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03.03.2007

The End of An Attitude

winexlogo.jpgMuch has discussion been brewing this past two weeks around the announced demise of Wine X Magazine. For those who are unfamiliar with the rag, it was going to be the wine magazine For a New Generation. Full of attitude, super hip, and dedicated to talking about wine in ways that GenX-ers and GenY-ers would understand. Frequent references to sex, celebrities, and pop-culture pervaded the magazine and its tasting notes which were scored on an "x," xxx," and "xxx-rated" basis.

In a somewhat bitter lament as part of the announcement of its closing, founder Darryl Roberts blamed the wine industry itself for the magazine's failure: ""There's a lot of talk within the wine industry about marketing to young adults. New wines have been created, new wine divisions have been formed by large wine companies, all with the idea of targeting young adults. Yet they give us absolutely no support." Presumably, Roberts means that none of them paid to advertise in his pages.

Ordinarily I wouldn't find this topic worth commenting on except for the fact that amidst all the coverage of this magazine's extinction no one seems to be pointing out what I though would be obvious: the real reason the magazine failed was because it wasn't any good.

I wonder how many of the folks out there in the media pontificating on what the failure of Wine-X might mean in the face of current theories about the millenials and their media consumption have actually ever picked up a copy of the magazine and read it? The writing ranged from good to mediocre to just plain bad, the photography and design of the magazine was lousy, and their operations seemed erratic to the point of not even being able to publish the magazine at a predictably regular interval, let alone managing to populate the pages with regular columns and contributors. And don't get me started on their wine reviews, which for all their cheeky pop-culture descriptors which at times could be quite funny, were essentially useless to the consumer (my recollection is that they never provided prices for the wines).

I say, good riddance. Someone will eventually figure out how to write a good magazine for the youngest generation of wine consumers, or perhaps blogs will provide all that is needed by this perpetually online generation.

Peace, out.

Comments (19)

Anonymous wrote:
03.03.07 at 5:58 PM

Alder-

Sincere thanks and deep respect for calling this one honestly. At 35, I'm at the upper end of the "demographic" toward which WineX was pitched, and I, along with every one of my wine-savvy peers, felt that WineX was simply inane. If you care enough about wine to purchase media dedicated to the topic, you're probably buying subscriptions to TWA, IWC, Burghound, etc. and also own a copy of "The World Atlas of Wine"- and you most certainly don't want to read a "XXX" rating for a wine. If you're drinking Blue Kangaroo, you probably don't care, and likely won't be buying wine magazines, anyway. Personally, I found the whole enterprise pretty silly and vaguely offensive.

Anyway, thanks again for your unvarnished take on the matter.

Regards,

Jeff

Jack wrote:
03.03.07 at 6:37 PM

This was not a good magazine and it deserved to die long ago. I think the only people who thought it was hip or cool were the people publishing it. It dumbed down wine to 5th Grade level of intelligence; too bad 5th graders don't buy wine or wine magazines. Wait, I may be insulting quite a few 5th graders - my apologies.

To put it another way, it added nothing worthwhile to the world of wine.

Anonymous wrote:
03.03.07 at 6:57 PM

Alder,

I think your main point abobut Wine X is right on target. For me, the self-conscious hipness seemed to get in the way of the content, especially in the tasting notes, which I recall frequently going so over the top in metaphor ("silky as Tom Cruise's undies") that it was plain difficicult to discern what the taste(s) liked about a wine.

In terms of your concluding thought, I can't imagine a wine magazine will ever capture the sustained attention of "young" wine consumers. Communicating about wine in print in general is extremely difficult. Three simple reasons: widely varying levels of experience; widely varying interests; widely varying tastes. Add to that the increasingly crowded yet futile retail market; you can't always find what you want even if you read about it in a magazine, so what good are magazines? (Note: wine mags WOULD be better if they spent more time approaching wine by style rather than points, but that's another subject.)

I think blogs and websites will satisfy most wine lovers as we move forward, particularly among people who have grown comfortable getting all sorts of news/guidance via the Web. Though I wouldn't count out a spike in interest in specialized books and/or magazines.

