When the trailer for ITV’s The Wine Show unexpectedly dropped earlier this year, America let out a collective swoon — presented by the very dapper Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys, the 13-episode series follows the novice wine enthusiasts as they explore all things vino in the Italian countryside. Equal parts entertaining, informative, and just plain charming, the duo and their small team of wine experts offer a breezily extensive look at wine culture, and beginning August 13, the series will finally be available in the U.S. on Hulu. Ahead of the American premiere, we talked to Goode about being a first-time presenter, what a potential second season would look like, and drinking games. Please binge responsibly!
I can’t imagine a dream gig as good as living in the Italian countryside and completely immersing yourself in wine for a few weeks. Walk me through how you and Matthew became involved with the show.
[The Wine Show creator] Russ Lindsay happens to be my brother-in-law, so nepotism is alive and well. He came up with the idea for the show. He, like me, is not a fanatic about wine, but really keen on a drop now and then. Wine has an image problem in England; wine is seen as a bit snobbish. We never really liked that image. So he came up with this idea — have two or three experts traveling the world, going and finding these wonderful stories about different cultures, and then he’d have a couple of idiots [laughs] as presenters, along with having a brilliant chef who we would challenge to create dishes for us as well. I’ve never dreamed that I would ever work with Russ. He’s been making television programs for the last 20 years and they’re all factual programs. But I started to see these wonderful [segments our experts made] around the world from places like Greece; there’s one in particular from Chile where they show the devastating effects of the earthquake and how it affected the people. You then realized it’s not just rich people who are involved in making wine, it was so much more. There’s so many people involved, so many different classes of society. That was really moving.
So, one day, Russ was like, You know what, you should present this show. And I said, “I think that’s an absolutely terrible idea. I don’t think giving actors alcohol and a camera is a particularly good idea.” Then he said, Is there anyone you would feel comfortable doing this with? I thought for about three seconds and said "Matthew Rhys," who I just adore and find incredibly funny. We’ve known each other for years. About five or six years ago we did a drama together called Death Comes to Pemberley. We bonded very much over a bottle or two. And that’s how it started, really. It was an amazing gig. The rest is history.
How was Tuscany settled on as the filming location, as opposed to other wine capitals such as the regions around Bordeaux?
That was one of the things Russ thought of. As we’re trying to peel back the layers of wine ... I will say, I’m really hoping we can get a series where we can one day go to France. But to start in France seemed a little obvious. To go to Italy was incredibly beautiful, and geographically we were in the middle of Italy, so we could travel to the north or south of Italy for the show very easily.
When did your interest in wine begin? Did you immediately enjoy it when you became of legal age, or did it take a few maturing years to fully appreciate it?
My father was incredibly keen and passionate about wine and thought that his children should have an idea about it. We were always allowed to try a little bit with our meals, like at Christmas time, when we were around 12 or 13 or maybe even a bit younger. In his mind, it was a good idea for a young gentleman or a young lady to have a little bit of background and knowledge of these things. And if we didn’t like it, we didn’t like it, and I loved him for that. People might frown upon giving alcohol to children, and that’s completely understandable, but I think it made me more responsible rather than less.
The show strikes the perfect chord between being fun and informative. We get to see you and Matthew’s wonderfully silly antics, but each episode is packed with really interesting information about wine, food, and even gadgets. What do you hope viewers will take away the most when they watch?
There are lots of people out there who think wine is snobbish. This was made to be anti-snobbery. People can get afraid when they see a wine list, and that’s not what it should be. Ultimately, you should try any wine. Everyone’s taste buds are different, but don’t be afraid of it. Yes, there are people out there who have vast amounts of knowledge, and some of those people are really annoying with their knowledge and really in-your-face about it. Don’t be scared! Also you don’t have to spend thousands and thousands of pounds on a bottle of wine. We wanted the average viewer to be able to say, I’ve seen this, I’ve seen Matthew and Matthew, and they’re really relatable. We ask the silly questions; the questions that everyone knows the answer to, and some people don’t. It’s like history at school. You learn about James I when you’re 8 years old, and then he pops around again in a few years time and you learn about him in more detail. This first series is like that — some stuff is basic, some is rather in-depth. And then we’ll learn about it more on season two.
