I recently tricked my husband into watching a wine documentary series with me. As incongruous as it might sound, he has little interest in oenophilic delights, and learning about viticulture, viniculture, and varietal typicity don’t really float his boat. He will, however, taste wine with me, weighing in on a sip with a cartoonish grimace (too acidic) or happy face (no tannins; lots of ripe fruit.)
So how did I cajole him into sitting through a five-part series about the hallowed vineyards of France?
I queued up the trailer and hit “play.”
You see, while Wine Masters IS all about wine, delving into the geeky details of how grapes are grown and magically turned into wine, it is artfully disguised as an epic piece of cinematography. The episodes inspire more wanderlust than a marketing campaign from an overfunded tourism agency. At times I wondered whether I was watching a wine documentary or a National Geographic special chronicling the world’s most stunning landscapes.
And here’s the thing: woven into the wine esoterica are tidbits of history – on the region, the family, the geologic events that created the soils – that draw in people like my husband, who are historians at heart. As I sat on the edge of my seat, avidly listening to Masters of Wine Jeannie Cho Lee and Tim Atkin wax poetic on a particular bottle or appellation, my hubby was imagining the landscape as it had appeared to the Romans or, later on, to the Knights Templar.
There was something for both of us.
I think that’s the genius behind Wine Masters: Klaas de Jong and his team took a topic with a very specific audience and made it accessible and interesting to the general population – without dumbing-down the content. The series democratizes wine as a subject, inviting aficionados and novices alike, to sit down together and learn something new.
Season One is all about France, with five episodes that break down as follows:
- Episode 1: The Rhone Valley features the Guigal family, which holds precious vineyard space in some of the Northern Rhône’s most celebrated crus (Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and St. Joseph) and makes wine in the Southern Rhône as well. A Guigal Condrieu was my first wine love, so this episode was right up my alley.
- Episode 2: The Loire Valley takes us to Sancerre in the Loire Valley, home of the Bourgeois family, who have been making this Sauvignon Blanc-based wine for 10 generations. The hosts talk in depth about the wines from La Côte des Monts Damnés, considered one of the finest slopes for growing grapes in Sancerre. In addition to learning about the special terroirs on which the Bourgeois grapes grow, the viewer is treated to a stunning display of the natural beauty of the valley, commonly known as the Garden of France.
- Episode 3: Bordeaux (Saint-Emilion) is all about Château Angélus, with its famous bells tolling across the hillsides, reminding the faithful that it is time to pray. The bells might as well be heralding the exceptional wines made by Hubert de Boüard de Laforest and his family. They have achieved cult status, reminding us that Right Bank Bordeaux is to be taken as seriously as the First Growths from the Left Bank.
- Episode 4: Burgundy puts us in the cellars with members of the Drouhin family, responsible for the fine wines of Maison Joseph Drouhin. It is a wonderful story of how, after 130 years, the fourth generation of the family hews to the founder’s vision by adapting practices in the vineyard (organic and biodynamic principles) and in the cellar (low-intervention approach.)
- Episode 5: Alsace and the Trimbach family highlights the stark, mountainous beauty of this border region along the Rhine River, explaining the Germanic influence on both its food and wines. Great attention is paid to the exceptional Clos Ste. Hune vineyard, which gives rise to a rare Riesling coveted by wine lovers around the world.
How to Watch Wine Masters
The trailer for the first season is available to watch on YouTube. Here it is:
The five episodes may be purchased individually, or you can get the entire series via any of the following:
After watching the trailer, I ordered the entire series through Amazon Prime for $39.99. Individual episodes are available for $9.99 each.
Upcoming Seasons of Wine Masters
Season Two is all about Italy and should be released later this year. It will feature the houses of Antinori, Gaja, Masi, Mastroberardino, and Tasca d’Almerita. A third season, focusing on the wines of Spain, is currently in production.