Dominic Ntsele, the eminence behind the Classic FM radio station, has come up with a novel circulation boosting strategy for his glossy new magazine Classic Wine. Hire everyone likely to buy the publication as writers and you start with an impressive circulation list. If I’d have had R60 handy this morning, he’d have sold me a copy too. But alas I had only R40 for the Weekend Financial Times (available in Johannesburg the day before it reaches Cape Town) and Exclusives didn’t have any copies. Or perhaps there is no Christmas weekend edition of the Pink One?
Thank heavens it was not shrink wrapped like the old WINE magazine, so I could indulge in a bit of browsing. I’d already read huge tracts sent to me by featured producers in PDF attachments to their e-mails. So is it a winner?
The length of stories and their tight focus (2000 words on a single Sauvignon Blanc?) will rule most casual readers hors de combat, leaving the field to anoraques and the trade. Yet the ads are not wine specific and look more like the expensive lifestyle kind you find in Wanted or GQ.
The two month pause between editions will rule out the reader repartee you find in weekly magazines like The Spectator and New Statesman. But I suspect the real reason for the magazine is as a platform for its tasting panels, with a wine club part of the brand extension of Classic FM. This is essentially the Colin Collard Wine of the Month model which provides the industry with the excellent Good Taste magazine.
A passing anoraque might call it the thinking drinkers’ WineStyle, the gorgeous Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright’s visually gorgeous WineStyle that has remarkable photos, very few stories on wine per se and when moved to taste, proudly uses tasters with no formal qualifications. The exact opposite of Classic, which dips into the establishment barrel for tasters and is a vinous monoculture. WineStyle recently extended their policy of sending subscribers free copies to retailing them, so a battle between the verbal (Classic) and visual (Style) is confidently predicted. Let’s see how advertisers vote.
Both sets of writers are monochrome bunches (me included in the Classic Crowd) and Dom missed an easy hole in one in the shape of a letter from the publisher. Or did I miss it? Neither organ addresses the issues everyone was talking about like how come Quoin Rock was sold for unpaid taxes when it never made a profit? What happened to all the Thys’s at KWV? Quo Vadis empowerment? What went wrong at Wosa? Should CWG wines be eligible for Platter five star glory when they’re sold out before the guide appears? But perhaps that’s what blogs are for. Now how do you monetize that?