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James May’s Road Trip 

The guy from the British Top Gear goes wine-tasting.

click to enlarge Sideways - the British version.
  • Sideways - the British version.

"It´s a slightly extreme way of saying, ‘Feel the texture.’ That lovely sort of gelatinous flesh being rubbed all over your face.

Feel it. Enjoy it,” pipes renown wine connoisseur Oz Clarke as a masseuse rubs two grape halves on his face.

“I’m just slightly flabbergasted at the extremes to which you will go to immerse me in the culture of the grape without letting me have a bloody drink,” replies James May, co-host of the BBC’s Top Gear.

People who despise wine snobbery will relish this spin-off featuring May, the anti-establishment, shaggy-haired “petrol-head’ who’s “quite keen to learn about wine — not wine bullshit.”

Paired with Oz, it’s Sideways with British accents. In spite of May’s boyish apathy, the hilarious mashing of a complex, terminology-driven industry with asinine British snark (“Don’t try and silver-tongue me, you bald-headed turd”) blossoms into a genuinely good program about wine.

Even your Franzia-imbibing roommate will sympathize with May’s smart-alec approach as he and Clarke explore wineries of “old world” European estates in Season One to “new world” operations in America. In Season Two, they dig up interesting background on California wines you’ll recognize from the shelves at Huckleberries or Bottles on Argonne. Together they explore winemaking techniques, regional history and even the personalities behind the labels.

“My mission is to open James’s eyes to the magical word of wine,” says Clarke.

“My mission is to have a drink,” says May. “And I don’t give a pig’s fart for the woody high notes.”

May’s personal interpretations turn on its head a subject matter that could easily have become stuffy.

“It’s a polite wine,” he says, pondering the notes of a $60 pinot noir. “Not one of those that comes in the room and goes, ‘HEY!’ with its big face.”

Oz looks on with waning patience as May mischievously chugs a glass of vintage Bordeaux like apple juice. But because the world of wine may intimidate some, scenes like this will grab even the most inexperienced wannabe oenophiles.

(BBC America, Mondays, 10:20 pm)


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