With all the recent hoopla about the US election, you may be forgiven for not noting another fascinating global trend: the marketing of wine specifically to women. This phenomenon is rising on the basis that women may have a different, “special” relationship with wine.
In the past couple of months, I have come across two start-ups in France that are marketing wine just to women, Les Millesimes de Ces Dames and Chais Elles, plus a website aimed directly at women consumers as well as rosé wines packaged as the equivalent of pink Lego (such as Les Jolies Filles, pictured). And stateside, there are non-profits, such as Wine Women & Shoes, that pair wine with shoes to fund-raise with a feminine flair.
This marketing trend seems to be betting that women taste wine differently, or at the very least, purchase it based on different criteria. That there are certain “female” characteristics which differentiate wines is definitely not new; the French often use the term “un vin féminin” to describe light, delicate, elegant, subtle, round, supple and easy-to-drink wines, in contrast to masculine ones that are strong, coarse, tannic, full-bodied and structured. In this context, Burgundy is seen more of a producer of feminine wines, while Bordeaux is viewed as the source of more masculine ones.
But there seems to be a more serious trend afoot worth taking note of: women vignerons are banding together. A female association in Champagne created to counterbalance the male-dominated industry was recently profiled on the French channel TFI. In the Rhone Valley, “Femmes Vigne Rhônes” has been promoting female viticulturists since 2004.
More women viticulturists are being profiled in the industry press (such as the top women in Italian wine), and even honored for their achievements in the field. And only last year, it was revealed that since 2006, all the winners of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s top award, the Vintners’ Cup, have been female.
Which begs the question, do women have a competitive advantage in wine? There seems to be some scientific basis to the idea that women are predisposed to have a better sense of taste and smell than men, thus lending credence to the notion that women are better wine tasters. But interestingly, women are also less confident of these skills, while men often use confidence in lieu of ability, which helps to explain why only about 20 percent of sommeliers today are women.
That women systematically underestimate their abilities and are less self-confident than men is something that infiltrates all professional domains (check out the imposture syndrome), whether its banking or Beaujolais. But here is an area where genetics may be in women’s favour, and I for one drink to that…