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QRW shuts down; publisher blames, like, everybody

Posted by Stephen Meuse  February 1, 2012 09:01 AM

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Thumbnail image for Capture2.jpgThis fox has a longing for grapes.
He jumps, but the bunch still escapes.
So he goes away sour and, 'tis said, to this hour
declares that he's no taste for grapes. -Aesop 

I can't say I knew about the demise of the Quarterly Review of Wines until Decanter magazine tweeted its story on the development this morning. Not having been a subscriber - or even a casual reader - of the Winchester, Massachusetts-based publication during any of the 35 years that it was a going concern disqualifies me from having an informed opinion about whether you should greet the news with a flood of tears or a shrug of the shoulders. Perhaps others will step in and offer some guidance on this.

I can't resist noting, however, that publisher Richard Elia's bitter valedictory rant posted on the QRW website has at least ensured that the long-lived publication won't be making a graceful exit.   

In it, Elia displaces responsibility for his magazine's decline and fall onto a variety of shifts in the industry and market including numerical rating of wines; corporate ownership of wineries; winemakers whose hands are no longer empurpled by contact with grapes; aeration gadgets; loud music in restaurants; blogs; smartphone apps.  

I share some of Mr. Elia's dislikes, but the notion that any of the trends he identifies are causally linked to the shuttering of QRW is preposterous -- and, frankly, disingenuous. 

The picture of the industry he paints in such lurid colors isn't so much false as incomplete, making no mention of what all but the crankiest, most dyspeptic to-hell-in-a-handbasket critic must acknowledge to be very exciting and positive developments, among these the recovery of lost or neglected vineyards and heirloom varietals, the new focus on off-the-beaten path micro-climates and their quirky output; a new generation of bush-beating importers bringing all manner of interesting new wines to our markets and tables. And that's just for starters.

It's all more than enough to keep any wine magazine with a bit of curiosity and a modicum of energy going great guns. Apparently QRW has few reserves of either. Why not just admit as much? 

Instead we hear something that sounds quite a lot like "This isn't any longer the world of wine that's familiar to me, so I'm taking my INAO tasting glasses and going home." 

The grapes of disappointment, saith Aesop, are always sour.

Stephen Meuse can be reached at

Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at


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