America’s Next Top Wino

Striking the gastronomic reality show iron while it’s hot, PBS has gathered 12 purple-lipped contestants who will compete for the opportunity to create and uncork their own wine labels.

Christened Wine Makers and set in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, California, the new reality show is set to air next year. An SF Gate.com article explained that 12 contestants “will experience every aspect of winemaking from viticulture and enology to sales and marketing.” And the winner doesn’t just get drunk, because, according to today’s Media Post article on the subject, “the winning label will be distributed at Whole Foods stores and via Wine.com.”

Honestly? I’m not sure what a prize that really is. Half the time, I can’t even find the wine section at Whole Foods, and when I do, it’s so small and unvarying, I’m almost sorry I even bothered. (Just so that a bunch of Whole Foodies don’t get their backs up, I’m speaking from the experience of one San Diego, two San Francisco, and three Boston Whole Foods stores.)

If couch-judging food that people cannot taste was a hurdle for Top Chef to overcome, getting viewers interested in wine they cannot sniff, sip, or spit could be close to impossible. Of course, there’s always the option to “play along at home” with selections from their personal cellars. I’m also wondering how long it will take the winning oenophile’s special label to actually make it into the market. I mean, I’m not a winemaker by any means, but I thought making wine could take several years. Since the show will be over by then, will the impact be lessened? Will people even remember there was a Public Broadcasting Station wine to look out for?

On the other hand, maybe the show will be a ratings success and the previous year’s winner could promote the launch of their new wine in the following seasons. Unfortunately, as Cooking Under Fire proved, PBS might not have what it takes to stir up a tasty pot of nasty reality stew. Sadly, I think it’s because they are too nice, and nice doesn’t make for good ratings. Just look at this year’s Survivor: Ratings Stunt Island, where just the news of racial divide has people alternately up in arms and salivating for the premiere.

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