Decanter reviews Wine: The Firm (BBC4, 16 February, 9pm), the first programme in a series focussing on the world of wine.
Wine: The Firm is a reminder that good documentary making is a deceptively simply exercise: film interesting people doing interesting things, and package the whole thing in an insightful and entertaining manner.
Centered on the activities of Berry Bros & Rudd, the programme takes a few elemental strands – fine wine and high finance, the contrast between Bordeaux and Burgundy, Berrys’ own mix of tradition and innovation – and weaves them into an intelligent, highly watchable whole.
Above all, and unlike a lot of other modern documentaries, it has the wit to understand that holding a mirror up to this world and the people who populate it is enough – the audience can be left to draw their own conclusions.
For Wine is fortunate in its cast of characters. Not least Berrys’ Bordeaux buyer, Simon Staples, likened to TV gangster Tony Soprano, but who comes across as a chubby, clubby version of Wall Street trader Gordon Gekko.
The Bordeaux/Burgundy contrast is personified on the one hand by the smooth, chilly diplomacy of Chateau Cos d’Estournel’s Jean-Guillaume Prats, and on the other by the nerdy, schoolboy-ish charm of David Clark in Morey-St Denis.
In the end, nobody comes out of it too badly, despite Prats’ Canute-like murmurings on the 2007 en primeur campaign (‘It’s not a quality problem, simply the overall perception of the vintage’) and Simon Berry’s rather lame comment on the perils of investing in wine (‘Even if it isn’t worth as much as it was the year before, you can at least drink it’).
But, despite the odd jarring moment, Wine is an enjoyable hour’s viewing which pulls off the increasingly rare feat of informing and entertaining its audience without ever talking down to them. Let’s hope it gets an airing on a terrestrial channel soon.
The next programme, Wine: The Faith, will be aired on BBC1 on February 23 (9pm).
Written by Richard Woodard