In what is quite large news in the wine book world, Académie du Vin Library (AdV) has acquired the collection of the Classic Wine Library (CWL) from publisher, Infinite Ideas.
In the regular world, news of a merger would generally be met with fear as downsizing and a reduction in choice/quality tends to follow, but the wine book world is a very different reality. I’m of the opinion that this acquisition by AdV will ultimately result in both a stronger list of titles as well as an even higher level of quality for the wine-book reading audience.
I had talked with director, Hermione Ireland back in April and she’d offhandedly mentioned that perhaps AdV could take over the the CWL someday. I’d dismissed that as just thinking out loud primarily as it made a great deal of sense and so wouldn’t come to be.
It also seemed that it wouldn’t have happened due to their various levels of establishment. Since 2013, CWL has been publishing a great number of titles by people respected in various fields and regions. AdV is a relative newcomer having been incorporated in 2019 with their first title only in April of that year.
I was additionally surprised at the acquisition given that I, as well as other friends, were of the opinion that the project was largely Steven Spurrier’s baby and when he died in 2021, it seemed like that would somewhat be the end of the enterprise. In talking with Ireland she clarified a few points for me, “Despite his history with the brand, ‘Académie du Vin’, Steven was only a small shareholder in the company. It’s actually a more complex ownership arrangement that’s afforded us stability as well as the backing to be able to win the auction for the Classic Wine Library.”
As to why I find this to be beneficial is that CWL has a large catalog (consisting of 33 titles as of this writing), but the presentation of the books saw them printed on a rather thin, matte paper and only in black and white with a small color insert for photos. Despite having some review copies for just a short while, they’ve already aged quickly in my personal library. They’re fine for deep studying but the AdV books on the other hand are hardbound with a lightly-glossy paper and, most importantly, full color. The latter are archive-quality books and the difference has been quite stark as I’ve noted in past wine book reviews.
What’s interesting is that the CWL isn’t actually going away as a brand. As Ireland clarified, “AdV doesn’t really do a reference style book, but CWL does. Thus this allows us two brands in parallel depending upon the need of a specific title.”
I hope anyone else writing about wine is as thrilled about this as I am given that there have been few publishers willing to take on wine titles due to their being exceedingly niche. When Mitchell-Beazley stopped publishing most of their grand wine books around 2006 (with the exception of World Atlas of Wine), it was a real hit to everyone I know in the writing community which is why so many of us took to self-publishing if we wanted to get anything out. I need to add that (and as a disclaimer) my self-published book on Georgia is being distributed by AdV which has been a tremendous help to get further reach.
Obviously nothing is for certain in this crazy world that we live in, but this consolidation and ultimately, expansion of a wine book publisher (there’s a line of titles already slated for 2024/25) is some of the best news we in wine media have had in quite some time.