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TV review: The Apprentice (BBC1)

Mike Roberts of Ridge View – looking as though he had just caught a whiff of TCA on one of his most prized vintages – summed up the whole affair in one sentence. 'Why was it necessary to make it so flippant?'

English wine has never been made to look so tawdry. The Apprentice teams, charged with increasing awareness of English sparkling wine, came up with two films which, if they’d been made in 1973 to plug a local hardware shop, would have been rejected as too cheap and nasty.

‘Champagne is named after a wine region in France,’ explained Thomas Gearing to his fellow contestant Adam Corbally, who said, ‘Ah, I get it.’ Gearing (pictured) is a director of fine wine investment company Cult Wines Ltd, so he should know.

The rest were clueless. They came up with straplines like ‘Less Fizz more Sparkle’, ‘to differentiate on a subliminal level’ as Stephen Brady, another hopeless candidate for Alan Sugar’s £25,000 prize helpfully explained.

They suggested names like ‘Cert’ and eventually came up with ‘Grandeur’, which Sugar mocked – ‘it’s a French word’ – but is actually no sillier than ‘Merret’ or ‘Britagne’, which have both actually been mooted as generic names for English sparkling.

They showed a film that made Sugar’s eyes bulge with surprise – quite a feat, given that he’s now on his 7th series and has had some 100 muppets, sorry, young entrepreneurs, giving their 110% in his boardroom.

‘Spielberg can rest easy,’ was his verdict, but at least he seemed to be enjoying himself, which can’t be said for Roberts, who alongside Michael Saunders and Andrew Shaw of Bibendum, Julia Trustram-Eve of English Wine Producers and consultant Stephen Skelton, made up the examining board.

The film in question consisted of a bride rejecting the fizz on offer as she sat on a throne – ‘Darling! This isn’t the English sparkling I wanted’.

‘It was a lot cheesier than I was expecting,’ moaned project manager Ricky Martin, who looks nothing like his famous namesake but is a dead ringer for Paul Burrell, the late Princess of Wales’s dodgy butler, who’s now flogging Diana memorabilia in America – the sort of thing even this lot of Apprentices couldn’t make a hash of.

It was a lot cheesier than Roberts was expecting as well. His face, which is naturally lugubrious, took on an expression of infinite pain, as if worms were gnawing at his vitals.

‘Wine? I hate the stuff,’ project leader Ricky had said as he minced around the gorgeous Denbies vineyard. That’s why he wanted to lead the team, he explained. ‘It’s David vs Goliath, and David always wins.’

Rather like English sparkling against Champagne, in fact. Maybe Ricky’s onto something after all.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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