Bottle of the Sexes

Bottle of the Sexes

Wine in Words | Rizzoli Ex Libris, 2015

When did sex and wine get so, well, intertwined? The gender stereotype about high-heeled, pearl-laced, pencil-skirted ladies clinking glasses of pinot grigio at charity functions is still alive and well (thank you, Real Housewives). Yet The New York Times recently pointed out that red wine is the drink of choice for strong women. Do their preference for robust, full-bodied reds make these women less feminine? Is a man who swills Champagne from a slender, sexy, stemmed flute less macho? And what if someone swings both ways?

We say to hell with gender bias and preconceived notions. Do (read: drink) what you want. Be dainty, be bold, but gosh darn it, be yourself. And if there are any winemakers reading, for the love of all things good, stop pandering to what you perceive as wine labels for the fairer sex. (Or at the very least, even the playing field and make a Mow-the-Damn-Lawn Malbec already.) In the following excerpt from Wine In Words, wine writer and wine stereotype bender Lettie Teague delves into the unfair and, we daresay, slanderous gender designation assigned to our favorite adult beverage. Because no matter which varietal flips your fancy, a glass of any wine is the way to sustain yourself for a battle of the sexes.—Diana Mencel

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Whenever a company decides to create a softer, simpler version of a product it’s inevitably made with women in mind. Unfortunately, this often includes wine. Take, for example, Little Black Dress (yes, that’s a real wine brand). Clearly there are winemakers—or more likely wine marketers— who think that a woman can best appreciate a wine if it’s described in sartorial terms. This particular brand is a veritable closet full of such attire, including a Black Dress Divalicious blend, which contains pinot grigio, of course, since it’s the grape that women love. And it gets even worse. There is a brand that hints at a less than healthy relationship between a woman and her bottle (i.e., Mommy’s Time Out), and a wine that suggests something that’s less than attractive about the woman herself (Bitch wine, anyone?). And yet there are no equivalent wines for men. There is no Beefcake Syrah or Couch Potato Chenin Blanc or a Channel Changer Chardonnay (sold in a bottle the shape of a remote control, naturally).

Is that because all wine is essentially male? Or are men unintimidated by names the way women are? Are they assumed to be knowledgeable just because they are male, the same way that French people are assumed to be stylish because they are French? Are they so secure in their taste that they don’t need to be coaxed into buying a bottle by a label adorned with well-tailored pants? Women actually buy more wine than men—at least in terms of numbers of bottles if not actual bottle worth. A male retailer once explained the power positioning like this: “Men buy Montrachet; women buy Sancerre.” But women also buy much more frequently—and the women I know are far more open to experimentation than the men, who tend to settle on a certain range of wines if not a particular brand. And women don’t care about scores or money the way that men do—they may like a wine, but they don’t engage in heated debates or competitions over whose wine is the best. In fact, the only wine arguments I’ve ever had were with men. Women are much more likely to concede. “Oh, you found that the aromas reminded you of strawberries, not spice? You must be right.” Maybe women should argue more—take positions about what producers are best, brag about their collections, and talk more about scores. Maybe they wouldn’t have dopey wines named after dresses made just for them. But then of course they’d be just like men.

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