In terms of the so-called "youngest" generation of wine drinkers, they are probably better served frequenting good retailers and tastings than by reading ANY current magazine.

TinMan wrote:
03.03.07 at 8:29 PM

Millenials don't do dead trees. The Wine X folks (nice as they are), are still MSM (MainStream Media).

I don't think the magazine's writing was its demise because there are tons of other periodicals (wine and other topics) that suck very large rocks.

03.04.07 at 7:13 AM

As someone within the GenWhatever generation, I've been enjoying Imbibe. It doesn't just focus on wine, and it is a fun little magazine. You can check it out at http://www.imbibemagazine.com/

Benito wrote:
03.04.07 at 8:06 AM

A couple of years ago, I got frustrated about always being the youngest person at wine tastings (I was around 27 at the time), and I had little luck convincing my friends to share in my newfound hobby. Someone suggested WineX, so I checked it out. While some of the one-line wine reviews were amusing, and the Surreal Gourmet recipes were actually decent, it seemed to be aimed squarely at some hipster demographic found only in the large cities of the coasts.

I'm not complaining about some sort of Red State/Blue State divide, but there are a lot of people in their 20s who are interested in wine but don't fall into the WineX audience. The Wine Brats movement was, I think, a good balance of honest wine knowledge and being able to have fun. I don't know how much it ever got off the ground--I recently read the book (or manifesto?) that was written back in the mid 90s and it sounded like a great idea.

Jason wrote:
03.04.07 at 1:46 PM

I vaguely recall hearing about WineX a year or so ago and thinking that it sounded like a bad idea. Having only recently turned 24, I've honestly never met someone younger than myself at either a tasting, a dinner, or a winery. This is partly due to the fact that my friends and acquaintances of similar age who consider themselves interested in wine can easily be divided into two groups, neither of which is remotely interested in a publication like WineX.

The first group, and vast majority, are young professionals who always enjoy a glass of wine but don't care enough (or have the time) to bother venturing beyond old American standbys like cabernet and chardonnay. These people would be insulted by the x-rating-system and gratuitous pop-culture references and are not at all likely to read a wine-related publication anyhow, regardless of content or production quality.

The second group is composed of people who can't get enough of good food and drink, talk with the guys at their local wine shop about why it's so difficult to find good scheurebe and roter veltliner stateside, and have already read all of Jamie Goode's essays on Stelvin closures and cork taint. Far from being potential buyers of publications like WineX, these folks likely find Wine Spectator and similar publications to be shameless and less-than-helpful commercial rags with very little to offer beyond purchase recommendations targeting already-overpriced regions, producers, and vintages.

Aside from books and reference works, I personally find blogs to be the only decent and enjoyable way to learn more about wine (aside from drinking it, of course) without feeling like someone is trying to sell me something. And websites like Wine Library TV certainly have their place as well.

As far as WineX's purported mission of bringing wine to a younger generation, the best way to help us lazy young folks better appreciate the stuff is to encourage us to buy our bottles from a wine shop whenever practicable. It doesn't take any longer than buying elsewhere, and you'll pick up bits of knowledge without even realizing it.

Robert wrote:
03.04.07 at 2:45 PM

I feel sort of weird about this, because I'm in the demographic they're looking for, and a professional in the wine industry, and yet I'd never heard of the magazine. So I'm not mourning, really. Sounds pretty purile.

But for real, the best way to learn about wine is just to make friends with a wine rep for a distributor.

Benito wrote:
03.04.07 at 6:24 PM

Re: Roger

> But for real, the best way to learn about wine is just
> to make friends with a wine rep for a distributor.

I second this. I've learned a hell of a lot from a distributor who happens to be a family friend. However, I'd also suggest that younger (or inexperienced) wine drinkers get to know the people working the tastings as well as the owners and operators of the wine shops they frequent. These guys get paid to talk about wine, it's OK to go up to them and ask a dumb question. If they treat you like crap, go somewhere else.

