It has been many years – decades, even – since a British terrestrial network broadcast a series about wine in a primetime slot. This month, ITV breaks that fast with The Wine Show, which airs on ITV1 this coming Saturday, and was previewed on ITV4 on Sunday.
Inevitably, the wine trade are tuning in en masse – though we are not the target audience, nor should we be. This is a mainstream programme aimed at a mainstream audience. Our interest is in how our world is going to be represented on screen. For a show with such a potentially big audience, there is a lot at stake here, and getting it right isn’t easy. For the casual viewer, wine is a foreign country – most people generally find it confusing or intimidating or pretentious. Handling that expectation without patronising the viewer nor disappointing the experts is no mean feat.
The reaction from all corners has been overwhelmingly positive; it seems that The Wine Show has fulfilled pretty much everything people hoped for. On Twitter, there was a steady stream of praise from people inside and outside the trade, including endorsements from the likes of Phillip Schofield, Christian O’Connell and Grace Dent. A review on The Guardian website gives a great layman’s perspective, explaining how well the show works despite concerning a subject matter that so many are inherently suspicious of.
The format does indeed work well. The two Matthews, Goode and Rhys, represent the wine beginner. They have a likeable, irreverent rapport that brings the viewer along with them, while experts Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer have a watchable and easygoing authority.
Yes, some of the matey dialogue is a bit cheesy, and the repeated plugs for the website and social media feeds are clunky – but they are no worse than for any primetime television series, and they certainly weren’t offensive.
Meanwhile, any accusations that the show was too light on detailed wine knowledge is missing the point – the primary objective here isn’t to teach but to entertain.
That means viewers get an easily digestible, good-looking, enjoyable hour of telly. Most of them probably won’t think much more about wine, but some of them are bound to have their curiosity piqued, and that’s the point at which they can start to learn more by visiting their local merchant or buying books or researching wine courses. Introducing people into wine in this way is far better than preaching to them from on high. The Wine Show gets that absolutely right.
PS The Wine Show's Amelia Singer is performing at Skin Côntact LIVE AGAIN! on 12 May 2016 - to see her in action on stage, buy tickets here!