Celebrating our 10th Year
Published Spring 11
Break out the fairy bread, cupcakes and cordial – it’s our tenth birthday! But while most 10-year-olds have a lot of growing up to do, Selector magazine has matured into a sophisticated publication with an enviable swag of awards. As part of our celebrations, we decided to take a look at our amazing journey: how Selector started, where it came from, how it progressed to where it is and where it is headed.
When the first issue, then called Australian Wine Selector, hit the shelves it was the amalgamation of two smaller publications: Wine Hunter and Le Vigneron. Between them, these magazines went out to around 8,000 Wine Selectors Members and were under the editorship of Rebecca Skinner.
Rebecca remembers these magazines with great fondness. “As I opened the pages of each new edition, it was like unwrapping my new-born child. But instead of counting fingers and toes and peering into the features of the tiny face, I was turning the pages, checking each story and picture, and as I reached the back cover, feeling a huge sense of satisfaction and pride.”
As membership grew, the decision was made to fold the two magazines into one and expand it from a Member benefit to a newsstand-worthy publication. Thus, Australian Wine Selector was born, with the aim, Rebecca describes, “to interest all readers, informing and entertaining, making wine accessible and fun.”
From the outset, the magazine was able to attract some of Australia’s most influential wine names including Len Evans, the Tyrrell’s family and Max Lake. As well as covering the serious stuff, Rebecca enjoyed presenting “quirky stories about winemakers and wine regions to help bring producers and their wine regions alive.”
Some of the highlights for her were a story on the surfing winemakers of Margaret River and a feature on a ‘wine from heaven’. As she explains, “a unique variety of white Cabernet Sauvignon, named Signe Blanc, was discovered by winemaker Dorham Mann in his Swan Valley garden. He was convinced it had been sent directly from ‘above’ by his deceased father, the legendary Houghton’s Jack Mann, who had told his son that ‘only Cabernet will grow in the hallowed soil up there’.”
Striking a balance between the serious and the light-hearted, as well as providing information for Members alongside news for the general reading public, Australian Wine Selector started making an impression in the publishing world. In 2003 and 2005 it had the prestige of being nominated in the ‘Best Drinks Magazine’ category at the World Food Media Awards.
While there was always plenty happening in the world of wine to fill the magazine’s pages, it became clear that readers wanted more than just wine and that the expansion of the food content would provide a more broadly appealing read. Recipes had always played an important part in the magazine, as Rebecca explains, “wine without food is like bread without butter.” However, in the Budburst (spring) 2004 edition, Rebecca took the food content to another level, inviting Belinda Jeffrey to become a regular contributor. Belinda remained with the magazine for many years, writing on a plethora of topics from seafood to travel. Describing her time on the contributors’ list as “always a pleasure”, Belinda went on to say of her features, “I was always chuffed with them – it was a treat for me to have the luxury of space to write about things that I found fascinating.” Soon after Belinda, Ian Parmenter and Peter Howard joined the list of Australian Wine Selector’s celebrity foodies. Like Belinda, these two have had a long relationship with the magazine, watching it grow and blossom.
Over the years Ian has taken readers on culinary journeys through Australia and overseas and is proud of his long association with the magazine. He says, “each edition is filled with real stories about people, great recipes and brilliant wine information.” Peter Howard’s everyday recipes offered readers the chance to jazz up their weeknight menus. In Peter’s words, “the team took my lovely recipes, basic as they were, and turned them into delicious, unpretentious, appetising food.”
While new content and celebrity faces helped to attract more readers, to compete in the cut-throat category of food and wine meant it needed an extra push. Thus, it was decided in 2005 to employ a publisher and Paul Diamond joined the team, tasked with managing the business side of the magazine. With Paul onboard, Australian Wine Selector took another change of direction in the Spring 2005 edition with a fresh look and more lifestyle stories. Ex-Wallaby Ben Darwin talked wine, there were insights into the career of a sommelier and advice on where to find Great Southern’s finest produce. Heading into the new year, Rebecca decided to follow her long-held dream of working in Asia. As she jetted off to take up a role with Tatler Malaysia, Peter Hathaway took on the editorship with relish. For a respected wine writer this was a dream job. As he explains, “I loved wine. I loved drinking it, I loved reading about it and loved talking about it.” However, Peter was also realistic about the extent to which most people wanted to learn about wine: “Everyone I knew enjoyed a good drop, but very few were ‘wine tragic’ enough to want to read an entire magazine on it. Let’s face it – it’s much more fun drinking the stuff. While most people wanted to know more about wine, they wanted to appreciate it in a way that related to their lifestyles.”
While the magazine was at this stage offering a balance of wine, food and lifestyle stories, having the word ‘wine’ in the title was pigeon-holing it in a specialist category. Change was in the air once more, taking Australian Wine Selector to Selector with the tagline Life Food Wine. As Peter remembers, “we invited some of Australia’s most inspiring foodies, writers, artists, scientists, sports people, adventurers, travellers and unsung heroes to join our knowledgeable band of writers. We strived to create a magazine that reflected Australia’s maturing palate and our youthfully effervescent lifestyle.” The new manifesto struck a chord with readers and the letters pages were filled with praise, best summed up by Gail Jones who wrote in Spring 2007: “I have always enjoyed the wine and food sections and now I find myself eagerly waiting to read the next cover story by the likes of Libbi Gorr.”
In 2007 Selector also proved that while the focus may have shifted from being a solely wine-centred publication, the world still took its wine content seriously. At the World Food Media awards that year, Selector picked up the Gold Ladle for Best Food and/or Drinks Section in a Magazine. During Peter’s time with Selector from 2006 to early 2008 some impressive names graced its covers including Sam Neill, Eric Bana and the duo of Tetsuya and Tony Bilson. The latter proved one of the most popular magazines to date and provided the impetus for the next phase. For the Spring 2008 edition, Selector welcomed its third and current editor Mark Hughes. Having keenly watched the magazine grow and expand, Mark saw huge potential for Selector. He knew, through his experience in the publishing world, that no-one was really cementing the relationship between food and wine. As he explains, “At this time Australia was falling in love with cooking like never before, but while chefs were becoming celebrities, we weren’t learning about their stories and inspirations. I also wanted to tell the stories behind the winemakers and labels and rather than just recipes and wine reviews, I wanted Selector to talk about the perfect marriage between great food and wine.”
To communicate his fresh focus, Mark tweaked the slogan to read, ‘bringing life to food and wine.’ He also introduced regular features such as Wine Dynasties, Dream Vertical tastings and Gourmet Destinations with Maeve O’Meara. After three years with Selector, Maeve still remembers first being approached to work on the magazine. “I leapt at the opportunity – what a fabulous down-to-earth read Selector is, featuring all the heroes and heroines of wine in Australia and being able to give the reader lovely pearls from each of them.” Maeve also joins a host of celebrity chefs who have appeared on the covers of Selector in recent years including Matt Moran, Neil Perry, Pete Evans, Tetsuya, Curtis Stone, Manu Feildel, Kylie Kwong and Anna Gare.
Selector’s latest approach to presenting the wonderful world of food and wine has continued to impress, with nominations in the Best Food and/or Drink Section in a Magazine and Best Drinks Magazine categories at the 2010 World Food Media Awards as well as being named Consumer Magazine of the Year at the 2010 Publishers Australia Excellence Awards. With its awards, accolades, a readership of over 80,000 and the imminent launch of the Selector website, the magazine looks set to keep cooking up a storm!