John Cleese: Wine for the Confused
Wine is confusing. So where do you start if you want to learn more about it? Join John Cleese on an entertaining and informative look at the world of wine and learn: how to find wines that taste good to you; how to make sure you get the best value; and how to keep and serve wine at home.
Monty Python alums have made good second careers hosting documentary programs, such as Terry Jones's Crusades. Now John Cleese turns his attention to the subject of wine in Wine for the Confused, originally broadcast as a special on Food Network.
Listen to our interview with John Cleese.
"Don't let anyone ever try to tell you what wine you like, because people have different tastes and we shall honor that," he heralds at the start. The point of the program is clear and simple: to help you find and describe wines you like; to show how to buy wines at a good value; and to provide tips on how to get the most enjoyment from the wines you do buy. With this attitude, his considerable charm, and his gentle wit, Cleese is the perfect host for this material, and right off the bat he strikes just the right tone--instructive, but light-hearted. The result is delightful.
First covered are the six major varieties of wine-producing grapes (beginning with the whites, then the reds, just as at a tasting), the fermentation process, and tasting notes to help you learn what you like and how to describe it ("Quality should be judged by your own taste."). Next is "Buying Wine." Now that you know what you like, learn how to find it at a good value for the money. Finally there is "Storing and Serving Wine," with simple tips for savoring your purchase.
Novice wine lovers will find Wine for the Confused helpful and reassuring as well as inspirational; don't be surprised if you find yourself turning off the DVD and heading straight to the wine shop with newfound confidence... and that's just what Cleese would want for you. --Dan Vancini
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So, whole point of this well done work on wine is find what you like to drink and don't let anyone convince you otherwise. This is important, since there is so much namedropping in wine drinking world. Buy and drink what you like, and try new things, as Cleese demonstrates with his own wine drinking ventures into new realms never explored by his palate before.
It is well done, with basics covered with hands on shots and interviews. Not an overdo of his humor [which is monumentally good] but very warm and inviting format and hosting on his part.
I tremendously enjoyed this, especially the discussion about the terrario (spelling?), the whole envioronmental scene where grapes on grown, which solidified much of wine discussion for me in a great way.
I believe this will be enjoyable and valuable resource for all levels.
John Cleese's DVD will surely help me with the more enjoyable task of figuring out just what wine I like and how to explain it. Essentially, Cleese brings his considerable wit and star power to bear in de-mystifying the process. When John Cleese says, "Just use your own words to describe the wine, and tell me what you like and don't like," everyone has to listen. (It's a shame that Cleese doesn't have a companion DVD entitled, "John Cleese -- Taking Wine Snobs Down a Peg or Two.")
Cleese puts his advice into action by hosting a wine tasting at his house and also visiting a few wineries. At the wine party, he proves how challenging (and silly) (and fun) wine can be, he asks his guests to price several bottles (ranging from $5 to $200) based on taste alone. It's comforting to know that his guests (including a near-drunken Brendan Fraser) are as likely to properly identify the $200 bottle as they are to guess that it's worth $5.
But it's also interesting that while Cleese's guests are having a good time at his party, several of them get hesitant when he asks them to give their opinions about the wine they are drinking. This serves as confirmation that we need more wine education like this -- even in the comforting environment of a casual wine tasting, you can tell that Cleese's friends, like most of us, are afraid they might come across as "unsophisticated" or even worse, a "beer drinker."
Cleese's quick walk-through six different types of wine is also helpful, and one wishes that he could have explored a few more. He focuses on three whites (Chardonnay, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc) and three reds (Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon). Again, while I wish he had chosen an even wider range, this section is an excellent primer.
One thing Cleese is not able to do is to take the pretension out of the wine people that he's talking to. They don't come across as obnoxious French types, but it's still pretty clear that if these folks weren't talking to a star like John Cleese, they might not be so tolerant of his rudimentary questions. While pleasant folks, they are also the types of people who wax poetic because a certain vineyard's "terroir" (a word Cleese helpfully defines) includes nearby eucalyptus trees. One thing I've learned living in wine country, wine fans who profess to taste the influence of nearby foliage are generally the folks with whom you don't want to discuss wine.
Tips on buying wine are also helpful because Cleese points out some of the gimmicks in the trade, from the snobby waiter to the layout at your wine store, and how you can use them to spot some real values.
This DVD only gets four stars because it stops so soon. Chock full of helpful hints and basic elementary knowledge, this DVD leaves you wishing that this was the first in a long series. And that's not a bad thing. I'm just not sure this isn't a more suitable candidate for a rental than for a permanent slot in the film library.
The show is witty without being over the top in any way, very informative while being laid back and charming. If you have any interest in wine, this is a GREAT place to start.
The DVD includes:
* `Wine for the Confused' (45 minutes): This is the original television documentary that aired on the `Food Network.'
Red Grapes Covered: Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
White Grapes Covered: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
* `Extended Conversations with Wine Experts' (45 minutes): John Cleese offers additional tips and advice on wine in a short segment. The rest of this section contains portions of interviews John Cleese did with several wine experts that were cut out of the original television documentary because of time constraints.
NOTE: The information given on this DVD is very basic, which is why it is called `Wine for the Confused' (it was meant for people who don't know anything about wine). The information given was not meant to turn you into a Master Sommelier! It was meant to teach you the basics and do it an enjoyable and un-intimidating way, which John Cleese does perfectly!
GOOD SHOW! BRAVO!