John Cleese - Wine For the Confused
Koch Entertainment // Unrated // $19.99 // August 9, 2005
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 14, 2005
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The Movie:

When celebrating an anniversary recently, I bought two very different wines - a 1999 red wine and a 2003 ice wine. The ice wine was delicate and delicious, with a smooth and pleasant taste that I thought was absolutely delightful. The wine offered different aromas, and the wine itself offered different fruit tastes and a full-bodied overall feel. The red wine, first out of the bottle was so acidic and bitter that that's all I could focus on - there were nothing delicate or detailed about the wine, and it went down hard. Once the wine had a chance to breathe and seem a little calmer, I liked it slightly more, but was still not a fan of it. I eventually used most of it for cooking, which turned out alright.

However, the thing is is that I am not a wine expert, and drink maybe a few times per year. I had no idea about these wines when buying them, and spent a lot of time browsing the aisles looking at different years, different vineyards and different wines. I bought what I *thought* looked interesting and different from the rest. Once I was successful, the other time I wasn't too pleased.

For all of those people who, like me, spend about an hour trying to figure out what wine they want for a special occasion, actor John Cleese is here to help. Not a wine expert, but a wine fan (and, as he jokingly notes, a celebrity, so he's automatically qualified to offer advice on a subject), Cleese's mission in this Food Network piece is to demystify wine and to educate people about the wine-making process. As Cleese notes, it's not important what the experts say, but what tastes good to you? Don't let people tell you what you should like, but trust your own taste.

The first portion of the documentary visits a series of wineries and has Cleese learning more about the difference processes, such as: fermenting, oak barrels, red vs. white, different kinds of grapes, the effect of the weather on the grapes of a particular year and more. The second portion of the documentary focused on the enjoyment of wine, starting off with a segment regarding snooty sommeliers and how to deal with them when you're out and trying to find something you would enjoy. Cleese also visits with some store owners and chats about how different brands are priced, and learns more about serving wine in the home. Throughout the program, we're taken back to Cleese's home, where he's hosting a wine tasting party with friends like Brendan Fraser. The guests try hidden wines to see if they can pick between reds and whites, and to see if they can pick between a wine that's $5 a bottle and $200 a bottle. The results are pretty interesting.

I was really rather sad to see this program end, as Cleese remains a pleasant and entertaining host throughout the show. "Wine for the Confused" also does a great job educating those inexperienced about wine about some of its basics. Food Network should have turned this into at least a short-run series instead of just this one program.


VIDEO: "Wine for the Confused" is presented by Koch Entertainment in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame ratio. The presentation is generally quite good, as the image remained consistently crisp, with no instances of unexplained softness. Some minor shimmer was spotted, but aside from that, the presentation didn't suffer from any issues. The rich colors of the locations are quite vibrant here, as colors seemed well-saturated and bright.

SOUND: "Wine For the Confused" is presented in stereo. Dialogue and environmental sounds seemed crisp and clear, and showed no faults.

EXTRAS: The disc offers a nice set of bonus footage, starting off with "Additional Tips, Thoughts and Hints", which has Cleese discussing some additional tidbits (such as how to save/store wine and save money, and how wine changes once it's been in the glass a little while) and some behind-the-scenes discussion about the making of the program. We also get extended conversations with Cleese at the Gainey Vineyard, the Byron Vineyard and Winery, the Foxen Winery and Carhart Vineyards. Finally, there's a short piece with Brendan Frasier discussing wine. Promos (which run for a few minutes) for other Koch Entertainment titles play before the main menu, when the disc is first inserted, and can be skipped past. All of the bonus program footage is just under 40 minutes total.

Final Thoughts: "Wine for the Confused" is a delightful program that gives those not familiar with wine a lot of good background information and makes the whole process of selecting a wine less intimidating. Koch Entertainment has put together a fine DVD, with good audio/video quality and a nice helping of bonus footage. Recommended.

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