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Girls Just Wanna Have...wha-uh?

by Jennifer Rosen

The following urgent story punctuated my normal flow of press releases that announce, at least a dozen times a day, that such and such a winery has just….released a wine! What WILL they think of next?

Wineries, apparently, have been forced by competition to wake up and smell the marketing, a nasty business that Anheuser-Busch alone spends 10 times as much on as the entire wine industry does.

While examining who their customers were, producers discovered who they weren’t: most of the country. In fact, 13% of people drink 89% of the wine, and 43% never lift a glass at all. This, the industry concluded, reflected fear, thus setting off a stampede to stupidity. Amid multiplying Wine Guides for Dummies, Morons, Cretins and Nit-wits, a menagerie of Grazing Bunnies, Drunken Anteaters, and Spanking Monkeys migrated across labels, as everyone tried to be the next Stock-Splitting Kangaroo.

When the zoo spilled over, producers turned to serious, demographic market segmentation, where they discovered, as if from out of the depths of a mummy’s tomb, a hitherto unknown group: women! Yes, indeed, despite the stereotype of magnum-measuring males, it turns out 77% of wine is bought by women, who then turn around and drink 60% of it. And we’re not just talking supermarket. Babes buy 60% of high-end bottles, too.

How to stalk this intriguing new species? A hundred focus groups, book clubs and internet surveys later, came the astounding conclusion that women are (well, rip my pantyhose!) emotional. They drink wine as a casual beverage with – get this – friends! They’re also busy and find wine helps the transition from workday to playnight.

Woman-as-target always strikes me a bit, as it were, broad. “Women’s” skis don’t bash my bumps better, jeans cut for “a woman’s curves” don’t hug mine, and what’s up with genders for perfume and deodorant? Since when do women sweat sugar and spice?

However, the may be on to serve Woman, but wineries define her quite differently. For example:

An edgy frau with psychotic smile and eggbeater graces the front label of Mad Housewife Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, while back copy references plastic yard toys, litter boxes and “the cool shadows of the laundry room.” Store displays include 1950s-style refrigerators, cleaning supplies, and processed foods.

Seduction, a “voluptuous, fleshy fusion with sensual flavors and velvet kiss," is wrapped in a translucent organza garment, ready to be ripped, bodice-like, from its heaving…punt? In a bid to be “approachable,” the label omits much technical mumbo-jumbo like, say, grape varieties, but then swooning females don’t need facts.

Fontana Candida is courting the novice, repositioning itself as a "fun, fashionable and tasteful accessory to young women's personal sense of style and sophistication." Bottles are adorned with colorful slips and feathers, presumably so the resourceful Glamour-Cosmo girl can drink the wine and then turn the thing into a purse.

White Lie Early Season Chardonnay, both lo-cal and lo-cohol, is achieved by picking grapes before sugar rises, then de-alcoholizing further down to 9.8%. The bait is set with girly-curly lettering on a lipstick-red label and corks are inscribed with yeah-right lines like, "I'll be home by 7," and "It's my natural color."

Redneck Gal:
Look for the union label when buying Working Girl White, Go Girl Red and Rosé the Riveter. Ad copy nails the full repertoire of sisterhood: “everyday wines for everyday friends,” “a salute to working women everywhere,” “created by women for women in support of women," and "no sophisticated research…just three working women who have raised families, held full time jobs and kept households running.” Clichés of the world, unite.

Lest a feminine heartstring be left untugged, many of the new crop of she-wines make a big deal of supporting various medical causes involving gyno-plumbing, a goodly thing that nevertheless does little to whet my appetite and much to set off my manipulation meter. At the risk of sounding insensitive: gag me with a corkscrew.

I have no idealistic beef against marketing. Actually, I love it. So why does this trend irritate me so? Putting aside personal, tom-boy distaste, wines designed by focus-group tend towards lowest common-denominator blandness. They lose all relation to the living, ever-changing, mystery-in-a-bottle, and then wine ceases to be the most interesting of all drinks and becomes just another “product.” I’m sorry, but it makes me sad. That may be irrational, but what do you expect from a woman?

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Jennifer Rosen - Jennifer Rosen, award-winning wine writer, educator and author of Waiter, There’s a Horse in My Wine, and The Cork Jester’s Guide to Wine, writes the weekly wine column for the Rocky Mountain News and articles for magazines around the world. Jennifer speaks French and Italian, mangles German, Spanish and Arabic, and works off the job perks with belly dance, tightrope and trapeze. Read her columns and sign up for her weekly newsletter at:

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