35-Year-Old Vintage Wine Pub Calls It Quits

By Steve Smith
01/30/2012

In the rush of staff changes, higher profile magazine closings and, well, shopping, at the end of last year, it may have gone unnoticed that a venerable bible for wine enthusiasts closed its beloved cellar. The Quarterly Review of Wines had just celebrated 35 years of researching, surfacing and testing wines. But publisher Richard L. Elia decided to fold. According to its local newspaper the Boston Herald, QRW had been churning out 100-page glossy issues since 1977 and maintained a circulation of 140,000. Nevertheless, declining ad sales and even the aging of its staff moved the publication towards the decision to fold.

But the motive to end publishing a magazine that was in love with wine, its taste, the fellowship around connoisseurship and its lore, ran even deeper, Elia told readers recently at the QRW site. “What initially attracted us to wine was the romance of it,” he writes. “Now this passion is spent. Gone are charming tales (mythic or otherwise) about wine, about enjoying wine, about iconic wine characters… . We miss stories about winemakers, about their hard work and their purple hands. The wine world changed, evolution was inevitable. Wine became so commercially successful that romance was lost along the way.”

Elia warns that the wine industry has been taken over by marketers and finance, that gadgetry and accessories have emphasized style over substance. “The first step toward decadence is usually frivolity,” he writes. “Too often, wine is handled by people who have little feeling for it. So we left it. It was too much. We wanted a time made simple by passion, for a wine world that once understood that it was passion for and about wine that made it great.”

QRW won numerous awards over the years, most recently the 2010 Golden Ink Bronze honors for a Summer issue. The magazine boasts five Golden Inks across six years. The quarterly had an enviable  demographic that skewed slightly male (52%) and had 60% of its readers with household incomes above $150,000 a year.