Joe Fattorini landed a job on The Wine Show after the producer happened upon a YouTube video of him enjoying a bath of wine.
“I’d filmed myself 9 years ago, slightly sozzled after dinner, sitting in a full bath of red wine talking nonsense,” he chuckles. “You have pink bits by the time you come away!”
Apparently this isn’t as weird as it sounds. In fact, people pay a lot of money for a bath of wine because it’s supposed to be very good for your skin – and it’s not just wine that they slather all over themselves.
“Wineries figured out that a great source of antioxidants and so on is the stuff you throw away from a winery: skins, yeast cells and all the sludge that comes out of making great wine,” explains Joe.
“So as you travel round the world, you often find that the smartest wine tourism destinations will have a wine-spa. I have terrible skin but it’s much improved by being in endless wineries where people say: and would you like to have a bath of Malbec?”
When he’s not fronting The Wine Show with actors Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode, Joe’s a wine merchant. His job takes him all over the world so he’s got a lot of great recommendations, whether you fancy exploring vineyards on horseback, a wine-fuelled cycling trip or a bath that gives you pink bits…
1. “The Douro Valley in Portugal is arguably the most visually stunning wine region in the world. It’s this incredibly steep valley that plunges down to the Douro River. If you’re having lunch on a terrace on one side, you can hear the conversations of people in a terrace restaurant on the other side of the valley because it’s so narrow and peaceful. People think there’s just going to be port and admittedly there is quite a lot. But the Portuguese winemakers are really pushing very flavoursome red wines made from port’s grape varieties and these beautiful vinho verde whites. Vinho verde used to be an Abigail’s Party-style wine – slightly insipid and fizzy to make it a bit more attractive – but it’s now emerged into something much more vibrant and zingy.”
Douro Valley, Portugal
2. “Mendoza in Argentina’s become a wine tourism hub because you have this remarkable landscape. There’s a whole series of beautiful wineries, often with lovely little bodegas and hotels, all running along the line of the Andes. You can arrange to take a taxi up over the top to Chile. You climb through the vineyards into the mountains, which feel almost Alpine and up, up, up, until eventually you get to the border which is right at the highest point. As have your passport checked, you get this extraordinary view of the tallest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua. If you’re afraid of heights, you then have to hold your nose because you descend 3000 metres in the space of an hour via this astonishing set of switchbacks, plummeting down. So very quickly you’re back down at what feels like a Californian coastline and the city of Santiago. It’s utterly terrifying and exhilarating. And then Chile also has really wonderful vineyards to visit.”
3. “One of the things that is remarkable about English viticulture is that the rock it sits on is exactly the same rock that the region of Champagne sits on. It dips under Paris and the English Channel and comes out at the White Cliffs of Dover, which is why the places to go to are really great sparkling wine producers like Chapel Down in Kent, or there’s a lovely place called Hush Heath that makes magically good, globally famous rosé sparkling wine.”
4. “Cycling is the greatest way to understand a winery. And if you really are a wine person and you’re not just wanting to drink too much and have a spa treatment, cycling is a beautiful way to see the lie of the land. You get the smell of vines but also the soil and sometimes the treatments, and you’re much more in tune with the rhythms and the feel of the vineyard. The greatest region to do it in is Burgundy in eastern France. Base yourself in Beaune. You cycle through these villages with globally famous names and you realise you might have spent years learning about that village, how it makes its wine and who the producers are – and on a bicycle you go from one end to the next in a matter of minutes.”
5. “Moldova is an interesting one. You wouldn’t necessarily go for a luxurious experience but you’d go for a memorable one. Moldova is the the poorest country in Europe by a long way and the world’s largest wine producer if you count it by head of population or hectare of land. They made wine for the Soviet Union and have these vast cellars. You can visit the world’s largest, which are over 100km long. They also have Hermann Goering’s wine collection, which the Red Army liberated after the Second World War. It’s in these freezing cellars on the Cricova Estate. You come out thinking you’ve got hypothermia! Moldova makes the Queen’s favourite wine, which was also a favourite in the Kremlin. It’s a sturdy red called Negru de Purkar.”
6. “The second biggest tourist attraction in the United States after Disney World is the Napa Valley. Some of it is a bit cheesy and some of it is a bit corporate but it’s one of the world’s great wine regions and more fascinating than people give it credit for. It has more soil types than the whole of Bordeaux – some people say the whole of France –so it’s very diverse.”
7. “Vina Vik is a very new vineyard in Chile’s Millahue Valley. You’re completely surrounded on three sides by hills and the fourth side looks out towards the Andes. When the sun rises in the east, it rises over the Andes into your bedroom. In the middle of this valley is a little hillock and on top is what looks like a James Bond villain’s lair – a square-shaped hotel with a zen garden and cloud-shaped titanium roof that cost them $10 million apparently. It is utterly peaceful. There are vineyards on every side, spa treatments and endless pools. The food is fantastic, the wines are blissful. They give you a horse – which is very common in South American vineyards – and off you clippity-clop into the vineyards. The horses are really docile so when you’ve had half a bottle of wine with your picnic, you just hold on and it’ll get you home.”
8. “The Finger Lakes and the Hamptons in Upstate New York are both great producers making wine in the style that Europeans like. The Finger Lakes is very good for white Riesling, the Hamptons are very good for Cabernet Sauvignon blends. And New York City’s wine scene is very exciting. You can try fascinating wine from around the world and weird stuff that you’ve never seen anywhere else. One of the weirdest I had was at a place called The Standard Grill, which I absolutely loved. Jack’s Wife Freda is a great place for a bit of brunch and has a small but well-chosen wine list. Matthew Rhys took me out to dinner at his favourite restaurant, which is a Sopranos-style diner with a fabulous Italian wine list called Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn. We drank Sicilian Frappato, which is pinot noir for clever people.”
Joe Fattorini with co-presenters Amelia Singer, Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys
9. “Bordeaux is the greatest wine region in the world but historically it was a terrible place to visit because the vineyards are in a large open set of gravel beds along the bank of the river. They’re not unattractive but they’re not striking like the vineyards of Argentina or rustic like those of Burgundy. That said, one of the most luxurious places I’ve ever been is Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. The couple who own it gave over part of the vineyard to a hotel and spa where you can sit in a barrel of Merlot or a honey and grape yeast wrap (which is what I had). It’s in a beautiful spot and the food is fabulous.”
10. “I could spend years talking about where to go in Spain. The Spanish have become astonishingly good. The big thing is get yourself further inland to quirky regions. If you go to Barcelona for instance, move in towards Costers del Segre where you get people making interesting, quirky, distinctive wine. The El Bulli phenomenon has drawn people into discover that there are these magically good wines that don’t escape Spain.”
11. “Climate change and certainly increasing levels of carbon dioxide are pushing the boundaries of wine-making further north. So in the UK, you’ve got vineyards now in Yorkshire, Midlands and in Wales. My fiancée is Swedish so we go across in summer when you can explore the vineyards of Gotland, which is a gorgeous place to visit in the summer anyway. On smart Swedish wine lists, you’ll often see they have Swedish wine listed from Gotland. They also have some vineyards down in Malmo, where The Bridge is set. There is one vineyard in Finland but it’s not very scenic because it’s next to a nuclear power station. They use it to show how safe nuclear power stations are: it’s heated by the excess heat from the power station.”
The Wine Show is on Saturday 18th June at 11.50am on ITV. For more information and Joe’s wine of the week, visit thewineshow.com