Cherchez La Femme? Women & Wine

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If you thought that wine was more of a man's world, then you were very, very wrong — at least when it comes to the purchase and consumption of wine. Institutions and companies in the wine industry might still be dominated by men like so many other parts of society, but they won't be able to ignore or dismiss the evidence that wine consumers — the people who keep wine makers in business — are more female than male.

According to a new study, eight out of every ten bottles of wine are purchased by women. These women aren't buying wine based on what is "trendy" or "fashionable" and they aren't simply following whatever lead might be set by men. Instead, women are confidently buying wine based on their own judgement of what tastes good. This study is based on a survey of more than four thousand women in France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and America.

Most women said they enjoyed drinking wine because they liked the taste (80%) and because it went well with food (70%). But despite appearing knowledgeable about wine, the majority choose to ignore its health risks. More than half see it as a "healthier" alternative to other alcoholic drinks such as beer and spirits, while the same proportion said they were not deterred by the government's health warnings.

Less than a fifth of women said they had cut back on their consumption because of such advice, which includes an advertising campaign launched by the Department of Health last year highlighting the risks to women of regularly exceeding the recommended limits.

When it comes to choosing wines, women said they were driven mainly by price (74%), followed by the type of grape (64%), the country of origin (55%) and more superficial trappings such as the label (42%). Six out of 10 (61%) said they chose wine on their own, with women in the UK noticeably more independent in their choice than their peers elsewhere in the world. ...

Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo, said: "The role of women in wine buying and the depth of their knowledge has been vastly underestimated. This is as true for other countries as it is for Britain. The message for wine marketers is clear: cherchez la femme if you want to sell."

Source: The Guardian


Deb Harkness comments at Serious Eats:

Cherchez la femme? You've got to be kidding.

I don't know about you, but I find the whole notion that you have to beware of women wine consumers because we don't buy wine as a fashion accessory or a diet aid a bit demeaning. I'm a woman who buys wine, and I've never tried to match it to my shoes. So what are they so worried about?

Perhaps I misunderstand what Deb Harkness means, exactly, but my first reaction is that the Robert Beynat's advice makes sense in a general way: if you find that one demographic group is responsible for a significant percentage of your sales, then you need to pay attention to that group — and even seek them out — if you want to continue to make good sales (never mind expand your sales). So, wine makers, sellers, and marketers need to pay more attention to what women really look for in wines rather than what they have in the past assumed women look for in wine. People who do this should, in the long run, make more sales than those who don't.

In principle, perhaps, this might not seem to mean much because don't women look for the same things in wine as men — good wines with good value? Certainly, but the fact is that there are differences between men and women. Some of it is biological and some of it is cultural socialization, but anyone who wants to target women as a demographic group has to take some of these differences into consideration. Do women, on average, prefer slightly sweeter wines or slightly drier wines? Do they tend to favor varietals or blends? How do they react as compared to men to certain labeling techniques or advertising (i.e., do women react more positively to certain colors)?

For example, one finding of the study is that a third of women drink wine in the bathtub — probably the biggest different between men and women, I imagine. This should instantly start creating ideas for how to market wine. You don't need to go so far as to show a women in the bath drinking the wine you're selling, but a campaign associating certain wines with relaxing at home, shedding the stress and worries of the day, and slipping into a comforting mood might be very, very successful with female wine drinkers. At the very least it's the sort of thing which wine producers and marketers need to try as part of reaching out to female consumers.

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