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IWSC Raises a Glass to The Wine Show's
Joe Fattorini

- Wine Communicator of the Year 2017 -

IWSC, the world's oldest and most prestigious tasting competition for wines and spirits from around the globe, has completed its search for the planet's best wine communicator, naming The Wine Show presenter Joe Fattorini as its winner for 2017.
Fattorini was picked as the outstanding candidate from a prestigious shortlist for his work on The Wine Show, on which he is now wowing audiences worldwide following the show's phenomenal success since hitting screens last spring.

1. How do you feel about being awarded Wine Communicator of the Year? What does it mean to you?

Joe Fattorini: It's a very good question. Surprised because, I suppose, I look around and there are an awful lot of very good wine communicators. And to be chosen, globally as well, the other people on the shortlist were people I look up to, I read their work or you know I have enjoyed their broadcasting, Olly Smith I know very well I have watched him for a long time, Ian D'Agata who is really a properly serious wine writer whereas I end up being on television and getting locked into a barrel.

So, there is an element of surprise, but also, I know you are not meant to be proud but I am proud of the work we've done over the last year with the Wine Show and also it builds on an awful lot of other work, you know, it's 30 years of wine business and this was a thing that you work towards so it does feel nice to have the recognition that all that work over such a long time has come together, writing and being a merchant, so yes, proud and delighted.

2. How was your love for wine born?

JF: I remember drinking a very smart bottle of Latour 45 when I was 7 - not the whole bottle, but I had some of it. You know my grandfather was a small – well smallish – wine collector, my uncle is a wine merchant, but I never thought I would become a wine merchant.

I was going to be a solider all the way through my career. But even at school I think to do well, it's a bit like being Tiger Woods, it helps if you start when you are very young. At school the priest confiscated a wine book when I was 10 because they said it was unsuitable reading for a small school boy, so you know I was already, not an expert, but I knew a lot about wine even as a small boy because I was fascinated in the subject and I just enjoyed it. I just found it an interesting thing, and I wasn't drinking it I found the subject and where it came from and who made it always interesting.

3. What's your goal when you talk about wines?

JF: On the whole I tend to take the view that talking about wine is quite a boring thing to do. People will know whether or not they like wine themselves, there isn't a lot I can add, I can help a bit, it goes with this, have you noticed this quality in the wine, for me the more interesting things it to talk about where it comes from, what it represents, what the stories are of the people behind it - especially when the stories aren't always positive ones. There are a lot of boring wines stories you know: a person with a lot of money spent a lot of money making a lovely wine which happened to be lovely and they were very happy with it.

In the show and when I have been a journalist I have always been more interested in stories where a person faced a big challenge, it was very difficult and they overcame it and they grew as a person and what they have produced has influenced lives and changed the world a little bit. And the long story of wine is about changing the world, its related to wars and politics and conquests and power and money and saviour. I tried a wine early this year and this man said it saved his family from starvation, in the war, because of the calories in it, it was a Vin Santo in Santorini. That's what I find and that's the story I would like to bring out. Saying I like wine A more than wine B because it has nicer oak to it is interesting for me but I don't think it's an interesting story to tell.

4. So, when you drink wine do you also try to integrate the story with what you are drinking?

JF: My poor fiancée Christina knows that I rarely open a bottle of wine without books open and the Internet open searching who made this, how did they make it, what influenced them to make that wine? So I tend to view it as an accompaniment to reading as much as anything else. Because that brings it to life, that stimulates the mind as much as the palate, very much so.

5. Is there a story in particular that you thought was a good example of how wine had an impact on someone's life?

JF: Oh certainly you know when I was a wine journalist I used to come across stories every week and the ones that were most meaningful were when I used to write for a newspaper in Glasgow, not noted as a great wine drinking area, however I was constantly amazed at how, you know, I remember doing that tasting once for some homeless people who are not known for necessarily being wine connoisseurs and yet they had an insight into the way wine was and they were just so delighted that somebody took their palates seriously, they were great people. And within the wine show the story that caught me the most was the Garage wine company in Chile. It was a friend of mine, Derik, but I had never visited him, he rebuilt lives, he was rebuilding a whole community through his work and helping people who had these magical vineyards, they were ancient vineyards, to produce wines that they could sell overseas and not just for cheap pisco, and watching the impact that that work had, meeting the people but also tasting the wine which is creating a new generation of wine for Chile was, I'll tell you, fascinating.

6. What would you say the secret of the success of the Wine Show is?

JF: I think that one of our rules when we make the Wine Show is that you could do every story and never mention wine once and it would still be an interesting story. What we show is how wine is integrated into things that are meaningful for all of us. Amelia, my co-presenter, and I are the only two wine people who are really part of the show, the researchers and the producers are great wine lovers but they haven't come from the wine trade or wine background. They are television professionals so they make a beautiful, glossy TV show and we do work with magical people. Our cameraman spends hours – I know because I have to wait – creating beautiful landscapes and images that bring the stories then to life.

But when we work, I mean it's mostly the researchers and producers, but when we work together on creating the stories, we create these fascinating stories about what happens when an earthquake strikes a region, or what happens when immigrants arrive to the country, or when spies need to travel around France, and then look at how wine influenced that and so if you are a wine lover it's fascinating because you are discovering the stories behind some beautiful wines and we always make sure the wines we talk about are amongst the best and, not necessarily the most expensive but, really good examples of what they are.

But also, lots of people who watch the show are not wine lovers, or didn't think they were wine lovers. We get a lot of communication 'I don't drink at all' because of religious reasons or I just don't drink but I love the show'. And we get lots of people who say, 'I didn't drink wine very much but you've made me fall in love with wine and the stories'. We have at least, the last count, half a dozen or so people who've told us that they did their honeymoon based on the Wine Show, and they went to various resorts. And that is very special because if they'd said, 'my wedding wine I chose because of the show 'that's one thing but' I went to this place because of the show' is very special.

7. What's your relationship with your Italian origins?

JF: Well it's a long time ago, my ancestors, my great great great grandfather was from Italy from Bellagio, Lake Como, and we know exactly where he was from, and he and his brother travelled to fight for the Duke of Wellington, in Belgium, in the battle of Waterloo. And they carried on up to Yorkshire and you find lots of Fattorinis in Yorkshire it's a really well known Yorkshire name, people say 'oh Fattorini that's a Yorkshire name' and people think you are mad but that's where they lived. And now Fattorini is famous in England as a maker of trophies, our famous football cup, the FA cup, was made by my great grandfather. So we settled there, and as a child I used to come back almost every year to Bellagio, I am coming this summer actually with my children. But whilst I have an Italian name, we are really not very Italian after more than 200 years of living in the north of England, we are very much Yorkshire Italians but part of a proud tradition.

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