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TONG – a wine magazine

tongTONG – note, that this was a promotional copy, so I’m honour-bound to say nice things – right? Yeah-right, just like here ;-)

It’s worth pointing out, that I’m drawn to things that have been ‘designed’, or perhaps I should say that I’m drawn to things that have not just been made to look good but where people have clearly spent their time on attention to detail. Right from the point I open my letter-box this publication is hitting my design ‘g-spot’ (actually in the sunshine it was blinding me!):

Robust, space-material envelope – cool!

My benchmark wine publication is the ‘World of Fine Wine’ magazine which invariably was 30%+ parting with it’s cheap envelope by the time it reached my letter-box – in this respect WOFW is not a very good benchmark. Hmmm, but taking a more modatorial step back; is this very environmentally friendly? I await a note telling me that metallised, reclaimed, supermarket plastic bags use 30% less CO2 than recycled paper…

Slicing my letter opener through the space-material – and you need a sharp one for this job, hmmm (again), maybe it’s also self-sharpening my letter opener, then the envelope would class as dual use, how do you calculate the CO2 burden now? – out slides Issue #2 of TONG (looks better capitalised!). The publisher is now reeling me in with the high-quality matt paper-stock, typography, white-space and overall design – frankly I don’t care about the words to start with, though I notice on the inside cover “This magazine carries no advertising” – wow! – not only is that rather cool, it’s somewhat radical; either the publisher is of independent means or is barking mad. I read also that the design of each issue will be different:

Q: What makes Tong different from Wine Spectator or Decanter, for instance?
There’s a playful, organic, almost biological concept behind the magazine. Everything is linked, from the paper and the font to the photographs. The paper we used for the launch issue on Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, is smooth and hard, but for the issue on terroir, I’m using a grainier, thicker paper. Each magazine must be a print version of the wine variety.
Excerpt from Wall Street Journal

Now I realise that the publisher is of independent means AND is barking mad! Did I mention that this magazine is €28 per copy, or €100 for the 4 quarterly issues? No? Then perhaps it’s time to look at what it delivers on an intellectual rather than purely aesthetic level.

This is already Issue #2, titled “Terroir”, issue #1 was titled “Sauvignon Blanc” – I’ll leave you to work out what that was about. There are a mere 48 pages – of-course with this paper-stock, they are thick pages – and 21 of those pages are pictures or title pages for the next article! I must say though, it’s more than a mere pamphlet; if there were the normal adverts/classifieds etc., then perhaps this would be a 60-70 page publication and no-one would blink an eye. Back to the content – ‘Terroir’ – and it’s not a bad list of contributors; Kees van Leewen, Claude & Lydia Bourguignon, Serge Wolikow and Olivier Jacquet, Olivier Humbrecht, Alex Martin and John Watling and finally, Brian Croser. Those contributors are set against a contrary/realist (delete as appropriate) editorial from the publisher Filip Verheyden titled ‘Terroir Terrorism’, let battle commence…

Actually I’m not going to tell you what they wrote, rather I will say that some content is self-evident, some annoying, some is ‘new’, and I do like the long list of source material that follows most of the articles. The articles are well enough written given non-English mother tongue of most contributors, more importantly the words are written by people with a deep knowledge of their subject, even if each may have their own ‘angle’ – but that’s the key – it’s not just one writer’s composite view from their own subjective standpoint, it’s a range of views properly represented – in this issue at least.

If I won’t tell you more about the content, I will tell you why I’ve subscribed to this magazine after letting my World of Fine Wine subscription lapse (for the second time); WOFW has great contributors a number of whom I know quite well, it also has some equally great articles, yet it is also a significant ‘establishment advertising vehicle’. Then mix the articles that seem to exist only to pad out the content for more advertising with the articles that simply disappear up their own rear-end and I became bored/frustrated. TONG is stripped down, it is pure content – intense and mineral if you prefer – it fits my inner radical ‘self’ and it’s actually the only wine-related subscription I have today…

I am supporting its first year. Only time will tell if this radical approach can remain viable with a content to match – let’s see.

3 responses to “TONG – a wine magazine”

  1. Ned

    I heard about this in the WSJ and ordered two issues out of curiosity. I haven’t received them yet, so thanks for the modest preview. No advertising! Lovely.

  2. Mark

    Yeah I can’t imagine anyone paying an extra $20 per issue because he uses different paper. This is still a recession, no?

    Interesting, thanks for the blog because I’m sure I’ll see you writing about how the magazine went under about 6 months from now!

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