step in winemaking. Fermenting wine gushes out at the bottom at a thousand euros a second, for 20 minutes. My pump sprays it back over the skins to leach out the wine’s dense, ruby colour.
Best of all, at the pickers lunch we get to try some of this cherished wine – a Château Margaux 1989. It’s a great vintage from one of the world’s greatest estates, now perfectly mature. I look around the temporary marquee filled with pickers eating and drinking. Then I realise. Here’s a wine – treasured by billionaires – slaking the thirst of local grape pickers! We might be in wellies and frayed trousers with dirty hands. But we’ve earned this.
Paul Pontallier and Château Margaux
Paul Pontallier was not at Château Margaux when we were filming. The Château’s Managing Director had been instrumental in arranging our visit, but he was unwell – fighting cancer that he must have known would be terminal.
Paul joined Château Margaux in 1983. He soon become Managing Director, forging a unique relationship with the Château’s owner, Corinne Mentzelopoulos. It was a relationship known for its closeness, longevity and the great wines they made together. Paul also wanted to let daylight in on the magic. Unusually, among the great Bordeaux châteaux, Paul allowed people like us to film, and write and share the hard work of his team, as each year they made possibly the greatest wine in the world.
A few weeks ago Paul’s family announced that he had died. We hope he would have liked our film, and extend our condolences to his family.
Château Gloria 2012, Saint-Julien
This is the perfect introduction to the refinement of Margaux. The estate is to the north of Château Margaux. Gloria blends the traditional cedar box aroma of ‘luncheon claret’ at a Gentlemen’s Club with ripe currant and berry fruit. Roast lamb and decent glasses a must. Tweed suits optional.
Notes from the Adelaide Frontier
What do corrugated iron, tattoos and comic books all have in common? The answer is Col McBryde, the inked up and, in his words, ‘incorrigible’ winemaker at Some Young Punks, a refreshing Australian boutique winery, where Col creates wines with personalities to match their vibrant, comic book-inspired labels.
Situated in Little House on the Prairie wilderness, Adelaide Hills is now a trendy and highly respected wine region. It felt extremely appropriate turning up at the iron shed winery in Daisy Dukes. This three-man enterprise is full on; I was immediately put to work on the ‘punch down’ of red grapes. This vigorous activity, literally ‘punching down’ fermenting grape skins, is essential in developing flavour and colour.
Col jokes that he’s a ‘lazy’ winemaker, leaving the grapes ‘to do their ‘own’ thing’. This wasn’t an option for me, however. With my limited wine-making skills, I had the Herculean task of winery sanitisation: rinsing the fermentation area, the barrels and, particularly memorably, trying to clean the grape crusher and getting stuck. Inside it.
Later I am rewarded for my efforts in a grungy dive bar in Adelaide’s East End. Think Shoreditch before it was gentrified. Surrounded by a buzzy, colourful crowd, I enjoy a glass of Passion Has Red Lips – a spicy, sensual wine that delivers as much fun as the provocative label. The setting could not have been more suitable to enjoy these funky and exciting wines that are just as memorable as their creator.
Some Young Punks Passion Has Red Lips Shiraz Cabernet 2014
The SYP team mix up a generous, fleshy blend of Shiraz and Cabernet with a funky wild-yeast ferment for a splash of Old World restraint. It’s still an exuberant wine, but more rewarding that any Shiraz-Cab you’ll have tried in a long while. Perfect posh-burger wine.
THE WINE SHOW CASE – Challenge ONE
It’s not exactly difficult to make Italy look beautiful. And when you add two great friends who just happen to love wine into the mix, this was always going to be a joyous adventure. But The Wine Show wanted to add just another little layer of fun to Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys’s journey through Italy, and that came through the 12 challenges set by the man they dubbed Obi Wine Kenobi – Joe Fattorini.
In each programme, Matt and Matt are dispatched from the library of our winery HQ to find wines that represent the spirit of Italy. With Joe’s challenge and the occasional clue to guide them, they head off together with the aim of each bringing back a wine, one of which Joe will choose to put into The Wine Show case.
For those who like a little background on locations, the room in which Joe and the Matthews are sitting by the fire (during a very warm September!) belongs to Paolo and Noemie D’Amico at their winery and home, Villa Tirenna on the Umbria/Lazio border. It’s not technically part of the tower where the rest of the tastings take place, although that is also part of the winery estate, just across the valley. It is the most beautiful winery. The hundreds of candles are a permanent fixture, not, as you may think, placed there by the production designer! Some changes were made, but The Wine Show was blessed to find such a perfect location.
The first challenge that Matt and Matt were set was to find a wine that reflected the nobility and traditions of Italy. A couple of hours north from our HQ is the beautiful hilltop town of Montepulciano. Its long history has seen it under the rule of many of Italy’s ancient and medieval powers. From the Etruscans allied with the Romans in 308BC to the relatively recent fiefdom of the Florentine family the Medicis, its history has featured wine as a constant through the ages.
Montepulicano is most famous for Vino Nobile, literally translated as Noble Wine. Matt and Matt meet Arnaldo Rossi, a wine expert from the nearby town Cortona. Arnaldo knows everyone in Tuscan winemaking and after a brief tasting in town, takes Matt and Matt to meet Dora Forsoni at the Sanguineto vineyard to the north east of Montepulciano. Legend has it that some rather brutal battles were fought on this site. The blood that flowed from clashing Etruscan and Roman soldiers gave rise to the estate’s name, one that in turn was given to its wine – Sanguineto.
Matt and Matt were fascinated by the vineyard, its history and the passion which both Dora and her partner Patrizia bring to their wine. They have few rules; they grow the grapes, don’t use chemicals and allow the wine to be what it wants to be. And that, it has to be said, is a very fine example of Vino Nobile. It’s produced in relatively small amounts so can be hard to source, but is definitely worth searching out. Matthew Goode chooses this wine to take back to Joe.
Matthew Rhys chooses the Boscarelli Vino Nobile. The winery which makes this wine bears a very old and noble name, but the winemaker himself, Egidio Corradi, only produced the first wines bearing this name in 1962. Having spent most of his life in finance in Genoa, he bought some old farms near Montepulciano and set about realizing his life’s dream – to create a wine of distinction. The third generation of the family now produces wine on the reinvigorated estate.
But before taking their wine choices back to Joe, Matthew and Matthew were able to enjoy the spectacle that is the annual barrel race – the Bravio delle Botti – in the town of Montepulciano. Teams of two from the surrounding eight contradas, or districts, each race up the steep and winding hills from the bottom of the town to the top; that’s 1.8km, pushing an empty barrel that still weighs nearly 80kg. The event dates back to the 14th century when, as a palio (or horserace), it continued until the 17th century. It is speculated that it was then abandoned due to issues of public order! But it returned as a barrel race in 1974. Today it’s a very orderly but exciting event. And as the Spingitori Matts discovered, not one to be undertaken without some serious training…
Back at the HQ, Joe sets about trying both wines… but which will he choose?
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Sanguineto I e II 2011
Dora Forsoni’s captivating personality shines through her wine. It’s named after the soil that was stained by blood after an ancient battle. Today she does everything to let the character of that soil shine through the summer fruit and cool, fresh lift in this traditional, elegant wine.