You’ve seen him at trade tastings for years and now he is all over our Saturday night TV as one of the main presenters on ITV1’s breakthrough The Wine Show. Thirteen weeks of prime time TV all about wine. Here Joe Fattorini shares the initial reaction to the programme, from both the consumers and the trade and what he hopes it will ultimately achieve.
Somewhere in Northern Ireland a nurse is relaxing with a wine she’s never tried before. She says she’s done three long night shifts and she’s loving it. Apparently she bought the wine from an independent merchant she’d never used before. And she says she bought it because she was inspired by The Wine Show.
This is the reason we made The Wine Show. To help people discover the kind of joy in wine that wine enthusiasts know, but many other wine drinkers struggle to find in confusing aisles. And we seem to have broadly succeeded. People have written to say they’re enjoying it. But even if you’re not one of those people, The Wine Show has something for you too.
Because it turns out making The Wine Show was a lot more like making a wine than making a TV programme. It wasn’t commissioned. Wine shows never are. The idea of a ‘genuinely popular wine programme’ was so absurd it was in an episode of Alan Partridge; the pipe-dream of commissioner Tony Hayers while Alan pitches ‘Youth Hostelling with Kriss Akabusi’ and ‘Monkey Tennis’.
But wines aren’t commissioned either. You don’t go to a retailer and ask for £2 million to make a wine on the back of a good idea. You raise money. You hire talent. You create a business. You make a wine and you sell it.
That’s what the executive producers of The Wine Show did. It was hairy at times. We filmed our first ‘teaser’ at the Vente des Vins in Beaune in 2014. In the auction we soon realised that we didn’t have enough money to bid on a barrel of wine. Yet that was the whole purpose of the film. Over lunch we cobbled together €500 commitments from each of the crew. Plus our lunch money. You’ll have to watch to see if it was enough. But the much-prized ‘jeopardy’ on camera was real.
That short film was enough to persuade a munificent group of investors to provide the £2m or so needed to make 13 episodes. For 10 months we filmed some of the world’s most captivating wine stories. The team began with themes like war, earthquakes, money, climate change. They then found inspiring winemakers to bring those stories to life. Melanie Jappy, the show’s brilliant series producer, set out to inspire rather than recommend. To tell stories rather than educate.
Did we succeed? Millions of people are watching, and the people who watch it like it. The show’s initial ‘Positivity’ response was 98.51%. Imagine a wine enjoyed by 98.51% of people who try it. Most winemakers would be happy with that. The Wine Show airs in Brazil in May, and other countries around the world after that.
Handling the critics
But what if you don’t like it? I’m not offended. You can’t make something everyone enjoys. But The Wine Show has something for you too. It has shown you can make a ‘genuinely popular wine programme’ on television. Britain has the most vibrant wine scene and the best wine communicators in the world. It may still be impossible to get shows commissioned. But we’ve shown that if you have a good idea, tenacity and good people it’s possible to get a show made. Just like countless wine producers in the past, planting in ‘hopeless’ sites, with ‘bonkers’ grape varieties, using ‘daft’ methods.
Those wine producers knew that although the experts argued it wouldn’t work, they knew it could. They knew what wine lovers wanted better than the people standing in the way. Many people in our business knew that there were viewers out there – knackered nurses from Northern Ireland – who’d love a TV show about wine.
It’s a privilege to be part of it.
* When he’s not keeping Ant and Dec of Saturday night TV, you can find Joe doing his day job as internal communications manager at Bibendum Wine.
* What do you think of The Wine Show? Let Joe and the rest of the trade now and leave a comment below. Or if you want to go further and write an opinion piece in response to Joe’s then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.