Decanting the Wine World with John Stimpfig of Decanter Magazine

John Stimpfig is the Content Director for Decanter Magazine, the UK’s oldest wine publication with a global presence both in print and online. Since 1975, the monthly magazine has been unrivaled in its vast wine knowledge: producers, regions, tendencies and report — it's all there.

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“Authority, integrity, independence and everything you need to know about fine wine”

John Stimpfig, Content Director of Decanter

 No one describes what Mr. Stimpfig does better than himself. “Decanter is a great magazine to work for,” he says. “It has a great reputation, and my job is to maintain that reputation and enhance it.” He adds, “I think I have the best job in the world.”

 But this is not an easy job. The content director travels year round helping organize some of the most influential trade events, competitions, master classes, and tastings in the wine world. 

 This November, Mr. Stimpfig is in Shanghai for a one-day event, but the Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter is one worthy of traveling 6000 miles from London and back. One hundred producers from twenty different countries will free pour 600 different wines at the Grand Tasting. 

 Enjoying the wine, bouncing ideas with winemakers, and getting to know brand ambassadors are the reasons why one thousand people show up every year. Five Master classes crown the event. This time, legendary producers Masseto, Angelus, Almaviva, Leoville Les Cases, and Marques de Riscal will pop open some of their best vintages and tell their stories. 

 This is the fifth Decanter event in Shanghai since 2014, all of them watermarked by both innovation and top quality. And all this is just a single day in Mr. Stimpfig’s busy yet enviable schedule.


The Journey

 Twenty-four years ago, the young John Stimpfig worked as a copywriter in marketing and public relations in the UK. Looking for a change and renewal of his passions, he took a year off and headed south to Australia. He was enchanted by the key wine regions of the young country, and by their wines: the delicate Rieslings, the assertive Hunter Semillons, the rich Barossa reds.

 Upon his return, he was one of the first few wine-trade outsiders admitted in the Wine and Spirits Education Trust program. “This is fantastic,” he remembers thinking, “I totally got the wine bug.” 

 With a formal wine education, he redirected his passion and began writing about his newfound love; after pitching stories to people, he eventually worked for the Wine and Spirit International Magazine. He contributed to the Financial Times and others until he finally landed in Decanter. The rest is history. Since 2014, he’s been the magazines respected content director.

 Through the years, the journalist has helped the magazine evolve, not only in design but in substance. His greatest achievement has been putting together a dream team of contributors, writers, and correspondents. “Wine writing needs new blood,” says proudly pointing out to young talents like Jane Anson and Matt Walls. But the squad also includes legends like Andrew Jefford, Hugh Johnson, and himself in the lineup. Decanter is all about the skilled people behind it. 

 Mr. Stimpfig’s writing hasn’t gone unrecognized: he received Louis Roederer Awards in 2005, 2010 and 2012, the Glenfiddich Writer of the Year, and the Prix du Lanson Champagne Award in 2002. 

 About Asia

Decanter’s print magazine is growing strong in the UK and the US, but for China, it’s the Decanter China website, run by editor Silvia Wu, that’s gaining awareness. Launched in 2012, it has 90k unique readers every month — mostly young wine enthusiasts under 35.  

 The Decanter Asian Wine Awards have been thriving, and the magazine regularly organizes tastings in China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan. Decanter is all-in in Asia, and it’s just the beginning.

 Mr. Stimpfig has an intimate view of the global wine trade and recognizes the Asian audience has changed. It’s not just top collectors, but a young, energetic crowd that’s showing up at events. The people attending the Shanghai events are younger than those in the UK, and are more likely to be female. 

 Particularly in China, young, empowered women are taking the lead in the market as wine becomes part of the modern Chinese lifestyle. The growth of knowledge and passion in this new sector fascinates Mr. Stimpfig; for producers at events, the questions are just getting tougher.

 On the other side of the world, the UK is now interested in Chinese wine. “We’re actually beginning to see them in retail,” says Stimpfig. “It’s absolutely happening.” Chinese wine has overcome a bad reputation; the quality is here now.

 Decanter Magazine has been publishing the Chinese wine story for several years. “You can just see the development,” he adds. Chinese wine’s presence in competitions has increased too. Chinese producers are now players and are not to be overlooked. 

 Final Thoughts

 For enthusiasts visiting wine events, Stimpfig advises doing research beforehand. Test the producers out. Ask about vintage variations, about climate change, and listen. Show that you care, and the producers will unleash their passion. 

 For new wine writers, there’s valuable advice too, better heard from him in our Bottled in China podcast interview.

 For the wine industry, Mr. Stimpfig confidently states Decanter Magazine represents “Authority, integrity, independence and everything you need to know about fine wine.” We could use the same words to describe him and his work.

Listen to the full podcast below!

Author: Franco Salzillo, Certified Somm & Wine Writer