The Wine Show's Joe Fattorini on bringing wine to Saturday night TV

During the week you will find Joe Fattorini quite happily blending in to the background in his day job as internal communications manager at Bibendum, one of the country's biggest drinksdistributors. But come the weekend, from mid-April, he will be transforming himself in to a prime time TV presenter in his role as wine expert on The Wine Show, ITV1's attempt to bring wine to a mainstream Saturday night audience. It's not quite Ant & Dec, but it will be on your TV just before them.

* This is an extended version of the interview I did for this week's Grapevine, the fortnightly news, views and insights newsletter I produce for the London Wine Fair.

 

Congratulations on the new show. How did you get involved?
The show’s producer, Melanie Jappy, has been looking around for a while for someone who would be the right fit with the main show's presenters. She then came across an old YouTube video of me talking about wine whilst lying in a bath of Malbec on a trip to Argentina about seven years ago. She liked it and sent me a DM on Twitter. Two weeks later I am away with a film crew to Burgundy to start filming. (Here is that very video filmed for fun all those years ago that has ended up with Joe on prime time TV).

 

 

Why did you want to get involved?
Well it’s a show that starts with drinkers first and wine second. Rather than critics talking about wine. Its distinctive, fresh, innovative and fun, but also informative.  The two main presenters are actors Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey) and Matthew Rhys (The Americans) who probably represent about 75% of all wine drinkers.

That's who we want to appeal to. But hopefully it works because they are just mates and we had so much fun together making the show. I even hurt my diaphragm whilst fiming from laughing so much.

 The two main presenters, Matthew Rhys, left, and Matthew Goode, right

The two main presenters, Matthew Rhys, left, and Matthew Goode, right

 

What is the premise of the show?

It’s like Wish You Were Here crossed with Top Gear. With drinking. Yes, we set out to make a wine show, but it’s also about stories, people, and fascinating places. That’s what is so captivating about wine. After all wine is made in the most beautiful places, by the most passionate people and that is what we wanted to capture.

 

What’s a typical programme?
We are all living in a villa in Tuscany, Morecame and Wise style, and each week I send the two Matthews around Italy, whilst I travel to a different country. We all come back to the house and share the wines we have found. We also have a well-known chef who comes and cooks a meal to go with them.

 

How would you describe your TV persona?
Hopefully exactly the same as when I first started talking about wine for a living back in Skipton, Yorkshire.

 

Is the wine trade going to lose you to the world of TV?
Not at all. I am very fortunate Bibendum gave me this opportunity. I also think it is important to retain that link to selling wine every day so you know what is relevant to people and gives you an insight and an authority about want people want to drink and buy. It makes it a bit more gritty.

It is probably unique in that no-one before has had a high profile wine media job whilst at the same time being a figure in the trade. But it happens a lot in other fields, like architects and historians.


How do you think it will be received by the wine trade? 

I think it will be very good news for the wine trade. It certainly encourages people to drink and buy better. But it’s certainly not made for the trade. It is made for the 28 million people who drink wine, but probably don't think a great deal about it rather than the two million who are very in to it.

I think in the past too many wine shows have been made for the trade to like.

 

How do you make wine interesting on TV?
Well you certainly can’t let it do the talking. Wine is so quiet on television. It just looks the same if it is good, bad or indifferent. But you can look at the world through the lens or a prism of a wine glass. And that becomes utterly fascinating. We also hopefully talk to people as 'drinkers' and not just 'consumers' which always seems one step removed.

 

How did you know the right level to pitch what you were saying?
I had to have a mental picture of the person who might be at home watching the programme. In a TV crew that is the sound man. They are normally the most down to earth. They are also the ones who are clearly listening very carefully to what you are saying as it's part of their job. The producers kno too much. The sound man gets it. So if they understood what I was saying it then I knew we had a good take. If they said they lost me half way through then I would ask to do it again.

Otherwise you are just starting at a piece of glass surrounded by five sweaty men.

 

How do you think the programme will come over?
Well it is the closest you are going to get to take a couple of million people a week out to wineries around the world. But each week we tell a story so hopefully it will be interesting to people who like travel shows as well.

 

Which countries do you go to?
Personally I went to: Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire, Moldova, Chile, South Africa, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Israel, Portugal, Santorini, Italy. But we also have films from Australia, California and Arizona from our other wine critic, Amelia Singer.

 

Have you been recognised yet?

Well someone did recognise me whilst I was having lunch at 28-50, but then that probably does not count as it is always full of people from the wine trade.

 

ITV1 did not commission the programme so how was it programme put together?
The producers went out and raised £2m to make it happen. It is the first time a wine show has been made in this way. We had a number of private investors, some of whom are in the trade, who wanted to see a show like this made.

Once we had the show made we could then try and sell it to TV stations. The first programme to be made in the same way is the Classic Car Show for Channel 5. The team behind it, including Melanie, have all been involved in making shows for prime time TV so they knew what they were doing.

 The Wine Show gang with Amelia Singer

The Wine Show gang with Amelia Singer

 

How long did it take to put the programme together?

We were filming, on and off, for a year from November 2014. It starts with me trying to buy a barrel of wine at the Vente des Vins. 

 

Have you done TV before?
Yes about 20 years ago I did a series called Joe's Diner for BBC Look North. It was a series of food history shorts of local BBC news. Then I was involved with a music show, The Beat Room for BBC Choice in Scotland. It was a like a Scottish version of The Tube with bands like Belle & Sebastian.

 

Do you want to do another series of The Wine Show?

Yes please. We want to do multiple series if we can. We are hoping to sell in to countries around the world and will be off to Cannes soon to pitch at the TV festival there.

 

* The Wine Show first goes on air on Sunday April 10, 6.55pm on ITV4 and then will be on ITV1 from Saturday April 16.