A better shot at wine on tv

Comedian Alexander Armstrong and food writer Giles Coren offer
their 12 Drinks of Christmas for BBC.

After my comments about wine on television, I happened upon a novel effort last night by the BBC that brought together the Times restaurant critic Giles Coren and his brother-in-law, Alexander Armstrong, presenter of Pointless and half of the TV comedy sketch duo, Armstrong & Miller.


The conceit of the 12 Drinks of Christmas was that two men who would be spending a family Christmas together anyway would try to assemble a list of 12 ideal drinks to keep them going over the festivities. Inevitably, the programme was a curate’s egg whose best parts benefited from the basic likeability of two presenters who knew each other well and genuinely love good food and wine, and whose worst suffered from the focus on a pair of chums pretending to have fun for the camera.

What struck me as unusual for UK television, however, was the unashamed poshness of the duo and their readiness to acknowledge that Christmas might be a time to indulge in bottles of Bollinger or £25 Gusbourne English fizz rather than Cava, and vintage port rather than LBV. At times it felt remarkably like Top Gear in the sense that the presenters don’t have to pretend that a Ford is as good as a Ferrari.

The other resemblance to the motoring show lay in the fun the two men had in doing stuff. So while there was a brief bit of wine tasting – in which neither a £20 Sociando Mallet 2011 nor a far pricier old Musar were thought to be good buys – there were also plenty of activities including the production by the presenters of cider, mulled wine, sloe gin, egg nog and bloody mary. This all had the watchability of good food programs, but so did a brief sequence in which Armstrong and Coren worked their way through a set of liqueurs before deciding that the best to drink was the Baileys.

Armstrong has talked of buying too much wine at auction – and of forebears who included the founders of the firm that imports Bollinger (see above). It will be interesting to see whether any producers are tempted to further exploit his vinous talents – possibly in tandem with Coren’s culinary skills.

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