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Best box sets and wine pairings

In need of some viewing inspiration? Film journalist James Mottram recommends must-watch box sets – from The Crown to The Morning Show – while Decanter’s Julie Sheppard suggests perfect wines to match

The Crown (2016-), Netflix (UK/US)

The jewel in Netflix’s, ahem, crown, Peter Morgan’s peek at life inside Buckingham Palace is luxurious viewing. Charting the long and sometimes turbulent reign of Elizabeth II (Claire Foy in seasons one and two, Olivia Colman in the brand new season three), it’s perfect for royal watchers and high-class soap fans alike.

What to drink: English sparkling wine

Princess Margaret may have been partial to a Vodka Martini at midday, but bubbles make a more celebratory match for this award-winning show – and it has to be English sparkling wine of course. Camel Valley in Cornwall has a Royal Warrant, while Chapel Down was served at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

Camel Valley, Reserve Brut, Cornwall 2015

Chapel Down, Brut, Kent NV

Call My Agent! (2004-) Netflix (UK/US)

Love Entourage and Extras? Then try this French showbiz send-up which, three seasons in – and a fourth on the way – has become a cult favourite. Set in the offices of Agence Samuel Kerr, each episode hooks around one guest star, as the likes of Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert riotously send themselves up.

What to drink: Bordeaux Premier Cru

French A-listers are lining up to star in this hilarious comedy, which calls for an equally stellar list of big names from France’s top wine region: Bordeaux. The 1855 classification ensured fame and celebrity for the chosen châteaux, which are still delivering a vintage performance.

Château Latour, Pauillac, 1er Cru Classé 2006

Château Margaux, Margaux, 1er Cru Classé 2008

The Sopranos (1999-2007), Now TV (UK), HBO (US)

Recently voted the best TV show of the 21st Century by The Guardian, David Chase’s New Jersey-set saga of Italian-American gangsters – led by James Gandolfini’s inimitable Tony Soprano – is landmark television. Never seen it? Now is the time as next year the movie prequel The Many Saints of Newark hits the big screen.

What to drink: Chianti Classico

Despite sun-kissed Sicily’s Mafia credentials, this classic show calls for an equally classic Italian wine style. Step up Chianti Classico, delightfully drinkable reds made from the Sangiovese grape in central Tuscany.

Fèlsina, Rancia Riserva, Chianti Classico 2010

Castello di Monsanto, Il Poggio, Chianti Classico 1999

Succession (2018-), Sky Atlantic/Now TV (UK), HBO (US)

The ‘are you watching?’ show of the past 18 months, this satire about a global media empire, Waystar Royco, and the fight for its control by the four grown-up children of owner Logan Roy (Brian Cox) was created by Peep Show’s Jesse Armstrong. Any likeness to the Murdoch family is, of course, purely coincidental.

What to drink: Barossa Valley Shiraz

Yes, any similarity to Rupert Murdoch is entirely coincidental, but the Australian roots of this media mogul give us an excuse to reach for a bottle of the country’s finest Barossa Valley Shiraz. As rich, complex and characterful as the man himself, but thankfully much more palatable.

Chris Ringland, Dimchurch Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2010

Rockford, Basket Press Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2008

The Bridge (2011-2018), Amazon Prime (UK/US)

Don’t bother with the American re-make. Instead, treat yourself to some classic Scandi noir, which begins when a mutilated corpse is found in the centre of the Øresund Bridge, inspiring a joint investigation between Danish and Swedish authorities. Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia – recently seen in Killing Eve – lead the charge.

What to drink: Rioja Gran Reserva

Beautifully shot and cleverly scripted, a show like The Bridge deserves a wine that has been carefully crafted over time and will open up in the glass, just like revelations unfolding in the plot. Rioja’s gran reservas are aged for five years with at least two years in barrel and two in bottle.

López de Heredía, Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva, Rioja, 1994

CVNE, Imperial, Rioja 2009

The Morning Show (2019-) , Apple TV+ (UK/US)

The centerpiece of 2019’s Apple TV+ launch, this slick drama is an on-the-nose examination of sexual misconduct behind-the-scenes at an American breakfast TV show. Jennifer Aniston, in her first small-screen outing since Friends, and Reese Witherspoon head a glitzy cast in a story inspired by real-life scandal.

What to drink: Canadian Icewine

Relationships between the main characters get decidedly frosty in this of-the-moment drama. The same can be said about the grapes used to make Icewine in Canada’s wine-growing provinces, where bunches are left on the vine as temperatures drop to -7°C or -8ºC. Freezing concentrates the flavours in the grapes, producing wines as sweet as Reese Witherspoon’s smile.

Pillitteri Estate, Vidal Icewine, Niagara Peninsula 2016

Lakeview Cellars, Icewine, Ontario NV

Billions (2016-), Sky Atlantic/Now TV (UK), Showtime (US)

Single-handedly turning the world of hedge funds into sexy, compulsive TV, Billions is a masterful look at the dual aphrodisiacs of money and power. The rivalry between Damian Lewis’ financial kingpin and Paul Giamatti’s attorney… Well it hasn’t been this juicy since JR and Cliff Barnes went head-to-head in Dallas.

What to drink: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Make like the power-players of this compelling show and invest in some seriously complex Cabernets from California’s Napa Valley. Home to icon wines such as Screaming Eagle Napa is a natural fit for high-rollers.

Eisele Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2016

Frog’s Leap, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2012

Big Little Lies (2017-), Sky Atlantic/Now TV (UK), HBO (US)

A box-set that oozes class. Created by Ally McBeal’s David E Kelley, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman head a gorgeous A-List cast for this addictive murder-mystery set amid the upwardly-mobile folk of Monterey. Dreamy Pacific Ocean locations mask heaps of domestic troubles as friendships and family fray at the seams.

What to drink: Monterey County wines

Pretend you’re a Monterey local and opt for a bottle from scenic Californian wine country. Located just 24km south of Monterey Bay, the Santa Lucia Highlands is one of the top regions in the US for cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Morgan, Morgan Double L Vineyard Chardonnay 2015

Amuse Bouche, Richard G Peterson Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands 2014

Homeland (2011-2020), All 4 (UK), Showtime (US)

Forget Jack Ryan or 24Homeland is the best spy show on TV. Powered by Claire Danes’ troubled agent, this post-9/11 depiction of a world soaked in the war on terror has shaken itself up in every year. The eighth and final season launches in February 2020, so you’d better get ready for what’s to come.

What to drink: German Riesling

Season Five of Homeland sees lead character Carrie Mathison working in Germany’s capital, Berlin. The nervy acidity and taut palate of dry German Riesling perfectly mirrors the show’s on-screen tension and nail-biting drama. Pour yourself a large glass… you’ll need it.

Van Volxem, Altenberg Alte Reben, Grosses Gewächs 2016

Reheimer Rat Dr von Bassermann-Jordan, Forster Pechstein, Grosses Gewächs 2018

Orange is the New Black (2013-2019), Netflix (UK/US)

This Netflix Original about life in the women-only Litchfield Penitentiary – think HBO’s Oz with more estrogen – was one of the streaming giant’s most-watched shows. It wrapped it all up in 2019 with a seventh season, making now the perfect time to binge-watch all 91 episodes (!) of this gender-redefining groundbreaker.

What to drink: Orange wines

If breaking with convention is your thing, reach for a bottle of orange: white wine that’s been fermented on its skins to create a distinctive orange hue and bags of personality. Orange wines are hugely food-friendly too, if you fancy a snack while you view.

Gravner, Ribolla, Friuli-Venezia Giulia 2007

Lumiére, Prestige Class Orange Fuefuki Koshu 2017

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