Wine Magazine goes Cold Turkey

Letter to Wine Magazine previous editor, Christian Eedes and his response.

Dear Christian

As mentioned in a previous e-mail and discussed telephonically, I found the December issue of Wine magazine to have been carelessly compiled. Having paid the full cover price for the magazine, I believe that I have the right to comment, but hopefully also that you will accept it in the constructive manner it is intended (I have long ago given up the hope of
ever drinking Dom PĂ©rignon from magnum!)

The last time I was involved with any formal journalistic endeavours was as editor of my school newspaper, more than two decades ago. Even though an amateur and unpaid-for exercise, we nevertheless prided ourselves on never going to print before such time as the newspaper had been proof-read by at least two people other than the editor or journalist writing the article. This seems not to be the case with, for example, such a glaring mistake as to be found on page 1 where Sauvignon is spelt Savingon (that’s two mistakes in a word that should be quite obvious for a wine-related publication).

When we get to page 14 we have two winemakers incorrectly identified on one of the photos (Pieter Badenhorst and Gunther Kellerman on photo 6) while at the same time also having one of the winemakers’ name incorrectly spelt (it’s Bernhard Veller not Bernard Veller). On page 15 we have the same incorrect identifications on photo 8. Surely a knowledgeable editor, who was at the event, should have picked this up?

On page 24 we have the start of the elliptical excesses, that could have made a very enjoyable Victor Borge phonetic punctuation skit (you may find this fun to watch: We have five examples of this on page 64, two examples each on pages 24, 53, 73, 122 and one each on pages 28, 40, 52, 62, 63, 72, 80, 90, 91 (not to even mention the full stop after the closing bracket after the ellipsis to be found twice on page 64). My tally is probably not comprehensive but please reassure me that this problem slipped in after the final proofs were signed off and not before.

Page 42 sees the first of four “special reports” (without acknowledgement that these are not reports but PR copy and images that I suspect were supplied by the relevant organisations being featured). The fact that these special reports are not included on the contents page (page 1) reiterates my belief that these are not special reports but should rather have been captioned as being promotions, as was the case with the Avondale double-page spread or the La Motte advertisement.

Although this cannot be laid at the feet of the Wine magazine, the Nedbank advertisement on page 59 is truly silly. Surely it should have read “green” and not “organic” as the latter actually means nothing. No, it’s not interesting that red and white can also be organic (it was like that right from the start of winemaking and before the advent of fungicides, herbicides and non-organic fertilizers).

Having worked with Sir David Graaff (3rd baronet) in the past, I was quite intrigued to see that Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen is also a “Sir”. Trying to find confirmation of this proved to be difficult and asking around (very sensitively as I have the utmost respect for the people of Oak Valley) gave me no further clues, in effect actually throwing more spanners into the works than clearing up the confusion (for example, Joanne Gibson states that “Sir Anthony Rawbone-Viljoen, to be precise,
the third-generation proprietor …” while in my research the facts available to me would indicate that he is in fact fourth generation with his great-grandfather having been Sir Antonie Viljoen). So “precise” it definitely isn’t, unless you could back up this statement with fact?

Getting to the gift guide on page 110 one again wonders whether these are paid for (i.e. should be indicated as promotion) or whether it’s a quid pro quo for ad placement or whether it actually is above board and engaging with the reader as gift ideas that you believe to be of special interest. And aren’t pages 105 and 113 bit of an overkill, taking into consideration that this is a wine-related magazine (I have no problem with having the product advertised once as I know the magazine speaks to the same target market, but twice just seems a bit excessive).

I have not even gotten into commenting on actual content such as whether the GMO article actually adds value or needed much deeper and incisive research. Was anybody from the anti-GMO lobby group (of which you form part on Facebook, if I remember correctly) asked to give their inputs? This article clearly nails Wine magazine’s colours to the mast as being
positively inclined to the GMO trials being conducted at Welgevallen. It is heartwarming to see that at this moment 48.84% of the respondents in your monthly reader poll are saying that they will never buy wine made from GMO grapes.

The winning letter? What absolute pomposity.

The Parlotones interview? What absolute drivel. Had it been a wine I would have definitely given it an “also tasted”.

The Pinot Noir comparative tasting? Anybody taking these results seriously (and I know you qualify the results) needs to have his head read. Yes, I know you were only reporting on it but it is the editor’s job to decide whether something is worthy of inclusion, and this surely was not (not even mentioning the niggling little spelling mistakes such as Chrystallum instead of Crystallum).

I know that the above is a mouthful but please understand that I work for myself and therefore the two hours I have spent writing this comes out of my own pocket. It is honestly done in an endeavour to show you that yes, there are “… consumers highly involved in the subject of wine” and if you want to attract and retain them, you should really concentrate on ensuring that the Wine magazine is as much of a pleasure for them to read as it is to drink a glass of good wine.


The Response

Dear ****,

Overworked and underpaid so apologies for not acknowledging this sooner.
Your criticisms are generally well-founded and, in a word, heartbreaking.
How can I fly like an eagle when I’m surrounded by turkeys?