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Wine industry to blame for Wine X demise: Darryl Roberts

Wine X Magazine, purveyor of fine wine knowledge to 20-somethings, is to close amid bitter accusastions that the wine industry's complacency killed the publication.

Based in Santa Rosa, California, Wine X launched in 1997 as a hip alternative to the established wine press. At its height it sold 330,000 a month, and claimed 2m readers per issue.

The magazine’s founder and editor Darryl Roberts made the announcement with a broadside at the drinks industry, which he accused of hypocrisy.

‘There’s a lot of talk within the wine industry about marketing to young adults,’ he said. ‘New wines have been created, new wine divisions have been formed by large wine companies, all with the idea of targeting young adults. Yet they give us absolutely no support.

‘Other alcohol producers – spirits, beer, RTDs (ready-to-drink packages, known as alcopops in the UK) – who are interested in young adults back that up with advertising and events to reach out to this demographic.

‘The wine industry says it’s interested in young adults but spends all of its ad and promo money targeting the same people it’s been targeting for the past 30 years – rich, old white people.’

With rock stars like Moby and Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies, actors and musicians on the cover, self-consciously wacky tasting notes (a wine would be described as ‘Pam Anderson’ instead of ‘voluptuous’), and the strapline, ‘Wine, food and an intelligent slice of vice’, it aimed itself squarely at the younger generation.

But Roberts constantly lamented the lack of support from an industry he felt had no interest in young adults.

Each issue is a struggle, he said in 2003. ‘I forgot I was dealing with the wine industry, an industry still stuck in the 80s. They don’t want to market wine to young adults. Young adults don’t drink wine.’

Roberts now says, ‘It will be interesting to see what happens now that there are no national/international groups or organisations reaching out to young adults. It takes a peer-to-peer relationship to influence young adults…. With Wine X gone, that … support is gone too.’

Wine X also funded Wine Brats, a wine appreciation club aimed at 20-somethings that organised ‘WineRaves’ and had members in 31 cities. It too is ‘out of business due to lack of wine industry support,’ Roberts said.

Adding a UK point of view, Angela Mount of supermarket Somerfield said the industry here was much more proactive in dealing with young adults.

‘Young adults of 20-25 need a huge amount of attention – particularly from a sensible drinking point of view. As an industry we would be severely criticised for not focussing on their needs.’

She added that wine is an excellent way of educating the young into better drinking habits.

‘If we can use wine to educate them off alcopops, then so much the better.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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