James Suckling Leaves Wine Spectator; We Yawn, But Wonder When Wine Media Will "Grow Up"

By now, many of you out there will have heard the news that long-time Wine Spectator editor James Suckling has left the magazine.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this bit of news has been getting so much coverage.

I think the mild wine media frenzy being drummed by Suckling’s departure from WS has more to do with the manner in which his bon voyage was administered – the announcement, made on-line, was short on both detail and tributes. Here’s an excerpt:

“James Suckling has been a significant contributor to the success of Wine Spectator,” said editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken. “He will be missed. We are very fortunate to have significant depth in our editorial team. Moving these tastings to New York, where we have a larger staff and better logistical control, will allow us to strengthen our coverage of these important wine regions.”

Now, I don’t read Wine Spectator and James Suckling’s reviews mean little to me (as I suspect they do for many people in my generation and younger), but he’s certainly not without his fans and he’s been a WS mainstay for decades. I can’t help thinking that, while this news had almost no impact on my life whatsoever, that Suckling got short-shrift in his send-off. Some of the WS commenters on the announcement agree:

“I feel I would be remiss not to echo the sentiment that Wine Spectator missed an opportunity to give JS and his readers their due. The real story at this early moment is not who will replace him, but that he is leaving and what he has meant to the publication. It appears that JS has become a competitor.”

I mean, after 30 years, you get a half-hearted on-line send-off with what amounts to a back0handed compliment that the Bordeaux coverage will be stronger without you? I don’t have to be a WS reader or Suckling fan to realize that kind of send-off totally sucks. In fact, after that kind of public blow-off I just might become a James Suckling fan in the hopes that he does end up as some kind of competition for Wine Spectator.

The WS send-off strikes me as immature – I’ve worked decades in the IT business, and in the “real world” this kind of thing doesn’t fly and certainly doesn’t exude professionalism.

Hey, Wine Spectator: grow up, and properly thank the guy for decades of blood, sweat & tears already!

Joe Roberts is a Certified Specialist of Wine and author of the award-winning wine blog.

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