Last night, the BBC aired the first episode of their new Food & Drink programme with Michel Roux Jr in charge. Joining him to bring a taste of wine to the show is TV newcomer Kate Goodman. Together they are reviving the seminal Food & Drink TV brand that many middle-age wine drinkers will remember from their formative years.
The original programme was the one responsible for bringing Oz Clarke and Jilly Goolden together to entertain, beguile and confuse us regarding the wines of the world and was thus an integral part of the explosion in (quality) wine consumption in the UK.
The new programme has an issue though, but they may have turned the weakness into an opportunity – or at least partly.
The BBC is enforcing its guidelines to avoid mentioning or endorsing specific brands, and while that may be OK for a cut of pork, or balsamic vinegar as a cooking ingredient, it is not helpful for wine. Consumers expect to know what wine is being drunk and tasted so they might find it and buy it.
Other programmes, such as Saturday Kitchen, also include wine content, and presenters such as Olly Smith, Tim Atkin, Susie Barrie and Peter Richards show a single bottle and because of this, it is almost exclusively selected from UK supermarket shelves so that it is available to a majority of the show’s audience.
Food & Drink gets around the issue of where to select wines from by having Kate Goodman focusing on the provenance of the wine itself, educating the audience (in a gentle way) about styles of wine rather than promoting individual bottles – and therefore studiously ensuring the brand is not shown, but being able to use wines only available in smaller merchants, and at a much higher average price point. Last night’s wines were a £13 Dao red from Portugal and a £13 German Riesling.
[if you want to know what I believe the wines were, visit my That Wine on TV site - just a play-thing at the moment]
Certainly the cookery content was aimed at a more basic level than many other programmes, covering roast pork and potatoes, and a relatively straightforward vegetable tarte tatin (which looked lovely). This was for a very wide audience indeed.
The effect, of course, is that the audience then clammered (on twitter, facebook, etc.) for information on what the wines were so that they might buy them, which I believe creates an interesting opportunity if not for the BBC, for an enterprising UK wine blogger (more of that later).
In theory at least, it means consumers are not just noting down a brand name on their shopping list, but concentrating on something like the regional name in order to help them buy better more generally. A laudable aim. Certainly the Dao and Mosel Riesling deserve better consumer awareness.
But will it work? Were people too distracted trying to work out what the wine was? Is there much value in giving totally generic advice about the style of wine from diverse regions such as these (not all Daos are fruity and the variety of Mosel riesling would make your head spin).
It will be interesting to see how this format develops and whether they can continue to avoid mentioning specific wines, or if they need to concentrate a little more on individual wines or producers rather than regions in order to have an impact. It might also allow others to develop related sites to help consumers which I discuss on “Wine on TV comes to a Second Screen”
In any case, I shall be watching the series to see what other wines are featured and try to work out what they were, and opening a bottle of Dao and Mosel Riesling to celebrate with fellow wine lovers that wine is getting more TV coverage.