When I go to wine tastings these days I check in with the regulars I know and then look for any newbies that seem confused, and invite them to sit and taste with me. Most of the time they're relieved, and I have a lot of fun going through the wines with them. I never belittle their tastes, but try to point out little things to look for in the wines, even if they don't like them.

This whole endeavor is a fun hobby; there's no reason for it to be frightening for the newcomer. I don't know what the ideal approach is for the 21-30 year old wine drinker, but I try to make it easy for those that I meet.

sandy wrote:
03.04.07 at 8:08 PM

Yes, no great loss with Xing out Wine X. And thanks to Sam for telling us/me about IMBIBE - it looks like a very interesting magazine. I do enjoy media that goes beyond ratings and descriptors about wine. After all, wine has a lot more pleasures to offer all generations than its numbers.

Paul Gregutt wrote:
03.04.07 at 8:44 PM

I'm with you Alder. See my blog for my take on all this.

Sean wrote:
03.04.07 at 10:39 PM

You know what? I thought it had died long ago. It was amusing at first, but proved to be a Mad Magazine take on wine, not to be taken seriously... It wanted to be punk/irreverant, but approached it in the wrong way.

Well written, Alder.

03.05.07 at 12:25 AM

Well said Alder. I started running wine, whisky, tea and coffee tastings ten years ago (oh those sunny days of my youth aged 27, and I'm still doing it.

I can't stand food and drink mags, or women's mags, aimed at me. I just bought and read Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine and Alexis Lichines Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits. Ten years on and they are still my main reference books, oh and a certain blog ...

tony vincent wrote:
03.05.07 at 3:40 AM

i can't agree enough with you, alder. this magazine came off as juvinile and misguided. i, yes, a 30-somthing, found the "tasting notes" completely useless and their verbage geared more to a frat-house--or an even younger demographic...
...and, being a dedicated apple user for over 15 years, their website has NEVER worked with the mac platform...--in my mind, complete inexcusable.
tv

John Skupny wrote:
03.05.07 at 8:13 AM


As an 'old-dog' baby boomer who has been in the wine industry for over thirty years I may not have the best read on the demise of Wine X, however Darry Roberts condemnation of the wine industry for not supporting Wine X is totally misplaced. It has always been my understanding that any publication is dependent on it's readership for support and that for a wine publication to claim dependency on the 'wine industry' for survival would be a severe conflict of interest and one would have to questions it's editorial integrety. I never 'got' WineX and when I passed it onto my Gen Y children they always said it 'tried' to be so hip that it hurt!

Phil McGarr wrote:
03.05.07 at 11:22 AM

Spot on Alder. I wanted Wine X to survive as a young consumer of wine, however, after meeting them at ZAP one year, I couldn't help but wonder how a magazine could possibly survive with so much animosity at the top (Darryl).

More likely wine will become popular in organically, and not "made" cool by a hip anti-establishment magazine run by angry wine drinkers who berate contributors for mentioning Bob Parker's name. However, in every market we'll have our extremes and they did the good job of playing that role.

Joel wrote:
03.05.07 at 11:52 AM

How dare you compare Wine X to Mad Magazine.

el jefe wrote:
03.06.07 at 12:13 AM

From a winery perspective... all we ever really want is a fair judging. (Well, OK, all we REALLY want a 98, but I digress.) WineX was so insufferably hip you never really knew if you were going to be their new darling, or if you were going to be pissed all over to make some other point (or to make no point at all.) We didn't send them much wine...

Sean, with all respect, a Mad Magazine take on wine would both make you laugh and make you think. I wish someone would do that!

cd wrote:
03.06.07 at 9:27 AM

Good riddance. I'm so sick of the idea that adding an 'X' to things to make them sound cool and 'alternative'. I just turned 30, so I guess I'm in the range of this, and while irreverant is fine with me, and I welcome it, one thing every generation can agree on - if you try so hard to be cool, it's obvious you're not cool. And nobody likes to be talked down to either.

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