A New Direction for Wine & Spirits - Wine & Spirits Magazine

A New Direction for Wine & Spirits

Remember magazines? They populated train station newsstands, coffee tables, waiting rooms at doctor’s offices, bathrooms at home. Filled with provocative art and various takes on journalism, they filled moments in time now mostly dedicated to smart phones.

Back in 1984, while working with special interest magazines, I came across Winestate’s Wine & Spirits Buying Guide—surprised that a wine magazine could exist. It was dedicated to providing “Consumer Reports on Wine, Beer and Spirits,” at least until Consumer Reports caught up with the former publisher and demanded he remove the tagline. But the concept remained, gathering knowledgeable folks in the wine trade to taste the latest releases without knowing anything more than appellation, variety and vintage. The staff then reported on the panel’s recommendations; once finalized, producers could choose to support that reporting through advertising.

That was our team’s take on journalistic integrity. Panelists left the office with a list of what they had agreed to recommend, so there could be no backroom deals with wineries. As for feature articles, we would report on what we learned from our tastings, not what the industry leaders, power brokers or collectors wanted us to say about the wines they were invested in.

In 1984, even in 1999, that kind of journalism sustained our small team. By 2000, we had launched a website and, in 2002, began to produce events, like our Top 100, bringing our community of readers and highly rated producers face to face.

In 2024, that is no longer enough. Digital media and social media now support the tribal perspective of their communities and, in those siloed communities, narratives matter more than facts. Many brand budgets are geared toward sharing those narratives.

Twenty years ago, we would have advertisers book a contract, then demand that we recommend their wine, pulling the contract when our panels did not. Now, we have had producers pull away when they try to feed us a false narrative and we refuse to run with it.

Through the pandemic, the crash of the media in the last 12 months, and now the softening of wine sales around the world, we have raced to stay relevant in the current environment, working increasingly harder rather than giving up on our journalistic tenets.

Now, this is no longer sustainable. The Spring 2024 issue will be the last regular print edition. With deep regret, we have had to lay off our loyal team as we attempt to restructure to find the best way forward. We intend to continue to update the website, with a report on the recommendations from our Summer tasting cycle. We hope to announce future tastings to come. For now, we have no choice but to take it slow, to work through our considerable debt, and to see what might offer a sustainable journalistic wine endeavor in the future.

Many people in the wine community supported our team, whether with messages after enjoying a recommended wine, or with appreciation for the long-form journalism in our pages. We want to thank the industry marketers who continued to support our work with no strings attached, to the ticket-buyers at our events, to the readers who continued to subscribe even as the media began to crash. We are grateful to all of you for more than a 40-year run.

Joshua Greene

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

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