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Wine Spectator, Me and the Relationship Divide

The wine equivalency to the eHarmony relationship test would have isolated our differences years ago; without it however I have struggled to discern the incompatibility between me and my wine media muse, Wine Spectator.

At this point, years in, our relationship should have transcended mere “like” to a deeper, more in tune level of trust.

Then one recent day, I finally “got it.”  I got the difference between me and Wine Spectator.

My lodestone pointing north, I finally understood why Wine Spectator has long been a magazine I have read, yet I’ve never quite felt the reciprocal warm embrace from that of a kindred spirit.  True to relationships in our heart of hearts – it was them and not me, even if I took responsibility for the relationship.  The half-heartedness it gave back to me feeling insincere and dishonest like the kiss you share at the end of a first date when there won’t be a second date: part mercy, part memento.

It wasn’t for lack of effort, though.


I mean, I have the credentials; I am a wine enthusiast for Goodness sake.  They have credentials as the premiere magazine for wine enthusiasts.  We should be getting along, no?

Why haven’t these “dates” with Wine Spectator been going the way they should?

Everything from the content to the advertisers have felt “off,” like I was a Brit visiting the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History; interesting surely, but not resonating with me, not a part of my fabric.

I have been a stranger in a not so strange land.

And then, I realized what it was with Wine Spectator and me:  We’re kids from two different sides of the tracks, Romeo and Juliet, however, our love will be forever unrequited.

Reading the “Wine Spectator Magazine Readership at Glance” overview found at the M. Shanken Communications web site and then reviewing their demographic overview, it became painfully clear that the dissonance I’ve felt with Wine Spectator is because it’s a magazine that is not intended for me.

Nope, I’m not the audience.  More painfully, I don’t know anybody in their audience.  I’m more middle management than jet flying C-Suite, doing the work instead of making the decisions.

Yes, I’ve simply been feeling the pain of another intersection that won’t ever be true compatibility.

From Wine Spectators Advertising materials:

* Our readers include epicureans, connoisseurs and collectors and business leaders

* Wine Spectator is the No. 1 luxury consumer publication in the 2008 Luxury Brand Status Index Survey

* The Luxury Brand Status Index Survey sampled 1,681 wealthy American consumers with an average income of $293,000 and an average net worth of $2.9 million

* Wine Spectator magazine readers have a median household income of $163,983

* The median age for a Spectator reader is 49

* The median liquid assets for a Wine Spectator reader is $3,018,000

* 25% of readers have a Chief Officer title

* 34% own 2+ homes

* The Wine Spectator reader takes an average of seven vacations a year

* 30% fly first or business class

* 56% are a member of a private club

Reading through the Wine Spectator advertising demographic information reminded me of the infamous George W. Bush quote when speaking to a group of wealthy Republicans, “This is an impressive crowd: the Have’s and Have-more’s. Some people call you the elites. I call you my base.”

Is it any wonder I have felt the lack of connection with Wine Spectator?  I am not a part of their “base.”  In fact, I might be the cousin twice removed compared to their “base.”

Compared to the demographics, I’m very “outhouse” compared to the penthouse.

At least now I can stop scratching my head about the persistent travel recommendations for the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons.

Of all the statistics that that I have cited, the one that jumped out to me, besides the one in four readers that are a “Chief” of something, is the $3 million in liquidity that the median reader possesses.


Given the economy, I’m more than a couple of zeros away from that.

So, now that I understand this delta in between Wine Spectator and me, I feel emboldened to build a relationship on common ground, not dating, but perhaps visitation like that rich friend who you share time with occasionally, if only sporadically, perhaps to be reminded of the contentedness you enjoy in your life without the encumbrance of more things to take care of, as much as the quality of the shared time.

Yeah, this thing between Wine Spectator and me will be just fine, but it will be on my terms now, no self-flagellation for a relationship that doesn’t quite fit. 


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (10) |


On 06/23, 1WineDude wrote:

I actually fit a good portion of their demographic.  Not the $3M liquidity part, but there is no question in my mind that I’m the type of person that they’d want to court as fitting some of that demographic now, and therefore potentially fitting more of it in the future.

