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Reality TV catches up with wine

It’s always the same: you wait years for a wine reality TV show and then two come along at once.

Filming begins next month in Paso Robles wine country for the ‘The Winemakers’, in which 12 contestants compete for a single wine contract.

And at the same time a new US-UK venture, ‘Corkscrewed: The Wrath of Grapes’ will premier this November.

It follows American Idol producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, as they try to realise the long-held dream of owning their own vineyard.

For ‘The Wine Makers,’ over 500 applicants auditioned. In eight episodes to be broadcast on US public television next year, candidates will experience all aspects of wine production, from viticulture and oenology to sales and marketing, while an ‘expert panel’ judges who is best.

Candidates will go through ‘gruelling’ tests to succeed in making wine – including a ‘rigorous 48 hour drill for picking grapes,’ according to Stacie Jacob, spokeswoman of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, a sponsor for the series.

‘We decided to participate because bringing reality TV and winemaking together has never been done,’ Jacob told decanter.com.

But as statistics indicate viewer weariness with reality shows, how successful they will be is as difficult to predict as a Bordeaux vintage.

‘It’s the goofiest thing I have ever heard of,’ said Mark Wessels, manager of Washington DC-based wine importer MacArthur Beverages. ‘What is the point? I can see being interested maybe in one week or two of this, but hard pressed to find it interesting for eight weeks.’

Tim Bouchet, director of retail sales at the famous Pride Mountain Vineyards in Napa, was also surprised: ‘It sounds pretty crazy, especially because wine harvests can be really hard, gritty work. So I can imagine people dropping out.’

Of course, as any reality TV aficionado will attest, the harder and grittier the challenge, the more compulsive the show becomes.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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