Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventures
Oz Clarke is a wine critic and James May is a motoring journalist and presenter. The idea behind “Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventures” is that James wants to learn enough information to choose a bottle of wine from a supermarket with confidence. To achieve this rather simple aim they go on a tour of France in James’s vintage Jaguar.
The pairing of May with Clarke is interesting. Oz Clarke is a pompous wine buff that speaks with passion and a not inconsiderable amount of bluff about wine. James May is an enthusiast of many things from cars to technology and it appears tea; something that he is not an enthusiast of is wine. He sees it as a nice drink that you have of an evening that will eventually get you drunk but it would be good to know nice ones. Oz postures and waffles on at length, leaving James baffled and prone to using a whistle to stop the bluff. He also manages to note “Wine Facts”.
This week they are on the road to discovery of “Terroir”. Terroir is the combination of soil, climate and the position on a hillside, or more basically, terrain. This combination of factors will affect the way that the grapes will grow and ripen and consequently affect the flavour and body of the wine.
They go to Alsace, a region of France next to the German border and check out the area’s Riesling wines. First wine fact was that Alsace Rieslings are dry and crisp, unlike the standard perception sweet German Rieslings. James’s first priority at a chateau is to make a good cup of tea, which takes some perseverance as the Chateau owner refuses to believe that the water should be boiling. When tasting the wines he becomes caught up in his explanation of how the wine is “brittle” in the mouth, which pleases Oz, as his charge is taking a turn to the buff side.
The classic region for recognising terroir is Burgundy. They travel to the land of Meursault, Montrachet, Puilly-Fuisse, Chablis and Gevrey-Chambertin. Here, a distance between vineyards can mean hundreds of pounds difference in the price of a single bottle. This is due to minor changes in soil, the angle of the hill and protection from the wind. James May notes that driving down the middle of these vineyards are old vans spewing out diesel fumes that must make more of a difference.
However, in a taste test, James recognises which wines come from the classic, the good and the mediocre vines based on their terroir, prompting him to accept that there maybe some merits in Oz’s pontificating.
The programme is gentle and includes a bit of messing around but is, nonetheless, very informative.