Friday, June 22, 2012

Making wine a spectator sport...

So when I got home from work yesterday my wife had started our yearly binge of watching Master Chef en masse on Hulu. Combined with many of the reports from last week's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and the Colorado Urban Winefest, watching several episodes of Master Chef got me thinking about why wine isn't more of a spectator sport and on TV more often. I mean, the Food Network is a very popular television station. The summer is full of food-centric reality shows. Sure, most of them showcase Gordon Ramsey, but food is at least a supporting character. But where is the wine?

Even though wine is in the title of the event, most of the reports from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen focused on the food and the chefs. Yes, this event is all about the celebrities, but where were the wine celebrities? Wine seems to take a back seat to the food in Aspen. I don't know if wine can ever be in the driver seat with food riding shotgun on the national stage, but I think wine deserves more television spotlight than it currently gets.

During the Drink Local Wine conference this past April, held here in Denver, Jeff Siegel made similar comments about thinking that wine could be a spectator sport. Jeff organized an interactive blind tasting where three wine professionals (and not exactly Colorado wine cheerleaders) lead the conference attendees through a CO vs. CA wine lineup. The event was considered a success and even surprised the "experts." At the Colorado Urban Winefest this past weekend, I organized and led the "Sommelier Shootout" seminar. Two chefs, two winemakers, two sommeliers and two consumers faced off in a head-to-head blind tasting as an audience tasted along. After three rounds of tasting, Michelle Cleveland, winemaker at Creekside Cellars, was crowned champion of the Shootout. I heard a lot of positive feedback on the seminar (and the other two interactive seminars), but there still is a long way to go before something like wine tasting hits prime time.

Yes, Gary Vaynerchuk made video wine blogging an Internet sensation, but he quit that schtick after 1000 WineLibraryTV and only 89 Daily Grape videos. Perhaps having Brad Pitt star in the film version of The Billionaire's Vinegar or a to-be-named celeb starring in the film version of the Rudy Kurniawan saga will put wine center stage with food in a supporting role on the big screen.

We did see wine star in the movie Sideways, but wine really was tangential to the actual storyline. Yes, eight years since the movie was released the wine industry is still buzzing about the rise of pinot noir and fall of merlot based solely on the impact of Sideways. But an eight year old movie does not hold the same cultural significance as summer after summer of Gordon Ramsey bringing chefs and chef-wanna-bes to tears or watching Mario Batali ride around Spain with Gwenyth Paltrow in a convertible.

PBS made an attempt to make a wine-themed show with two lackluster seasons of The Winemakers. I'll admit that I started watching the first season when it aired, but the drawn-out winemaker process doesn't have the drama of creating a culinary masterpiece in 60 minutes. Vine Talk, hosted by Ray Isle and Stanley Tucci, also tried to educate and entertain wine aficionados via the boob tube. I would be surprised if Vine Talk makes it to a third season given the supposed financial difficulties.

The person that thinks of a way to get the American television audience interested in watching a wine show is going to make a lot of money. However, I don't have the slightest clue what this might look like. Do you? What needs to happen for wine to have its own presence on television?


  1. Apparently my witty response got deleted. Therefore I would appreciate you reading this comment as if it was peppered with comedic and relevant references to Discovery, Bravo, and Food network. As well as the encountered difficulties with filming for a minimum of a year and the fact that winemaker is not really in charge anyway. Thank you for your cooperation.

  2. Great witty comment Jay ;) (I don't know what happened to your original comment). I don't disagree that there are a lot obstacles to overcome when it comes to the winemaking process fitting the television format. Nevertheless, I wish (and bet you do too) wine played more a of an active role in the audiovisual entertainment of adults and responsible teens (j/k).