To gain access to top editorial content on the latest trends in the wine world, oenophiles have had to pay a subscription fee to one of several major magazines—until now. That’s because a new initiative called Grape Collective is turning wine journalism on its head with a platform that combines free access to news and advice from some of the world’s top wine experts with an e-commerce platform that allows readers to buy the bottles they read about.
The business model is more curatorial than advertorial, however, since the wines go up for sale when the experts choose to recommend them. According to Grape Collective founder Christopher Barnes, the site is a content site first and an e-commerce site second.
Jing Daily recently interviewed Barnes on the inspiration for the site and his thoughts on the global wine market. Barnes also knows firsthand the strength of demand coming from the China—as the President of Observer Media Group, he previously oversaw the launch of Chinese-language luxury magazine Yue. Read more of Barnes’ thoughts below.
Can you provide the readers with an introduction to Grape Collective? What provided the inspiration to start it?
I felt there was a lack of professionally produced content about wine that did not sit behind a paywall. I also felt there needed to be an alternative to the magazines that seem to myopically focus on scores.
What makes Grape Collective unique compared to other media sources focused on wine?
We focus on points of view, not points. The focal point is great storytelling. We tell stories through our amazing writers, Dorothy J. Gaiter (who wrote the Tastings column in the WSJ for 12 years), Barbara Fairchild (ex Bon Appétit editor), Monty Waldin (author of seven books on wine), Anthony Giglio, Zachary Sussman. We also create video interviews of the major figures in the wine world as well as discovery of emerging wine makers.
What regions does Grape Collective focus on in its coverage?
We cover the world of wine, including all of the major producing regions and as well as the major import markets, such as China.
How important is Chinese demand now to the global wine market, and how big do you see it becoming over the next decade?
China is already the largest market for Bordeaux in the world and it is increasing its interest in quality wines from other regions. It is already of of the most important markets and the growth is incredible—it will only continue to become more and more important to the wine ecosystem, with some anticipating China to overtake the United States as the world’s largest importer within three years. It is also important as an owner of premium estates—over the last four years Chinese have purchased over 30 chateaux with 20 more deals in process. It will also become more important as a producer of wine and has more acres under vine than the United States.
There’s been discussion that Chinese taste for wine is slowly starting to incorporate lesser-known, more niche varieties as opposed to the more popular kinds such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. Do you think this will grow into a larger trend in the future?
Yes, it is clear that the Chinese taste for fine wine is extending to areas outside of Bordeaux. Last year, California saw exports to China double as more than $74M of wine was delivered to China. This is a trend we certainly anticipate increasing.
Visit Grape Collective.