Tish Critiques the Wine Critics
W. R. Tish has had the second half of his long article on America’s glossy wine magazines published by Wines & Vines magazine, a trade publication.
No one will miss the irony that Tish delivers has he rates the glossies on a 100 Point scale. I won’t give away the outcome of Tish’s exercise in critiquing the critics other than to say that Wine & Spirits Magazine comes out looking good in his estimation.
Tish focuses on three publications: The Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits Magazine. He left aside at least two other glossies that I hoped he would have focused on: Quarterly Review of Wines and The Wine News. Both these publications have been around quite some time and both deliver first-rate, well-written articles on wine produced by some outstanding writers.
For those who never consider advertising in the wine glossies, perhaps one of th most interesting elements of Tish’s article is a little graphic that highlights the circulation of the three magazines he focuses on along with the cost to advertise and the "CPM" of each magazine: Cost Per Thousand. The CPM is a method of comparing the cost of advertising in different magazines. Essentially you divide the cost of a full page, color ad by the number of thousands in the magazine’s circulation to come up with the cost to reach 1000 readers in each publication.
You are going to be surprised at the figures delivered in the graphic on this topic that accompanies the article.
In the end, you get the impression that Tish isn’t so impressed. That’s something to consider. Tish is a former Editor at Wine Enthusiast. Yet, consider the task of a wine publication. They are writing for a fairly small group of folks. Let’s face it, outside those in the industry, who really cares about the quality and character of the 2005 harvest in Chateauneuf du Pape? The response the obvious answer to this question has been the creation of other wine publications that seem to take a different approach to wine: making it out to be a lifestyle. Wine X Magazine and the newly launched Wine Adventure are just two that come to mind.
The folks at the Wine Spectator figured out this inherent problem some time ago. When I first started working in the wine industry around 1990 the Wine Spectator was a pretty geeky magazine and had been for quite some time. Not long after that a number of stories began to appear on a regular basis that focused on travel, going to spas, Which steak knives to buy and the best place to buy cheese. These lifestyle articles were combined with continuing coverage of the hard core wine topics and, voila, you’ve got a magazine that appeals to those folk who like the "idea" of wine as it does to those who want to know the character of the 2005 vintage in Chateauneuf Du Pape.
Most of the other glossies followed the Wine Spectator’s lead because they all knew it was the thing they had to do. The hard part is keeping your base of wine geeks happy while broadening the scope of what they covered in their publications.
I have to end this post by quoting Tish. He compares each of the three magazines he reviews to a wine:
"Wine & Spirits
might be a Grüner Veltliner—chic in an esoteric way, and now bidding
for wider recognition to match its appreciation among retail/restaurant
savants. Wine Spectator seems to fit the mold of a 2000
Bordeaux classified growth… established, revered, providing
satisfaction to those who have it in their cellar, so to speak, envied
by those who don’t have access to such lofty rank. Wine Enthusiast
seems to fit the persona of White Mare 2003 California Cabernet
Sauvignon—basic juice, nicely packaged."