For decades beer marketing and advertising was largely directed at men. The ’70’s was all about singular masculinity and a brew. The ’80’s and ’90’s was beers, babes and swimming pools. The 2000’s have been a bit weird. Craft brewing has put focus on quality and artisanship meanwhile wine has been steadily outpacing beer in consumption. Yet, the wine industry spends very little in traditional marketing.
What it has done is focus on women. And this a bit of a chicken and egg thing. It is impossible to know what came first … women’s love of the drink or pop culture’s promotion of women and wine? Our society is replete with women and wine references from movies to television to books. Kathie Lee and Hoda bizarrely normalized daytime imbibing. Popular TV shows “Scandal”, “Modern Family”, “Cougar Town”, “The Affair”, and “The Good Wife” all feature female leads unable to detach from a glass or five.
Megan Garber writing in The Atlantic in the article, The Women and the Wine, makes the point that these TV heroines “telegraph their internal turmoil via swigs of Syrah” and “wine, gulped just as often as sipped, is a visual metaphor for that most modern of afflictions: stress.” Garber makes the point, “You rarely see TV’s men gulping wine from goblets, alone in their kitchens—and, when you do, the sight will immediately suggest A Problem.”
Novelist Jodi Picoult deliberately or unknowingly has many characters across her ubiquitous works enjoying wine. Take this line from Plain Truth, “The wine—it made her limbs loose and liquid, made her feel that a hummingbird had taken the place of her heart.” Poet and novelist Sylvia Plath said, “I drink sherry and wine by myself because I like it and I get the sensuous feeling of indulgence…luxury, bliss, erotic-tinged.”
The wine—it made her limbs loose and liquid, made her feel that a hummingbird had taken the place of her heart.
Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, critic, and women’s rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She also enjoyed wine saying it “is earth’s answer to the sun.” Fuller lived in the 19th Century so this shows that women and wine are by no means a recent combination.
Women and wine are now celebrated and made light of. From Bridget Jones to Sex in the City, wine is a glamorous right. Ann Dowsett Johnston, a journalist, academic and businesswoman, had her own problem with wine prompting her to write the book, Drink. In an interview with ABCNews she told the story of vowing never to be like her mother, a “poster girl” for alcoholism, who drank during the day and mixed her cocktails with Valium.
“I had no trouble in my 20s, 30s and 40s,” she told ABCNews. “I was an award-winning journalist with a child at home and I drank a glass or two of wine when I came home from work, then I chopped vegetables and helped with the homework.” Then she took a high-pressure job as vice-president of McGill University, working around the clock, her happy hour turned into “three, into four and five drinks a night.”
“We have normalized drinking,” she said. “We look at red wine like it’s dark chocolate. We know the downsides of the tanning bed and trans fats, but not the downside of our favorite drug.” This normalization has led to satire. The image or notion of women and wine is generally accepted.
Characters portrayed by influential comedians and actresses like Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Elizabeth Banks, Mindy Kaling and Kristen Wiig enjoy their wine. Author and humorist, Tanya Masse, has said, “Wine is to women as duct tape is to men, it fixes EVERYTHING!” Jennifer Rosen has celebrated women and wine by writing the books, Waiter, There’s a Horse in My Wine and The Cork Jester’s Guide to Wine. She writes, “Wine is for sharing. What’s the fun of swirling, swishing, sloshing and yakking if my friends can’t join in?” Female politicians like Wendy Davis have a wine connection. In an interview in Vanity Fair Davis said, “I’m happy in Lululemon, with a glass of red wine, watching HGTV.”
Gift shops sell “Wine-Thirty” clocks and kitchen towels that read, “The most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink.” Wine clubs, book clubs and Facebook pages with names like “Moms Who Need Wine” celebrate the sophistication and fun of wine.
Kerry Porter writing in The Telegraph believes this new industry began around 2002 when “the era-defining TV show Friends was sponsored by Jacob’s Creek, whose pre-credits ad showed a gang of pals settling down, with a bottle, to watch.” Wine is now the staple of fashion shows, fundraisers and charity events that are geared towards women. There are wineries that donate to breast cancer causes if you buy their brands.
