Veteran wine expert Joe Fattorini — who has sold wine to some of the best restaurants in the U.K. and also parsed his expertise as a wine correspondent for the Herald in Scotland — found himself in a bath of wine in Argentina about 15 years ago.
“I was taken on a press trip to Argentina,” says Fattorini, who along with Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys (in season 1) and James Purefoy (season 2) present “The Wine Show,” seen on Channel 5 in the U.K. (it had previously aired in ITV), and Ovation in the U.S., as well as streaming on Hulu. “It was the early days of people filming themselves and putting them on YouTube, so I uploaded a film of me sitting in a bath of wine” talking about the beverage he was soaking in.
Although it didn’t go viral, “it had something like 104 views in 10 years,” “Wine Show” producer Melanie Jappy saw it, and she was looking for another person from the wine trade — wine expert Amelia Singer was already signed on — to add heft to her other presenters, Goode and Rhys.
They all went off to shoot the pilot, and Fattorini came back convinced that this show got it right when others had failed.
“Until then I had a very serious grown-up job as a sales director in a wine business,” he says. But he made the decision to join the series. “Everyone thought I was mad! It mostly worked out.”
Fattorini’s globe-trotting segments — sometimes in tandem with Singer — allow the show to present some serious subjects in a way that’s organic to the “Wine Show’s” brand.
“Our series producer Melanie is the driving force behind the segments we get and how they’re crafted,” says Fattorini.
“All the stories in a way are universal — what would happen if prisoners were given jobs in vineyards? How did spies get around France in WWII?” (Fattorini was enclosed in a wine barrel for the segment in order to help answer that question.)
“There’s a sheik in the Middle East — who is not a drinker — and he loves the show because of the stories. You don’t need to drink to enjoy the show because of the stories. They tell you some inner truth,” he says.
That sets the show apart. “The Wine Show” has aired segments about making wine in a conflict zone, or on a nature preserve and the mountains of British Columbia. It’s found touching stories in the Napa Valley about prisoners who’ve been given hope by working in vineyards.
Jappy has two senior producers “who tend to take responsibility for individual shows,” Fattorini says. It also has a development producer and researchers.
“One thing that’s made a difference: the rest of the crew is TV people. I’m the only one who comes from the trade,” he says. “Their goal is to make really good telly.”
That is evident from the chemistry between the presenters and the way that’s exploited.
“Matthew Rhys has done so many Shakespeare plays he’ll immediately launch into some soliloquy and he will do it from memory, and he’ll do it in the style of Richard Burton too,” says Fattorini. “Matthew Goode has this way of fixing his eyes on the camera and his voice drops — it is like listening to honey melting.”
Purefoy joined season 2 as Rhys was filming “The Post.”
“He’s quite bookish. We do have an absolute hoot making it. The extraordinary thing was, it was like he’d always been there. He very funny, very bright,” he says.
One of Fattorini’s favorites was in the former Soviet country Georgia where they asked, How does a wine culture survive almost 80,000 year of almost permanent invasion?
“Filming in Georgia, I still don’t know what it was, I didn’t want to leave. I fell in love with the country,” says Fattorini. “We were overrunning and we had to film the final segment. I had to deliver it [quickly]. Mel said it’s good, but you can do better. Now I know I have 40 seconds and had to do it.”
Fattorini delivered as the light was fading, and “we heard this sniffing and it was Mel. Well, we know we’ve done well when we made the producer cry.”
Pictured above: Back row: Matthew Goode, Stephane Reynaud, James Purefoy; seated: Joe Fattorini, Jancis Robinson