I’m thrilled that you mentioned season two, because I was going to ask if you see yourself and Matthew expanding the show for another season, kind of like what Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are doing with their Trip series.
Coooogan and Bryyyydon. We both said we’d love to do it. Isn’t it great, Matthew’s got an Emmy nomination? And he just had a baby, God love him. So it’s not too easy to find the time together these days. But we are planning on doing a second season in Napa and Sonoma.
Oh my God, what a beautiful location!
Right?! I don’t know it very well, Matthew knows it a bit better than I do. He obviously did Brothers & Sisters and that was in California, I think, and he’s been up and around that area a lot. So that would make it easier for him with the new baby. So that’s what’s in the cards, and that’s terribly exciting. I get to have a couple of more weeks with Rhys-y, who’s just a diamond.
I look forward to the official announcement.
It’s not official yet! [Laughs.] But that’s the plan. I’m glad the people in America finally will be able to watch it and get it on Hulu. I hope you all like it.
How was it for you to make the switch from acting to presenting? Did it come naturally as soon as you stepped in front of the camera, or was there a brief acclimation period?
There was definitely a brief acclimation period. We’re taught as actors to never to look at the camera, obviously. But when you’re suddenly told to look straight down the pipe and you can see yourself in the lens depending on how close you are to it, it’s terrifying. We did have a few moments, which was quite fun really, where you just go blank and start giggling. But in general, no, it was actually a much easier process than I was expecting it to be. Most of the time we’re sort of laughing about. We love it and had a really amazing time.
I watch people anchoring news shows and I can now say, I kind of know what’s going on now. They’ve got someone barking into a device in their ear about this that and the other; and they’ve got a politician or some other person they’re interviewing right in front of them — and they’re doing it all live. That’s proper presenting. That’s terrifying. So I’ll say this here: I have the utmost respect for the craft but I have no ambition to become anything other than an actor. [Laughs.] I really think it’s an art form.
What were your fondest memories while shooting the series?
Rhys-y and I were treated so beautifully. We went to Venice — we were very fortunate because we filmed there two or three times before — so it was lovely to go back. We got to meet the extraordinary Francesco da Mosto — I’ve watched his programs on Venice many times on the BBC. He’s a shining light. We spent a couple of days filming with Francesco and taken to places around Venice where tourists don’t normally go. That was pretty amazing, as a fan. I was a bit starstruck by Francesco and Venice in general. Bologna was beautiful. In Verona, someone got engaged on the program there, which was a bit of a surprise for Matthew and I. Italy is so incredibly beautiful and we got such great weather. It was like taking a really strange and odd two-week drinking holiday.
How long did you end up filming for?
We spent a couple of weeks going around Italy, doing our segments and challenges that Joe set us up with. Like, go find a wine that represents love. Very broad subject matter! So we did that for two weeks, which was great. But I just had a baby before filming the show. Our third, baby Ralph. So to go off on a two-week drinking holiday a few days after my wife had the baby wasn’t ideal; she wasn’t overly impressed. I came back for a few days and returned shortly thereafter to the villa and we stitched the show together then. So, from start to finish, a month.
I think it’s only fair that when you film in California to ask for a three or four month filming period. At minimum.
Oh yeah, my wife would love that. [Laughs.] I think what we’ll probably do for the second season is there will maybe be less episodes, but longer programs. I’ll have to talk to Russ about it when, and if, it becomes concrete. Which I really hope so. You’ll learn more!
If you could invent a drinking game for viewers to play while watching The Wine Show, what would it be?
Oh, blimey! It depends on how drunk you want to get. Take a sip every time we do. Or every time you see a wine bottle onscreen, take a sip. That would do it for sure.
This interview has been edited and condensed.