John Sturgis

The Netflix sommelier: what to drink while you watch

The Netflix sommelier: what to drink while you watch
The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)
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Are we there yet? No, not a child on a long drive (remember those?) but me every day of last week as I struggled to stay strong towards the closing stages of Dry January.

Yes - finally we are there: the sunlit uplands of 1 February. Having spent the best part of a month dry, it’s fair to say I have done a good amount of reflection on the subject of alcohol and abstention thereof. No, not about how awful I’ve realised drinking is and how I now plan to stop drinking forever - none of that nonsense. I was thinking more about how it’s made me realise once again quite how much I love wine.

Now that January is over, here are my best wine and 2021 telly pairings to make the rest of lockdown fly by:

The Serpent

The Serpent (BBC)

The popular crime mini series set on the Hippie Trail demands an ostentatious tropical fruit-noted new world Sauvignon Blanc - why not the original and best known of the style, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2019, (Sainsbury’s £23.00)?


Something traditional but with a twist for modern times about a South African Klein Constantia, once a sweetie loved by Napoleon, now reinvented for the modern palate as drier crowd pleasers: Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2019, (Majestic from £12.99)

The Dig

The Dig (Netflix)

This new British drama about British history with a stellar British cast - Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Lily James - surely requires an English wine. What better way to explore the historical glories of Sutton Hoo? We haven't always been known for our wine making abilities until recently but several English sparkling wines are changing that. Among the finest is Chapel Down, but if you want to stick strictly to theme then Suffolk - where The Dig is set -  boasts the Giffords Hall vineyard. (Giffords Hall Brut Reseve, £25)

Call My Agent

Call My Agent (Netflix)

This sleeper Netflix hit fetishises Parisian chic with a lightness of touch that’s crying out for something dry and French with bubbles. But champagne is too crashingly obvious for this hip delight - I’d opt for something lighter yet, a Crémant de Limoux. My favourite London dealer has a medal-winning own label version: Berry Bros and Rudd’s Antech non-vintage Crémant de Limoux, (Berry Bros £13.95)

The Great

This satirical show about the longest reigning female ruler in Russian history needs something traditional but reinvented in a modern style, and with eastern provenance: step forward Hungarian Tokay (as was in Catherine’s day), now Tokaj/Tokaji, no longer sweet but bone dry and very good indeed: Patricius Dry Furmint Tokaj 2017 (Waitrose, £9.99)

The Queen’s Gambit 

The hit chess drama calls for something North American, complex and thought-provoking - like this quite lovely Pinot where the twist is that it’s not from Oregon but Ontario: Tawse, Quarry Road, Niagara Pinot Noir, 2017, (Wine Society, £19.50)

The Six Nations

I’m thinking the ideal companion to the return of the rugby would involve a powerful unit with a lot of attack and a bit more delicacy on the back of the palate...and arguably French as it feels like it could be their year: Domaine Merlin François Côte-Rôtie 2015, (Wine Society, £37.00)

What I’ve sketched out here is a fantasy telly wine list as if I were some Netflix sommelier with a Netflix $$$ budget rather than, say, the Asda Picpoul de Pinet - a surprisingly reasonable £6.50 on offer - that is the more typical offering at ours, on school nights at least.

The late Simon Hoggart, long time wine writer for The Spectator, wrote a book based on his experiences in that role entitled Life’s Too Short To Drink Bad Wine, a great title and a sentiment we can all agree with, though I’d add the qualification: '(Unless It’s All You Can Afford)'

Because although naturally we all hanker after the best - as per Withnail’s famous cri-de-coeur: 'We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here and we want them now' - sometimes it is the here and the now which are the more important of those three factors.

This week my bedtime reading was The Soldier’s Art, the eighth book in Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time cycle. Powell’s narrator, Jenkins, is marooned on a bleak army training base in northern Ireland during the phoney war of 1940, being served yet another terrible mess hall meal of undercooked potatoes when he is suddenly moved: 'I was thinking of other things; thinking, to be precise, that I could do with a bottle of wine, then and there, however rough or sour.' Quite, Anthony, quite.