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Wellspring presents
Jancis Robinson's Wine Course (1995)

"Hello, my name is Jancis Robinson. I'm what they call a wine expert, because I'm a Master of Wine. I earn my living pontificating about wine."
- Jancis Robinson

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 15, 2004

Stars: Jancis Robinson
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 05h:00m:00s
Release Date: March 16, 2004
UPC: 790658007741
Genre: educational

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-CC+ B-

DVD Review

Jancis Robinson has the dubious title of being a Master of Wine, and in the years following her accidental immersion into the world of fermented grapes in 1975, she has written extensively about wine, in books like the Oxford Companion to Wine and the current edition of The World Atlas of Wine, and she also serves as wine correspondent for the Financial Times. In other words, her pedigree is up to snuff. This two-disc set from Wellspring collects 10, half-hour episodes of her BBC series, and in them Robinson attempts to strengthen the knowledge base for wine novices, and make the tasty contents of those mysterious bottles more approachable.

Calling this a "wine course" may be a tad misleading, as it doesn't really resemble what I would consider a course, class or lecture. It's really just a series that talks about wine, dumbing it down slightly for the beginner, and that fills in the potentially boring parts with on-location travels to key wineries. I'm an admitted wine dunce, and during the five hours or so I spent watching Robinson span the globe discussing varietal grapes and growing processes, or chatting with assorted wine experts and growers, I inadvertently picked up some knowledge I didn't have before.

The 10 episodes each cover a distinct wine type (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc), as well as an entire episode devoted to the magical powers of champagne (Grapes and Gas). The lead-off episode (Aperitif) covers the basics of winetasting (two to three swirls, then a sniff), and the collection concludes with a quick look at how quality grape production has spread from France across the globe. We are introduced to important players in the industry, like the elusive and ancient Madame Descaves, who is like a Bordeaux rock star, and the humbled reverence that Robinson pays her is akin to someone getting an audience with the Pope.

If you're at all curious about the many types of wine, or if you just enjoy a random cable documentary once in awhile, you'll probably be able to extract some value from Robinson and her wealth of grape knowledge. The presentation is low key and veddy British, and Robinson is able to soften the edges of wine snobbery enough to make the material less imposing. Don't expect a formal course, however, and you won't be too disappointed. At one point Robinson intones that "what you think about wine is the only thing that matters," and it is that kind of casual, relaxed attitude that permeates the series.

There is no right or wrong, but there is a lot to learn, apparently.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All 10 of the 1.33:1 full-frame episodes on this two-disc set are quite grainy, and colors tend to get somewhat blocky and occasionally smear (especially the reds). For a television series, I was expecting a tighter, cleaner presentation than what Wellspring delivered here. The good news is that there aren't any major nicks or dirt.

Certainly not the prettiest transfer I've ever seen.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 stereo audio track is hampered by some recurring hiss, and some of the narration and interviews sound a little on the shrill side. There wasn't any difficulty in discerning what was being said at any given time, but the presentation was noticeably lackluster.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 80 cues and remote access
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Wine Quiz
  2. Wine Maps
  3. Jancis' Favorites
Extras Review: Wellspring has included some appropriate vino-related extras, starting off with a Wine Quiz segment that is divided into three skill levels (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced). The quizzes are text-based multiple choice questions, and responses are rewarded with a short clip, but it took me a few questions to figure out which clip meant a correct answer and which one meant a wrong answer.

Maps of Wine Regions covers the US, Chile, Europe, and Australia, and clicking on the appropriate area will put up a listing of principal wine regions, and Jancis' Favorites is the amicable host's particular wine choices for special occasions or everyday.

Each of the 10 episodes are cut into eight chapters each.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Though entertaining and informative, this may not necessarily be a true "course", but rather more like a journey. Jancis Robinson clearly knows her stuff, and even for a wine dummy like myself I was able to walk way with some fairly tangible info into the world of winemaking.


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