I am pleased to announce that this year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. And what an exciting two decades it’s been: When we first started, wine was on the margins of American culture: a very refined, exclusive margin, to be sure, but it was beer and distilled spirits that occupied the center. Now, wine has taken its rightful place—meaning, at the dinner table, as first choice at the cocktail hour, in formal tastings, classes, everywhere people want to relax and enjoy a beverage that continually surprises in terms of flavor, variety and complexity. Wine is not just something you sip and forget. You collect it. You categorize. You talk about it. And you read about it.
I’d like to think Wine Enthusiast played an important part in helping to bring wine to the attention of the American public at large, and not just the elite, over these 20 years. Wine magazines, books and the rise of food television have all undoubtedly played a role in making America a wine drinking nation. Other factors abound: American cuisine at home and in fine dining restaurants underwent a renaissance, and wine naturally became an important part of that. News of wine’s health benefits enlarged its consumer base. But most responsible for the growth of wine is the incredible leap in terms of overall quality at the same time that wine became more affordable. How often does that happen? Name me one consumer product that can compare.
How it happened is no secret. New regions such as Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa and others new to a global industry muscled their way on to the world stage. Competition drove improved methods in the winery and the vineyard. Competition also drove prices down at the middle and lower tiers.
The world wine map has been redrawn so dramatically in the past 20 years it’s almost unrecognizable. Back then, it consisted of France, Italy, Spain and, way off in the margins, California. Now you must include Oregon and Washington State, not to mention the other New World countries I mentioned above. Every state in the union now produces wine. Countries like China and India are ramping up production in numbers that boggle the western mind. Wine has now taken on the role of an international ambassador. Every time a consumer reads the label on a bottle of wine from Oporto, Marlborough or Montalcino, they learn about Portugal, New Zealand or Italy. And when they open the wine and taste its unique flavors, they literally get a “taste” of that culture, an experience of both the terroir and the people who cultivate it. Wine can create understanding and respect: respect for the unique character that makes each country’s diverse cultures and peoples distinctive and yet connects us across the table.
Wine Enthusiast, as a company, has evolved dramatically over the past 20 years, too. In addition to the success of our catalog and our magazine, we have created an events division that is an astonishing success. We now annually produce four Toast of the Town events to introduce American consumers to wines that are available in their markets. These walk-around tastings, held in spectacular cultural venues, offer a sample of each city’s restaurants, accompanied by tastes of the portfolios of 70 wine companies. These events help educate and expand the palate of the American consumer, and to reinforce wine’s place at the table.
Since our company has evolved, we felt it was time for our logo to evolve as well. We are celebrating this anniversary year with the introduction of a new logo; it’s a dramatic change, and I’m sure you noticed the minute you saw the cover of this issue. As you can see, Winston is the same handsome gentleman that he has always been, but he’s been given a little color to bring life to his enjoyment of that fine glass of wine. He has broken out of his circle and is set to stretch his legs in the not too distant future. More important, he has taken off his tie and is raising his glass in a toast, rather than sipping the wine; this represents, to us, our commitment to the message that wine is, above all, about sharing, sociability, family and friends.
Wine Enthusiast is a company run by wine lovers, for wine lovers—for anyone with a passion for wine and all the joy, romance and fun that comes with it. We are dedicated to inspiring, creating and facilitating delicious moments with friends and family through the enjoyment of wine, and we plan to do so for another 20 (or 200) years.