The future of newspaper wine columns

Thanks to Lauren Michell Rabaino for the newspaper logo image.

Six years ago, when Tim Atkin's column in The Observer was slashed from 900 words to a few sentences, there was a brief but heartfelt outcry bewailing the demise of newspaper wine content. Since then, mainstream print media has continued a general decline (with a few exceptions).

We've become so accustomed to this that when The Independent recently announced it was going online-only, the potential loss of Anthony Rose's weekly wine column went almost unnoticed. He has written about wine for the paper since it first launched in 1986. I asked him if he would still be writing a wine column for The Independent online, and he responded that he doesn't yet know. In an email, Anthony explained how things started. "I was given a travel budget (for a while) and 1,000 words [...] That was in the broadsheet and we subsequently moved to the Saturday Magazine, after which my column was slowly whittled down to three times a month instead of four, with a word count of, from memory, 780 words, 560 words, 460 words, and most recently 350 words, by now self-edited, plus the ongoing three weekly wine recommendations."

A familiar story, but all is not lost for wine in national print. After all, the following weekly columns are written by specialist wine writers, and are still going:

  • Jancis Robinson, Financial Times
  • Jane MacQuitty, The Times
  • Victoria Moore, The Telegraph
  • Olly Smith, The Mail on Sunday
  • Matthew Jukes, The Daily Mail
  • Jamie Goode, The Sunday Express
  • Fiona Beckett, The Guardian
  • David Williams, The Observer

As the pressure on print media continues to grow, it seems probable that some of these will cease to exist in due course. Some titles will stop being printed altogether, as is happening to The Independent. Others will endure, but when their well-established wine correspondents eventually retire or step down, the chances of an overburdened editor replacing them with another specialist wine writer seem slim indeed.

I'm not an impartial observer, of course. When I started writing about wine in 2008, the ultimate dream was to become the wine writer for a national newspaper. Nowadays that ambition sounds absurdly naive, yet newspapers carry a prestige that still hasn't quite been equalled by anything else, and they certainly carry greater kudos than online writing which still suffers from a sense, warranted or otherwise, that it is unedited and unaccredited.

However, as the media landscape continues to reshape, perhaps that sentiment will change. Indeed, with sites like Punch, eRobertParker and (who I write for), perhaps it already is.