Updated: Feb 26
The recent announcement of The Wine Independent, a “fiercely independent, visually groundbreaking publication for lovers of fine wine all over the world,” has sparked a number of questions within the wine community, particularly among collectors, investors and critics.
One question, for starters, is why one of the wine industry’s most powerful critics — Lisa Perotti-Brown MW, former editor in chief of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate — would leave that well-established, high-profile role to start a completely other initiative from scratch?
(The short answer: Perotti-Brown and co-founder Johan Berglund are aiming for truly unbiased wine criticism, which they feel has become the exception rather than the rule as publications struggle to stay afloat financially and conflicts of interest surface as a result.)
Another question is how the business model for The Wine Independent can succeed or even survive financially without the same pay-to-play tactics that Perotti-Brown and Berglund aim to circumvent, namely the “backroom deals, ultra-premium subscriptions, or secret previews” they reference on their website?
(The short answer: Perotti-Brown, Berglund and their investors are betting on the traditional subscription model, with some digital-era upgrades and modifications. “Subscribers will pay for content if it’s great, visionary and rejuvenating,” Berglund said, “which are all the things that we believe in.” The subscriber model is still very relevant for wine buying advice, he and Perotti-Brown believe. Since the commodity of wine is in such short supply, people take very quick advantage of wines’ availability and act in a timely fashion on expert advice.)
A third and more general question that percolates among premium- and luxury-tier wine buyers is simply whether particular wines are a good investment. It’s a question whose answer is influenced, and steered to some extent, by the role of critics whose numerical stamps of approval (or disapproval) impact the market value for a wine, a brand and/or a vintage. Even as social media has significantly democratized public opinion about wine, critics of wine particularly at the high end of the market still hold powerful sway. Perotti-Brown said that The Wine Independent is selling buying advice at the precise moment when collectors or investors need to make a decision of what to buy and what to avoid.
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