International Wine Cellar purchase positions Vinous as significant player in wine criticism

When Vinous purchased International Wine Cellar (IWC) last November, it created something of a wine criticism supergroup, with IWC founder Stephen Tanzer joining Antonio Galloni – former lead critic for The Wine Advocate – as partner, editor-in-chief and critic. The rest of the IWC editorial team also came on board at Vinous, providing the website Galloni founded in 2013 with a stable of writers that covers nearly all of the world’s major wine regions.

“The whole idea starting Vinous was to build a platform of the best and brightest voices out there,” Galloni told Vineyard & Winery Management. “As I thought about who we wanted to have as part of our team, I thought of IWC. I really respect all of the writers singularly but when you put them together, it’s a really strong team and the overlap with my work was minimal.”

In addition to adding a respected group of writers, the purchase also made Vinous home to more than 1,000 articles and 180,000 professional reviews spanning 30 years. According to Blake Gray of The Gray Report, this was a critical part of the purchase. “That back catalogue of ratings is really valuable,” he said. “People search for older wines and buy older wines all the time and they want ratings and tasting notes for them. It’s something that Wine Spectator has and The Wine Advocate has, but Galloni didn’t.”

Galloni, who left The Wine Advocate shortly after Robert Parker gave up editorial oversight of the publication in December of 2012, said his goal with Vinous is to combine traditional wine criticism with modern technology, creating a user experience that revolves around engaging, high-frequency content.

“I want Vinous to be for wine what ESPN is for sports – a channel that’s on all the time and is completely engaging,” Galloni said.

Vinous typically publishes five days a week and provides a style of content that contrasts with traditional print-based wine media. “There’s a big distance between the author and the reader when you’re picking up a magazine,” Galloni said. “I want people to be inside. I want them to feel like they are part of the whole story as it unfolds.” To do this, Vinous puts a premium on video and images in addition to articles and reviews.

“The Advocate is essentially a newsletter on the Internet,” Gray said. “Wine Spectator is still a magazine. Galloni is the only one who is really thinking of his site predominantly as a website, and it’s a very dynamic site.”

Of course, wine criticism is defined by its influence. Robert Parker became a household name because his reviews moved wine. With its new group of writers and focus on both traditional and modern content, can Vinous come to exert a similar influence?

“Until Parker retires, The Advocate is going to be the big dog in online rating sites,” Gray said. “But Galloni is positioning himself for the future.” Gray added that having another outlet for wine criticism can only benefit wineries. “Having another voice is a good thing,” he said. “It gives more places where somebody might love their wine.”