Back in 1999, the Germans who read wine publications had one thing in common: they were all men.
“Most of them worked in high positions with a high income,” says Ilka Lindemann, editor-in-chief of Weinwelt. She recalls one judge who regularly sent her letters about articles that appeared in the magazine. “Or a school principal who, whenever we published articles about a particular wine region, would get on the phone to get more information.”
Ms Lindemann, a publishing professional, was brought in to create Weinwelt, Germany's premier wine consumer magazine, and has since steered it through two decades of tumultuous changes in the world of wine.
In those early days, it was men who bought the wine, and so they wanted to educate themselves. Today, however, “There are many women, who are wine producers, sommeliers, wine merchants, restaurateurs, journalists or food and beverage experts.” The emergence of women working in the industry is reflected in the readership, with Weinwelt now having a high number of female subscribers.
There have been other, equally seismic changes.
“When we created the magazine, Bill Clinton was President of the United States and Germans still paid with Deutsch Marks, not euros,” says Ms Lindemann. “Since that time, we’ve tasted tens of thousands of wines, published many, many stories and travelled in many wine regions.” Many of these wine regions either did not exist, or were unknown—such as Ningxia in China—when Weinwelt was first launched. One thing has remained constant, however. “When you are among wine lovers, the wine language remains the same, no matter where in the world you are.”
Another fundamental change has been the ongoing rise in wine quality. “If you would like me to point out one special example, for me it was the introduction of the Grosses Gewächse by the VDP (Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates) in 2002,” says Ms Lindemann. “This introduction of a German Grand Crus was the beginnings of a real success story.”
The media has also changed dramatically. The coming of the internet and social media has had a profound impact on publishing, which now competes with the smart phone, which can offer in-depth information and advice in an instant.
Ms Lindemann says the digital revolution has led to a change that’s often overlooked: photography. “One of the biggest changes in magazine production in the past 20 years was the transformation from analogue techniques to digital printing,” she says. While it’s now easy for everybody to take pictures thanks to their smartphones, the number of professional photographers has declined. Some of their knowledge about visual composition has been lost, leading to a general decline in quality, despite the growing importance of imagery.
Being a magazine editor has had its perks, including the chance to experience unusual things. “Many years ago I had the chance to taste wines and food in a flight simulator of the Fraunhofer institute,” she says. “We tasted all different kinds of wines and food in different altitudes and it was absolutely amazing, how the wines changed the higher up you are. For me it was one of those moments that you never forget.”
As for the future, there is still work to do. “I would love to inspire many more people with a love of wine and the enjoyment of good food,” says Ms Lindemann.
Weinwelt is published by Meininger Verlag, the publisher of Meininger’s Wine Business International. Situated in Neustadt an der Weinstraße in the Rheinland Pfalz in Germany, Meininger Verlag was founded in 1903 by Daniel Meininger, a printer. He created a trade journal called Das Weinblatt, a weekly publication that was to have an instrumental role in the development of Germany’s wine culture. Today, Meininger Verlag is not only one of the oldest specialist publishers in Germany but the leading wine publisher in Europe.