A Survey of Significance In the World of Wine Publishing

KJGw.ayarrow_headshotsmallI’ve been arguing for some time now that we live in the Golden Age of Wine Writing. My case is made in this fashion: 1) Never before has the wine lover had access to so much wine information. 2) Never before has the wine lover had access to such a diversity of wine voices from which to choose. 3) Never before has the wine lover had access to such a diversity of wine related subject matter. 4) Never before has the wine lover had access to so many talented wine voices.

I’m happy to debate any of these points with anyone who wants to dispute them and I’m sure I’ll take that debate going way. But what I’ve not mentioned before and what I’m sure is equally true is that today’s most important and successful wine publishers are living in the Golden Age of Wine Writing Talent.

This was driven home to me when Jancis Robinson reached out to me to help her get the word out that she had hired Alder Yarrow of Vinography.com to be a new columnist and contributor to JancisRobinson.com, one of the most successful online wine publications in the world.

Started in 2000, JancisRobinson.com immediately gained a significant following for the access that it gave to Jancis herself, one of the most celebrated and accomplished wine writers of the 20th century. She followed up the launch of JancisRobinson.com with the launch of her Purple Pages in 2001, a subscription-based section of JancisRobinson.com that has become one of the only truly successful pay-to-read wine sites on the Internet.

Here’s the thing. It’s not significant that Alder Yarrow, one of the best wine bloggers, has a new writing gig. JR-headshotsmallAnd its not significant that Jancis Robinson is augmenting her website with new writing talent to help cover the American wine scene. However, it is significant that Jancis Robinson reached into the wine blogosphere to tap Alder Yarrow to be that new columnist and it is an action that underscores my points that we are living in the Golden Age of Wine Writing and the Golden Age of Wine Writing Talent.

The advent of Low/No Cost publishing, particularly via the blogging platform, demonstrates that there exists around the world a bevy of writing talent that chooses to focus on wine. And what’s important to understand is that it is not the development of the blogging publishing platform that has given rise to this writing talent. This bevy of writing talent has always been with us. But prior to easy publishing, this pool of talent had practically no way of putting their prose and thoughts on wine in front of the wine-loving world. And, they had little or no way of letting those that publish wine-related information know of their existence.

Publishers like Jancis Robinson, M Shanken Communications, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Wine Business Publications, Conde Nast, Decanter, TimeWarner or any other major publication or publisher now have a significantly increased pool of writing talent to reach into—due to the blogosphere.

Jancis has known this for some time as in addition to being a prolific and busy writer, she has also been a keen observer of the wine media world. It is not insignificant that she appeared as the keynote speaker at this year’s North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. Among the established wine writers around the world, Jancis had been one of the closest watchers of the development of the wine blogging community. Those of us who know Ms. Robinson aren’t so surprised that she reached into the blogosphere to choose a new contributor to her publishing venture. And those of us who have read Alder Yarrow at Vinography since its founding in 2004 aren’t surprised that Jancis reached out to him.

Yet, this move is significant because it is one more endorsement of the wine writing talent that exists across the wine blogosphere. This is not the first time that an established publisher has reached into the wine blogosphere to find wine writing talent to augment their offering to their readership. And it won’t be the last time, either. Who will be surprised that when Eric Asimov or Jon Bonne or Jim Laube or Steve Heimoff or Bill Daley or Peg Melnik or Cyril Penn retire, their parent publications choose someone from the wine blogging world to replace them?

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7 Responses

  1. Kris Chislett - October 19, 2011

    Big congrats to Alder! A very talented guy, and it MIGHT just even convince me to go for the full Purple Pages subscription!
    I’m interested to see what the next few years will lead to for wine bloggers. Book deals and features on prolific industry websites aren’t that far out of reach, but I’d like to see who first makes it big on TV. It’s a medium that once tapped into, THEN we know that wine bloggers have really started to become relevant in the eyes of the mass consumer.

  2. Hal Oxton - October 19, 2011

    So to summarise:
    In a significant move, a significant writer with a significant following has a significantly increased pool of writing talent to reach into, but it’s (1) not significant that Alder Yarrow, one of the best wine bloggers, has a new writing gig, and (2) not significant that Jancis Robinson is augmenting her website with new writing talent to help cover the American wine scene, but not insignificant that she appeared as the keynote speaker at this year’s North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia.
    Is that right or am I confused?

  3. Jancis Robinson - October 19, 2011

    I’ve probably made more TV programmes about wine than anyone other than GaryVee, and certainly presented (and sometimes produced) more mainstream tv series than any other wine writer I can think of, even if they were mainly made in the 1980s and 1990s (when I was under age – of course).
    The sad fact is that in my experience wine just doesn’t notch up the numbers of viewers for mainstream broadcasters and channels. Partly because, unlike food, so little visible actually happens with wine. You’ve got your bottling line. You’ve got your wind in the vines. You’ve occasionally got a barrel being made. But in general wine tasting just ain’t a spectator sport.

  4. harvey posert - October 19, 2011

    tom —
    i agree that this development is significant in that we vintners and wine pr people need to see some “new” media grow and gain importance; differentiating themselves from the field. good for jancis and alder — and us!
    harvey

  5. Randy Caparoso - October 20, 2011

    I would say that Mr. Yarrow makes a wonderful compliment to Ms. Robinson, whose own writing has always been long on verbiage and short on actual usefulness to the average consumer, or even wine geek — at least from the American perspective. The Brits, after all, have always had a different idea of what constitutes quality wine journalism, which is not to say that the average American wine journalist is any better (whereas Americans have a mania for rankings and ratings, the Brits have always had a penchant for subtlely, or else amazingly juvenile puns, to the point of perplexity.
    In any case, congrats to all for a good and promising marriage!

  6. Alfonso Cevola - October 20, 2011

    wasn’t Jon Bonne tagged for the SF Chron from his blog, amuse-bouche?
    good news for Alder and Jancis, btw…

  7. Tish - October 24, 2011

    I agree that this is a significant development. THere are many wine-watchers who now believe that the bulk of insightful, provocative wine writing has indeed moved to the Web.
    Not coincidentally, but not purposely, since I started in Sept. as managing editor at Beverage Media, we have dipped into the media pool for new writers, and four out of six have more of an online presence than print.
    Let’s hope we soon start to talk about media as media, not print vs. blogs.


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