The state of wine writing in 2016
As 2016 drags its fetid, pox-ridden body towards an unmarked grave, few will mourn its passing. We're all well aware of the tragedies that have befallen the world in the last 12 months, so I won't repeat them here, but there is one big tragedy left unaddressed: how has 2016 been for wine writing?
Okay, so only you, me and a handful of others care about such a relative triviality, but seeing as this is a wine blog, let's indulge for a moment.
PRINT: mixed fortunes
Wine writing in newspapers and magazines lived to fight another day in 2016 - but only just. Anthony Rose's long-standing wine column in The Independent was terminated, as was another by Jane Skilton. Will Lyons continues to write his Sunday Times column, though is now employed by Berry Bros & Rudd, which have led to some accusations of a conflict of interest.
They're friends really.
For UK consumers, Decanter, World Of Fine Wine and Noble Rot continue to dedicate themselves to wine in print - and they have just been joined by No. 3, a revived bi-annual publication by the aforementioned Berry Bros & Rudd.
It remains desperately tough to make money in this field - either as a publisher or a writer. This year, print equated to 12% of my income, roughly the same as 2015. Speaking to fellow wine writers, there is an almost universally gloomy outlook. Perhaps Noble Rot's recent advertisement for a Sales and Distribution Manager can be taken as a sign that all is not lost.
Plenty of books about wine have been published this year: there are around 30 that are being reviewed for JancisRobinson.com later this month. (I've particularly enjoyed Empire of Booze by Henry Jeffreys).
I know from my own research that these are rarely profitable, but are still considered worthwhile for prestige and generating other opportunities. No doubt they will keep on coming in 2017.
The digital sphere is certainly more alive than print for wine writing, and there have been some fairly big changes in 2016.
The Digital Wine Communicators Conference has sadly been put to rest, though the affiliated Born Digital Wine Awards will continue. Robert Parker's website was quietly relaunched as robertparker.com (without the 'e' prefix), including a revival of Neal Martin's Wine Journal, which is free to read and now includes contributions from other writers, including The Hosemaster Of Wine and R H Drexel.
Vinous continues to expand, recently adding label-scanning app Delectable to its portfolio, while in the UK, The Buyer launched a website and newsletter that has quickly become required reading for the wine trade.
On JancisRobinson.com, Alex Hunt MW retired his column, prompting a competition to find his replacement, which attracted 180 contributions - so there's evidently no shortage of people still keen to write about wine. Poor souls.
What does 2017 hold?
Wine coverage in newspapers and magazines will continue its inevitable decline, but there is enough scope in books and digital to provide plentiful outlets for wine writing. Despite all the doom-mongering, there will always be an audience for good quality, entertaining and informed writing about wine. Making a living from that audience is another matter.