Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Why no wine on UK TV?

Turning on the TV while tackling a bowl of late breakfast muesli I caught a snippet of Saturday Kitchen. A live show format from the Beeb with a blend of mostly instructional and some chat, it briefly dived into a wine recommendation to accompany a Guinea fowl with truffles dish (it was Christmas). Wine journalist Susy Atkins was filmed wandering around the sites of Cardiff and a branch of Majestic where she recommended Domaine de l'Aigle Pinot Noir. I'm not familiar with the wine, but it turns out the property, sited 450m up in the high valley of the Aude, is owned by regional wine giant Gérard Bertrand. Good to see a Languedoc being recommended, especially at a notch in price well above basic sub £5 fayre (it's about £10). However, the snippet really served to remind me how little wine features on UK television.

Mainstream TV has never seen so many food and cooking related programmes. A look at just the BBC schedules on a few random days reveals up to 5 a day are broadcast - no doubt one for each of the Department of Health's recommended fruit/veg portion. Channel 4 offers further choice and has signed up some big names including Jamie and Heston. But when it comes to broadcasting with wine connections the best we can hope for is an Oz Clarke plus a mate series every few years. It's not just TV. A browse in a major high street bookshop revealed meters of shelf space from floor to ceiling devoted to cookery in all guises, yet not even a dozen wine books. I searched Food and Drink DVDs on Amazon; 136 were listed with just 8 covering drink of which 5 looked to have some serious vinous content given the others covered cocktails and beer.

I struggle to understand what's going on here. I guess most of us have to cook, or at least prepare a meal. Relatively few people make wine of course and for most the UK is not a land of vineyards. From a food perspective more people than ever have access to a Michelin dining experience. Either way, this really doesn't explain why tinned beans are mentioned more than wine, unless one accepts that for media consumers wine is even more anonymous and less interesting than baked beans.

Saturday Kitchen should be praised for recognising that wine partners food, something that otherwise seems to have been lost since the days of the great Keith Floyd productions where wine was also essential for the cook to function.