There’s just one problem - I don’t at all fit their “Quality of Readership” stats:

Read 4 Of The Last 4 Issues
- Them: 82%
- Me: 0%

Average Time Spent Reading
- Them: 1 hour
- Me: 0 hours

Save Back Issues
Them: 89%
Me: 0%

Will Definitely/ Probably Renew
Them: 93%
Me: 0%

I’m a glimpse into the potential future of WS.  And I don’t want any part of the magazine.  And yes, this has to do with the type of person who is in their demographic - their Forum certainly showed me that they have enough bad apples in their to ruin the entire bunch (for me, anyway).

Wonder if that’s an isolated view on my part, or a portent of things to come for WS…?

On 06/24, Dale Cruse wrote:

The fact that Spectator is geared towards rich old white men is no surprise to me. Thing is, those numbers aren’t sustainable. All those C-level execs inch ever closer to retirement but the barbarians are already at the gate. The Millennial Generation is hungry and literally begging to have good wine info. Evolve or die, Wine Spectator. Evolve or die.

On 06/24, Dylan wrote:

Dale’s comments being stated: is there unequivocally a source where Millennial find all their wine information. What would that source look like?

On 06/24, Dale Cruse wrote:

Dylan, ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? 5000 friends on Facebook, half a million followers on Twitter, appearances on the Today Show, Conan, Ellen, etc. He’s a marketing machine.

I should also mention that Leah Hennessy is doing some great writing about wine and the Millennial Generation on Twitter at and on her website at:

Also, here in Boston, sponsors events and has a great publication aimed at drinkers under 30 (full disclosure: I write for The Second Glass).

On 06/24, Ron McFarland wrote:

As I was reading your post I noticed the links to the Clue Train Manifesto and jumped back in time to 2006. Your comments back then were and still are pretty tuned in today. Especially, for your article today and print publications in general.

I think the major print publications will continue going forward, they will just be part of a very different information flow.

How this new flow impacts consumer spending patterns is still the great unknown and why the mystery is so interesting.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

On 06/25, Hardy / Dirty wrote:


Great post. 

What hit me here—“Luxury, Luxury, Luxury”

On a flight last week, I didn’t have a book, and went to pick up a copy of WS in the airport.  It was SO thin… Crazy thin. Less ads isn’t always a bad thing, but I flipped through and there was so little content.  I put it back and decided to listen to a “Herman’s Hermits” retrospective instead.

Does this say anything we don’t already know?  Probably not-  but to the industry, it reaffirms that the target WS reader is perhaps an endangered species… and the low / zero cost, social media, marketing approach will get far better returns than trying to shoot through tall grass hoping to hit a rhinoceros.

On 06/25, Ryan Reichert wrote:

Very witty. I like.

Good points Dale, however, I kind of see Gary as the Robert Parker for Millennials. I hear him telling people to try things regardless of his tastes - and appreciate that - but his influence is far more powerful than that I think.

I’ve never really cared for WS myself - every time I picked it up I felt like I was doing so just because it was “the right thing to do” as someone who likes wine ... right? And c’mon - how can anyone deny that an 8ft tall magazine doesn’t make them feel important?

On 07/01, Adam wrote:

Very real insight and super post. I am baffled by all this since I am a long time Spectator subscriber, a close target demo fit, a magazine executive of home design luxury publications that works hard at following and adapting to a changing market, and a relatively new wine blogger that is striving to connect today’s fresh wine sensibility and the Spectator’s representative genre of wine elite.  I like and can appreciate both worlds.  I dont’ understand why the worlds don’t connect more.

Last week I suggested to Tom Matthews that the upcoming October New York Wine Experience find a way to embrace the blogger community in creative ways.  I gave a shor laundry list of strategies.  Reach out to the sea of wine saavy folks that might not traditionally operate in the Spectator orbit, but have a following, interest, and something of value to share. My message suggested that this might be a good way to bridge the very divide that you reflect in this post. 

It has been five days and I have not had any feedback.  I hope Tom shared the idea with his event management team and they are pondering the idea or that Tom is on vacation and just not checking emails. 


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