An Intelligent Slice of Vice Changes Wine
Going against the stodgy grain of traditional wine marketing and wine writing is commonplace today. You see a number of funky, left of center, youth oriented labels everywhere. And, a number of writers and publications these days devote themselves to demystifying wine in a way that puts the beverage in the context of popular culture.
So, It might be hard to imagine how revolutionary Wine X Magazine was in 1997 when Darryl Roberts founded it and promised a little "Wine, Food and an Intelligence Slice of Vice".
I started thinking about how the world of wine had changed the other day as I wrote about Jason Priestley new TV show then moved directly to the latest issue of Wine Spectator Magazine. It struck, as it occasionally does, that the marketing of wine, though not revolutionized, certainly has changed the way it addresses the various demographic segments in America.
I am convinced that Wine X Magazine has had a huge impact on the wine industry. Robert’s magazine has never reached circulation levels that the Wine Spectator delivers to advertisers. But I’ll be that nearly every marketing person in wine and most winery execs have taken note of the new direction Wine X pointed the industry in when it started describing wine in terms of music and movies, placed wine country in the context of younger eyes and started speaking up for Gen X drinkers
The best way to understand the difference that Wine X brought to the world of wine marketing and wine publishing is to look at the selection here of Wine X covers. Now..imagine Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast using these covers. That notion lingers for a second or two…if that.
I’m not suggesting that the Wine Spectator’s or Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s take on wine is old fashioned or discredited. It’s not. Clearly a large number of wine lovers dive in deep when their latest issues arrives. What I am suggesting is that Wine X Magazine was so different, it’s message so unavoidably coherent, that it result in a new paradigm for understanding wine consumers.
This is verified by looking back at the kind of letters and responses Roberts received about his new magazine. You’d think Wine X had endorsed mass murder. And these angry letters of opinions came mainly from industry types. You know Wine X had hit a chord! For example, take a look at this letter they received:
"I’m currently traveling in the U.S. and picked up a recent copy of your U.S. publication and decided to have a look at your site. As someone who places large amounts of advertising with magazines worldwide, AUD $4.0m per month, I’d have to say you are the dumbest fucking c-words I’ve ever had the bad luck to look up. Any shit rag that talks to the industry with the amount of disrespect, deserves to run no name "stars" on your cover with 3 ads – one from Alice White of all gutter brands.
Good for you arrogant fucking wankers! Needless to say I’ll spend elsewhere.
The point is, this person is clearly confronting something he doesn’t understand and really doesn’t know how to react to it. This was common in the early years of Wine X Magazine. But as I said, things have changed. A lot of people "Get It" now and a lot of people in the wine industry and among wine writers have changed they way they approach their business…thanks to Wine X Magazine.
what an idiot aussie! i enjoy winex as well.
There was talk a year or two back of launching a UK version – I had a brief exchange of emails with the team and I seem to remember they cited a luke-warm ie crap reception from merchants and advertisers. I doubt many over here in the tade have got ‘it’ yet.
“Now..imagine Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast using these covers. That notion lingers for a second or two…if that. ”
Oddly, one cant’ imagine that and its too bad! I wrote about this a while ago. I thought it was interesting that Cigar Aficianado (another Shanken publication) uses attractive models on its cover, yet WS does not. Why is WS afraid of appealing to our prurient interests, yet CA is? The lingering effect of the Clinton presidency?
I like what Wine X is doing; I wished they showed more respect to writers. I ran into an editor at a tasting and said, “Do you still only buy on spec?” He said yes, so I replied, “That’s too bad. I have a bunch of ideas I’d like to pitch you.” Demanding that writers do all the work up front — research, writing, photos, and all — before the editors decide whether or not to buy it doesn’t exactly encourage good writers to send you ideas. It’s a nice way of saying, “We don’t respect you, but if you pour your blood and sweat into something and then send it to us, we might run it. I guess.” It encourages lots of people trying to break in to the market, which is cool, but not people who can get professional assignments elsewhere.
Of course, I started the conversation with him by correcting his tasting note. He said, “This wine [Tablas Creek Rose 2003] tastes like I’m biting into a ripe strawberry.” I said, “Should you say it tastes like an interview with Farrah Fawcett or something?” I’m not a fan of their tasting notes, though they have improved over time. (less fluff, more utility)