Newsworthy breakups: Wine Enthusiast to emerging wine regions: “It’s not you, it’s us…”

Wine Enthusiast magazine recently posted an announcement that they would no longer be reviewing USA wines that weren’t from CA, OR, WA, NY or VA. I’m sure I speak for many of us in Michigan and other emerging regions when I say that at first it felt like a punch to the gut. Our efforts in emerging wine regions often seem Sisyphean…we roll a heavy rock up to the top of a hill and make some progress with consumers and the press, only to have it roll back to the bottom for us to start all over again, flattening our spirits on its way down.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to some realizations:

  • Michigan has good relationships with the press (traditional press, bloggers, and influencers); there will still be articles about emerging regions because we’re “new” and exciting. Writers gotta write.
  • Sitting down with a cigar and a giant oaky alcohol bomb to scan the monthly paper wine magazine that just arrived by snail mail for wine scores is of a bygone era. Wine Enthusiast’s rejection of emerging regions is more of a swan song for the age of conventional print magazine wine reviews than a negative implication of Michigan wines. The 90s called and they want their mores back.
  • Emerging regions in North America have always had to educate consumers about cooler climate wines and unfamiliar grape varieties. We’re experts at this. Let’s keep our train moving in the right direction (planting the right grapes in the right sites and constantly improving grape-growing methods and cellar practices, thereby enhancing wine quality). Anyone who initially eschewed the importance of Michigan wines in today’s and tomorrow’s wine scene will be clamoring to get on board soon. It wasn’t long ago that Wine Spectator refused to review New York wines; they finally realized that it was ridiculous to ignore what New York has to offer.
  • Current and potential young wine consumers—the ones we’re pursuing for the long haul in order to give the wine category the shot in the arm it needs amid low-alcohol malt beverages, oodles of beer choices, cocktails (canned or fresh), and non-alcoholic options—don’t care about traditional rules, scores, or credentials when it comes to their drinks. They. Don’t. Care. They care about how it tastes, what they’re eating with it, whether it fits their lifestyle, and the experience. Michigan wine is good and getting better all the time, pairs well with food, and offers a wide variety of experiences and interesting stories. We’ve got this. The guy on the Wine Enthusiast logo is not our target consumer.

So don’t fret when traditional print mags swipe left on us. It’s a badge of honor that we’re progressing toward the future instead of pandering to the past.

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