James Purefoy on the Joys of 'The Wine Show' and Why He Cried Over a Glass of Red (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
James Purefoy didn't think he'd ever get emotional over wine. But at the end of a grueling day filming season 3 of The Wine Show in the outskirts of Portugal, Purefoy found himself weeping for the first time after having a glass of syrah red wine. "The producers were delighted making sure that the camera operators were really getting a good close-up of my tears," he remembered, chuckling at the memory.
A combination of factors led up to that rare moment of vulnerability, which was preceded by an arduous day spent in 40-degree Celsius heat with cork harvesters -- workers who train for years learning how to strip off tree bark in minutes to make wine cork. "This guy turns up with this wine, and it's not cheap, this wine. He'd been waiting in the hot sun for a couple of hours with a bottle that was open. So by the time it went down my throat, it was slightly warm. It was getting on for the end of the day, the sun was going down, I was tired. I was a little bit emotional and suddenly it was like I was drinking the nectar of the gods," the 57-year-old actor recalled during a recent Zoom interview. "It was unbelievable."
On the new season of The Wine Show, Purefoy returns to expand his amateur wine knowledge alongside famous friends Matthew Goode and Dominic West, the latter a last-minute addition due to Matthew Rhys' scheduling challenges filming Perry Mason. (Rhys, instead, spends the season learning about food and wine culture in New York City.) While the series is meant to casually inform viewers about the wines of the world, it's the group's often entertaining, sometimes wine drunk, interactions that elevate the show to a different level. And it's an excuse for Purefoy and his pals to indulge. Just a little bit.
"One of the great things about Dominic is that he will throw himself into something. Once he's agreed and decided to do it, there's no holding him back and he really did throw himself right into it," Purefoy said. One of his favorite moments of West during the making of the show involved a very actor-y identity crisis following a delayed flight, a delirious early morning wakeup call and a large barrel of grapes.
"We were in this really swanky quinta in the Douro Valley and he came down to breakfast and he said, 'Right, OK, so what is all this about?' He'd never done anything like this before, as I had never done anything where you talk to camera or where you were just being yourselves. Actors being themselves, it's a terrifying prospect," Purefoy recounted. "We're sitting down taking him through it and at the end of the breakfast, he says, 'Something I don't quite understand. So, who am I?' And we go, 'You, Dom.' 'Me? Good God, dear God.' He had no idea how to do that, terrified of it."
"The day goes on. He's there for the tasting section and I say to him, 'Do be careful with the tasting of the wines,' because if he keeps gulping, it could quite quickly become incomprehensible." After a morning spent tasting 16 wines ("I could see he was being quite keen, not holding back"), followed by a big lunch with samples of local port, an afternoon tasting another 16 wines and dinner with producers, "by the end of the day, things were a little lively," Purefoy said. Then producers suggested he and West take part in the process of pressing grapes with their feet.
"I got in first and I could hear Dom getting in behind me but when I turned around, I couldn't see him. I couldn't see him anywhere. I was the only one in there. And then suddenly, out of the wine [he appeared]. He had dived in and he came up head-first holding these great bunches of grapes in his hands and like Dionysus himself, he roars, 'I am wine!' Just grapes dripping down his face," he said with a laugh. "I'm pretty sure it's in the show."
Though Rhys spent his time stateside, he is joined by wine connoisseur and Wine Show favorite Joe Fattorini. (Purefoy revealed there are hopes to shoot a special with Rhys on horseback in Albania in the future.) The new season also features a female winemaker, Sophia Bergqvist, who has been making wine since the 1980s and whose white wine Purefoy chose as one of his favorites this season. And if they're lucky enough to get a fourth season, he'd like to invite friends like British actress Indira Varma to come along for the ride.
Purefoy may still be an amateur when it comes to wine knowledge, but he's learned a thing or two over two seasons doing The Wine Show(a gig he'd "definitely do for free"). "The perfect glass of wine is always the next one," he said.
"There are two things that we're really into on the show. One of them is, we just find out, 'Does that wine give you pleasure?' That really is the bottom line. It doesn't matter where it comes from, or how fancy it is, or how expensive it is. I've taken great pleasure out of a bottle of wine that I buy at my local supermarket for seven pounds, as much pleasure as I would do out of a Petrus or something really expensive," Purefoy noted. "And pay attention to the wine. Just give it a little bit of respect. Have a sniff, give a swirl around the glass. Have a sip now, then let it sit for an hour and see what it's like once the air has got to it. And suddenly you start noticing wildly different things happen to wine when you open the bottle. And it gives me enormous joy to find that out about something."
Watch an exclusive clip from season 3 of The Wine Show below.
Season 3 of The Wine Showpremieres exclusively in the U.S. and Canada on Thursday, July 29 on SundanceNow, AMC+ and Acorn TV.
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