The Wine Gang – friend or foe?

 
The Wine Gang

The Wine Gang

[Update: it has been pointed out that my title, written in haste, is a bit unfair. I'm not going to change it, but please treat it lightly. I was intending to jokingly refer to fear of 'gangs' not to suggest one might actually fear these lovely people :) ]

What if you were a well respected wine industry journalist or commentator and you tasted literally hundreds of wines a month, but your main paying gig (newspaper, magazine, TV show) only gave you time and space for a handful? What would you do with all the rest of those notes, impressions, events and connections?

Well, one answer is to blog about it … but I would say that! That’s a story for another post.

Another is to put them together in handy newsletter and sell it to wine lovers around the UK and the rest of the world. The problem is that the Paid Subscription model is either dead or on critical life support.

However, The Wine Gang are attempting just that. The ‘Gang’ consists of well known names such as Tom Cannavan, Olly Smith, Anthony Rose, Joanna Simon and Tim Atkin. Each month they publish a newsletter with around 200 tasting notes for an annual subscription for consumers of £20.

What marks this out for me?

It is presented in a way that is actually useful to the average consumer.

Instead of being a collection of hundreds of tasting notes of wines by some sort of ‘theme’ like region or style, these tasting notes are arranged by retailer or importer. They are grouped so that you can reasonably put together a shopping list of wines to try and have some chance of actually getting them easily, and they also recognise this by making the report printable so you can take it to the shops with you.

Ultimately, unless you are a real wine fanatic, you want what you read about on the internet to educate and inform your own drinking, so it really ought to be focused on what you can buy – or at least let you know where you can source it.

The Wine Gang newsletter also includes a few handy summaries in their different “Bunches of 5” lists from each newsletter, which not only has the usual ‘best’ groups, it rather unusually also includes “This month’s shockers” – always a favourite read of mine.

I do have a few issues with the site;

  • It brings together some of the top wine communicators in the UK and all we get is one article and the tasting notes. Where is the personality?
  • There is little interaction with readers. In this era of ‘social media’ it feels old-fashioned and aloof
  • In a market like the UK that is very price-driven, it needs to communicate better how the “investment” in a subscription can be repaid
  • It would benefit from a broader range of content such as audio, video and images to bring the content to life
  • The site, and its contents, are not well publicised enough and are hidden from the main ways that consumers will find it – search engines

The question is whether consumers will be prepared to part with their cash for a newsletter when so much similar content is available free?

That remains to be seen, but I think that if the personalities behind the site could step forward a bit more, it would have a reasonable chance.

It does, once again, raise the interesting question: What is a Tasting Note worth?

I will try to address that question shortly.

Disclaimer: Several of the members of The Wine Gang are personal friends as well as colleagues. I have worked in collaboration with The Wine Gang in a professional capacity, and will be sponsoring an upcoming promotion, but these are my personal views and I have been a paid subscriber of the newsletter since the first edition.

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