This is not a conspiracy but it certainly has become strategy. Women and wine have been a combination for a long time. All the wine industry did was exploit that combination. Arguably there is now a “women and wine” sub-industry that goes beyond simple marketing segmentation. Let the following convince you of this theory.
PortoVino Wine Purse
Here is the product description…”The PortoVino wine purse is a sophisticated fashion purse that lets you get your drink on! Who doesn’t need that? It is designed to carry all of a woman’s essentials including the drink on the go on the down low. The zippered side-compartment conceals an insulated pocket created to hold the coveted party pouch. The party pouch has a spout and is durable enough to hold up to 2 bottles of wine or 1.5L of your favorite beverage. The backside of the PortoVino wine purse has a stylistic flap that when opened will provide access to the pouring spout so you can easily pour your drink on the go. Recommended: buy an extra pack of Party Pouches (3 refill bladders).”
Chardonnay Cotton Candy
“Rough day at the office, and looking to wine down? Enjoy a sip of cotton candy infused with the essence of Chardonnay! Fluffy and sweet, our hand-spun Chardonnay Cotton Candy has a light, fruity taste and are sugary clouds of fun that you won’t find anywhere else! Each batch is handcrafted and packed fresh. A really grape hostess gift! Grab a few for yourself, they won’t want to share. Oh, and did we mention that it’s all natural, has NO artificial flavors or colors, AND is only 110 calories to down the whole thing!?”
Neoprene Stemstrap Wine Glass Holder
If you talk with your hands a lot, you will never have to worry about soaking your date or fellow party guest again. This silicone sling leaves your hands free for all kinds of gestures and activities. It is a “Hands free wine glass lanyard and neoprene sling” with “Adjustable strap with a drop of 8 to 16 inches”. The “Rubberized lining offers extra gripping power” is “Perfect for parties, wine tastings, and festivals.”
Grapevine Wine Glass Ground Stake
“The Picnic Plus Grapevine Wine Glass Ground Stake is perfect for outdoor entertaining Our unique hand painted grape and vine metal sculpture is 41″ tall and holds 1 stemmed wine or beverage glass. Simply push the extended double prong base into the ground with your foot and you are ready to enjoy outdoor life. No need to worry about your wine glass falling over from the uneven ground. The Grapevine Wine Glass Ground Stake comes in handy for backyard entertaining, outdoor concerts, beach parties, picnics or just enjoying the sun set.”
Giant Wine Glass
Bicycle Wine Rack
“If you like wine and you like biking, you’re going to love this. The handmade leather bicycle wine rack is perfect for taking a bottle of wine with you on the go. It easily attaches to most bike frames using antique brass fasteners, while the hidden clamps hold the bottle securely. Best of all, the vegetable tanned leather will only look better as it ages.”
The socks say it all.
Natural Bamboo Bathtub Caddy Tray Organizer and Wineglass Holder
“Transform your ordinary bathtub into a spa-like experience with Prosumer’s Choice Adjustable Eco-friendly Bamboo Bathtub Tray. This elegant, sturdy and eco-friendly bath caddy expands up to 41 inches to fit over most bathtubs and Jacuzzi tubs. The all-natural bamboo wood is resistant to moisture and steam and includes creature-comfort features such as an indented wine glass holder that keeps the glass securely in place, as well as indented area for your iPhone or smartphone so you won’t need to crawl out of a nice warm bath when you hear that ping. The adjustable book or tablet holder lets you read at the perfect viewing angle, and unlike other bathtub caddies, is also made of bamboo, not metal, so it will not rust. You may never want to leave the tub!”
And Lastly Some Wines
If you are doubtful that the wine industry is focused on women then consider the names of these wines.
Women and wine have a long history. One that is celebrated and satirized. Women and wine have almost become synonymous with each other. The combination has become a joke and a punchline. Critics see this as increasingly complicated even worrisome because women are drinking more. Clearly, the women and wine industry is big business and it shows no sign of slowing down. Especially when backed by our culture and society. Consider this line from author Marie Rutkoske’s book, The Winner’s Curse, “A glass of wine in one’s hand is rather like a jewel, isn’t it, a large, liquid one?”