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Phil Oxera

Published:  23 July, 2008

Phil Oxera rather enjoyed The Wine Programme's brief run on the wireless earlier this year, but it has come to his attention that there are some younger wine enthusiasts out there who found it a little, how to put this kindly, pedestrian?

One wonders what those same whippersnappers would make of American radio's efforts to get to grips with the grape, the aptly named Grape Radio, which, on the strength of the show that Phil found online, makes Jefford, Clarke & Co sound like pirate radio DJs in east London. The theme of the show was wine disasters', those crazy' times when you make a fool of yourself in a wine-themed manner. Room there for an anecdote or two, you might think, but after that, time to move on maybe? Not for the Grape Radio guys, who managed to swap stories about spilling wine, dropping bottles and generally making a mess of carpets punctuated with Oh man!'s and Wow, that's funny!'s for a full 20 minutes. Towards the end of the show, after an anecdote that began I've fumbled a number of bottles in my time but', the point of the show finally dawned on Phil. The presenters had just thanked their sponsors, the manufacturers of a really useful product that we all use' and that has even saved' one of the presenters' marriages. And that product? Wine Away, the stain remover.

Strangely, Phil didn't quite have the stomach to listen to another Grape Radio opus, an interview with Robert Parker. Instead Phil decided to catch up on the latest gossip on the forum hosted by Mark Squires on the great man's website. Unfortunately, he had forgotten the address. So he typed Mark Squires and Parker into Google, but accidentally keyed it all in under the Image' search field. What came up is not fit for a respectable magazine. Suffice to say that if you're into mature ladies clad in bondage gear, then will most likely better cater for your interests than either Grape Radio or BBC Radio 4.

If the site isn't quite doing it for you, however, you can always get in touch with a wine marketeer Phil encountered in California last month (Phil is keeping his details out of the press for reasons that will become clear, but can send you them for a fee). Displaying a similar sense of proportion to that deployed by his fellow countryman Donald Rumsfeld in his references to the victims of abuse at Abu Ghraib, our friend waxed lyrical on his devotion to his favourite grape variety. Pinot Noir', he told Phil, is like an abusive relationship - it beats you up all the time but by the end, it's beautiful!'

Still, whatever you may feel about his take on modern sexual politics, at least you would have to agree that our wine marketeer is aware of the differences between the different red grapes produced in the Golden State. This is more than can be said, it appears, for his hapless British counterpart responsible for pushing the new Route 88 brand in the UK. The brand's marketing plan was revealed to one of the contestants in BBC2's recent hit reality TV show The Apprentice, and, apparently, it comprises Chardonnays, ross, reds and that'. The brand had teamed up with the contestant, Saira (about whom The Guardian TV critic Charlie Brooker wrote: If she spoke to an unborn foetus through a stethoscope for five minutes, it'd come away feeling somehow demeaned by the encounter'), to organise a wine-tasting event. It wasn't, one could say, the happiest of experiences. The event turned into a bunfight for a group of pissed-up office workers and contributed to Saira losing out on the 100,000 first prize. But perhaps that's all part of the strategy for Route 88, whose marketing plan is based on the imagery of Thelma & Louise, a film that Phil remembers finishing with the two leads driving off a cliff to their deaths.

After watching The Apprentice fiasco, Phil came to dwell sadly on the sorry state of the contemporary consumer's wine knowledge. Do they no longer care about terroir?' he asked himself. Whither the sense of place?' Maybe those bright young things, the contestants of University Challenge, would be able to lift him out of his disillusion. Or maybe not. In a picture round about Australian wine regions on the TV quiz, presenter Jeremy Paxman showed one team three pictures: one apiece of the Barossa and Hunter Valleys and one of Coonawarra. The students offered a flustered don't know' for the Barossa and a creditable guess of the Blue Mountains for the Hunter Valley. As for Coonawarra, well, wasn't that Blossom Hill?

The dangers of drink-spiking have been well documented, and Phil always has an antenna or two monitoring his chosen tipple when he's out on the town. So he was intrigued when a press release landed on his desk from the manufacturer of an anti-spiking device, inviting him to a conference in Scotland. Phil's interest was piqued still further, however, when he discovered that the event had a spin-off interest in hygiene. Certainly, Phil has rarely received as inviting an offer as that promised at the end of the release: We also have a chemist available for interview who caught a mouth infection from the top of a bottle.' Phil put his name down straight away. After all, if Harpers won't take the story, there's surely room for it on Grape Radio.