STUDIO: Koch Vision
MSRP: $19.99
Deleted Scenes
Conversations with wine makers

The Pitch

“It’s Monty Python meets Sideways!”

The Humans

John Cleese (Rat Race, Yellowbeard), some grape smushers

The Nutshell

Cleese begins with a wine tasting party at his home, where some friends (including, randomly, Brendan Fraser) sample six anonymous bottles of wine and describe each using simple terms. In addition to a blind red/white identification test, they’re also tasked with determining which bottle cost five bucks and which cost $200 (both have surprising results). And then he hops in his car and travels to some California vineyards to get the skinny on (in his opinion) the three best white grapes (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) and three greatest red grapes (Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon). Along the way we learn about fermentation, value for money, storage and serving, and how the environment produces a wide range of flavors.

"And that’s where we’ve been keeping Graham Chapman until Gilliam has time in his schedule to fully animate him."

The Package

Wine for the Confused has precisely the appearance and audio quality that one would expect from a production made for the Food Network. While the feature itself runs less than 45 minutes (an hour-long show sans advertisements), there’s nearly that much footage in the extras – perhaps they should’ve just edited it back in, because there’s some valuable advice from Cleese in here, such as how to keep your wine from going “off” and recommending you return to a wine after an initial reaction because your opinion could later change – don’t be too hasty in judging either a single bottle or a type of grape. There are also significantly extended conversations with the vineyard operators and winemakers, and a clip of Fraser giving his detailed reactions to the vino at Cleese’s house party.

The Lowdown

I admit it: I’m a bit plebeian when it comes to wine. I’ve always been the Rum King (sweet tooth!) with the occasional sortie into the realm of vodka, but in the travels of my 30s I’ve begun to develop an interest and affinity for wine (which is certainly not to imply more refined or sophisticated taste, as is probably apparent from my taste in films). So if there’s a target audience for Wine for the Confused, I guess I’m among it.

Someone reminds Cleese he was in The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

Cleese (no longer the lithe elder of A Fish Called Wanda) is an affable host and a relative novice in the world of wine himself, even if he’s obviously pretending to know less than he really does in order to get the winemakers to drop knowledge in the interviews for the benefit of the viewer. He clearly enjoys the subject matter, and during his party and various visits he offers us neophytes some useful information and instruction (definitions about the winemaking process and other important wine facts pop up on the screen, but not for sommelier — a term used often, which means a wine steward).

While nowhere near as comprehensive as it could or should be (there’s no mention of ports or Spanish wines, my personal favorites), I get the impression that the show could’ve run several hours longer and still just made a dent in the daunting arena of wine (this is even more apparent by the endless aisles of the red and white stuff at my local warehouse-sized liquor store). Still, as a primer, it’s basic but effective. Aside from its main goal, making the viewer more confident in purchasing wine in shops or restaurants (or more specifically how to describe what you prefer), the most important lesson in Wine for the Confused is that everyone has different taste, and you shouldn’t let anybody else dictate what flavor you should savor. Even if they scoff at you, plebe.

7.0 out of 10