One of the ongoing arguments I tend to have with other commentators on the wine scene concerns the interest – or rather the lack of interest – the general public has in wine. I’ve made my point elsewhere and don’t plan to use many words to reiterate it here. Instead, I’ll merely offer a set of pictures taken on my phone today in the Wandsworth branch of the Waterstone’s bookshop chain.

Books on military matters: 12 shelves

Books on politics: 6 shelves

Books on food and drink: 36 shelves!

Wine books: 11 titles. Less than 1/3 of one shelf.

Birds & bird watching: roughly 3 times as many titles as on wine.

Every picture, they say, tells a story… If more people wanted to read about wine, bookshops like Waterstone’s would put more volumes on their shelves. (Unless of course you want to make a case for the book chain to have some kind of bias towards military history, politics and cake baking and against wine…)

These pictures are typical of the UK and not atypical of the US. In France, there are more wine books, but not nearly as many more as one might expect. Anyone looking for greater presence of wine books in shops should head for Japan.

  1. Number of sites needs to be taken in context with number of readers. There are plenty of blogs out there that are mostly read by other bloggers. Until someone shows me real stats to the contrary, I'll stick with the ones I've seen in bookshops and in surveys of newspaper readers and television viewers who place wine low on the list of things they want.

  2. The point I did not make here was how many fewer wine books there are on those shelves than there were 15 years ago, when I was busy writing – and selling – them.

  3. Oh, dear Robert, you are so right!
    In tiny Malta the situation is probably worse. Here, of the best-selling wine book (traded over the counter) a mere 1000 copies were sold, and that's over 3 years. That number is probably a record and would never have been reached were it not for the many tourists picking up the book about Malta's wines to take home (as a gift perhaps).

  4. Exactly the situation, here in Germany. Funny enough I have posted similar pictures from German bookstores some month ago. At the same time, many publishers AND wine producers, whenever you forward the idea for a wine book, will answer: “There are far too many wine books on the market”. Rather stupid bunch of people.

  5. I know several wine blogs that have north of 1m page views per months. How many blogs about bird watching reach that much?

    Your post is interesting, but one could imagine a counter-post analysing the blogs about wine and bird watching, their number, readers, as well as influence e.g. on purchasing decisions. It would paint exactly the opposite picture to yours.

    One point you didn't make is that military matters and politics lend themselves to books to a greater extent that wine. They invite a synthetic approach, whereas wine, consisting of everyday purchases and pours, is quite better suited e.g. to the blog format. How many Facebook posts and Tweets per day are dedicated to wine vs. bird watching? Here's a great topic for your next post.

  6. Hi Robert. Totally agree with the post though I think the specific 15-year shrinkage must be largely due to e-tail & online writing. Also, places like Wikipedia are 'non-wine' sites that a lot of people visit for wine information. Tyrone: @winesonlyadrink

  7. I disagree Eckhard. From what I can see, even the small number of books out there is actually more than enough. Why should a publisher with piles of unsold wine books want to produce new ones.
    (I recall the days when Mitchell Beazley was a successful publisher, specialising in wine books…)

  8. I'm interested by those statistics Wojciech. Especially given the relatively low figures for Youtube clips on wine.

    I'm pretty active on social media; my impression is that there are lots of tweets and Facebook posts – from the same people.

    That impression has not changed after talking the heads of businesses like Snooth and Vinogusto.

  9. I agree totally with you last point…. wine geeks and specialists seem to be the bulk of the audience. Food and restaurants publications and media definitely seems to be more accepted by the mainstream.

    Is food and cookery seen as more down to earth and therefore less elitist or more mainstream ?

    I do think wine and alcohol suffers from the health stigma that prevents media (all types) from increasing the bandwidth which would normally go a long way to increasing the general interest and appeal of wine.

    Almost 2 decades ago chefs were thrown into the media domain for entertainment and fashion and I do not feel the wine fraternity has ever really joined that party fully…… though obviously still fuelling the thirsts

  10. We mostly agree Gregory, but I think you fall into the trap of looking for reasons (health) why media doesn't cover wine. My question approaches the question from the other direction: why SHOULD any media give space to wie when there is no evidence that their consumers want them to?
    It is up to the wine industry to create genuinely quantifiable demand rather than presume that it exists + complain at a lack of coverage

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