Wine Access magazine will be no more after the February / March issue. While I have learned a lot about wine from this magazine over the years, I have also been critical of their magazine and not renewed my subscriptions more than a couple of times. There are only so many Top 50 lists I can take without actually reading any actual articles that are longer than a half-page. But that being said, I think the Canadian wine industry needs as much national media exposure as it can get. The wine media-scape without Wine Access will be sadly more silent than it should be and not having the Canadian Wine Awards will be a blow to all wineries in all wine-producing provinces until a new and equally well-named wine award appears.
John Schreiner’s post on this topic was well written (par the course, really) but with refreshingly more honest and off-the-cuff remarks than I am used to seeing, blog or not. In his view, Wine Access’s biggest challenge was that they had “to appeal with a national magazine to wine and foodies who eat and drink regionally.” I agree with this entirely but note that this is problem with any ‘national’ media from the Globe and Mail to the any nation news on television. Canada is really just a loose collection of regions with some that produce wine, some that consume wine, and some that do both to varying degrees.
Vines magazine is from Ontario and, as nationally well-meaning as anything originating from anywhere else in Canada, it tends to focus heavily on its local market. In Vines’ case that means Toronto and Ontario’s wine country, which unfortunately does not enjoy the same kind of go-team-go domestic market appreciation that we have here in BC. Perhaps somewhat ironically, given my last statement, I do admire the way that they’ve handled their editorial content by taking on writers like Jancis Robinson, who seems to be royal figure in the Canadian wine industry, capable of influencing the colonists to take action against deceptive wine labels, and inter-provincial trade barriers, yet still remaining always at arms-length. Perhaps it’s just that humble “wow, they’re paying attention to me”-thing that we Canadians can have when we accomplish something substantial. In any case, kudos to Vines for at least being able to put that into articles that are more than a page long.
So while I won’t miss the constant barrage of Top 500 (insert wine or food noun here) in Wine Access (incidentally something I dislike at Wine Spectator but who is able to balance it with many long articles), I will miss the diversity and national character than they brought to the Canadian wine media, which is something that even the internet can’t really provide. Most sites, including this one, focus in on particular regions and unless you have the time (some do, I don’t) to browse through all the regional blogs and websites, you will be out of luck if you try to find a nationally-oriented website in the same way that Wine Access tried to be. BC and Ontario were featured on equal levels and it seemed to me that they tried to include Nova Scotia, Quebec and other regions as much as possible, especially within the platform the Canadian Wine Awards. I’m pretty sure I would not have been as aware of the Nova Scotia wine scene had it not been for Wine Access and the CWA. It was to their credit that they tried to represent the country, but perhaps that was their downfall as well.
I’ve no doubt that the rights to Canadian Wine Awards will be taken over by another organization somehow. That brand on its own is far too valuable to be written off in some boardroom decision and I know I’m not the only one to recognize that. I do hope that someone is able to fill the void left in the national-level wine media.
As a Canadian who has lived in 5 provinces (and been to Ontario enough to know that I don’t want to live there – nothing wrong with it, just not my cup of tea), I know for a fact that most Canadians are still very much focused on the region in which they live. The New Brunswick cabbie that asked where I was moving to gave me a blank stare when I told him “Out west.” “Montreal?” he guessed. “Further,” I said. “Toronto?” “No. Further.” This was mirrored upon arriving in Vancouver when I used “Out east” as my response to “Where are you from?” “Ah, you’re from Calgary.” “No,” I replied, “further.” And on it went ending of course in Toronto.
And so, like the Montreal commuter train in 1995 packed full of Ontarians (who broke into “O Canada” and then tried to sing it in French only to have it fizzle out by the 3rd line) on their way to the big “Canada Loves Quebec” rally downtown before the referendum, Canadians are a regional bunch. Unless it involves hockey or Tim Hortons, Canadians know *where* there they are. Perhaps that can be changed in the future but given the regional nature of the country, it will be an uphill battle as Wine Access has discovered. Now that trade barriers are falling on wine between provinces, it is doubly unfortunate that they couldn’t be there to bring it all together.