For a decade, Wine X Magazine delivered wine news, reviews and gossip to the hipsters of Generation-X and other youngsters outside of the conventional wine-sipping crowd. As punishment for this flagrant attempt at welcoming a wider demographic of consumers into the exclusive world of wine, industry moguls killed Wine X.
They starved the magazine to death, maliciously depriving it of the essential advertising support that almost all publications need to live. Strange, considering that Wine X, which was based in Santa Rosa, enjoyed a circulation of over 300,000, with more that two million readers. It even had a satellite publishing house Down Under. Clearly, the money-making potential was there.
But according to Wine X publisher Darryl Roberts, established folks in the wine industry simply did not want to associate with his magazine. They felt that it cut too close to the edge of what is considered appropriate in the wine drinking community, which can be a bit fussy. In a recent conversation, Roberts told me of specific instances when tasting room managers and product advertisers actually called him to cancel their contracts due to the unconventional content of the magazine, which included gossipy articles, an adolescent, chattery tone of voice, and sexy fashion magazine-style photos of celebrities who vouch for wine. The first issue in June of 1997 grabbed barrels of attention with its racy cover shot of a woman’s navel (which I suppose related to wine in some way or another).
But the most disturbing example of wine industry rejection came with the magazine’s sixth issue, which depicted a female African American model on the cover.
“Just for that – because she was African American – we got thrown out of a couple of tasting rooms,” says Roberts. “It was unbelievable. Our whole purpose was to reach out to other demographics . . . and basically outside of that little white bubble.”
But the wine industry, by and large, was not interested in financing this mission, and after several years of struggling with the support of only a handful of loyal advertisers, Roberts officially announced the demise of the magazine on February 15.
Roberts, who is currently penning a book about his ten-year journey with Wine X, predicts that without an active youth-recruiter among the media, many young wine drinkers will revert to the lowly level of beer chugging. Moreover, he says, the very nature of the wine world is far from welcoming to newcomers.
“The industry tells people how to drink wine, when to drink it, where it’s appropriate, what foods to pair it with, and people become so intimidated that first-timers just say, ‘I’m not drinking that stuff.’”
He claims that Wine X served as a guiding light to Generation Xers curious about this enchanting thing called wine. But, before I finish, I want to clear things up: I’m 27 years old, and never did I read Wine X. I could not bear its super-hip lingo style and the supposition that I am part of the demographic who allegedly likes to read such fluff, and by no means do I feel suddenly disenfranchised or lost as Wine X goes to its grave. There.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep drinking wine. Why would I quit? Because Wine X tanked? No. I don’t need a media mentor to maintain my interest in wine. As for those who promote the old conventions and ideals of food pairing, stemware design, wine-drinking attire, wine-tasting vocabulary, and proper wine-drinker demographics, I’ll ignore them. I know what wine I like (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and the other big fruit-bombs). I know how I like it, and who I like to drink it with, and I won’t be intimidated by the stodgy Baby Boomer bullies who ran Wine X off the road.