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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Gender Roles Edition

More odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

The Omnipotent Wine Lover

It all makes sense now.  Less fussy wine enthusiasts have long wondered about the elitist, testosterone-fueled appeal of the eRobert Parker message board:  How is it that an audience of 99% men, mostly cloaked in anonymity, going on and on with arduous conviction about wines that 99% of the populace will never taste based on expense, production or a combination of both, hold an appeal for anybody?

Likewise, what kind of person argues with empirical certainty about something subjective?

At least in politics you can argue ideology, but how, exactly, do you argue nose and taste buds?  A recent thread at eRobertParker about the 1997 Harlan Estates Cab, volatile acidity and how good the wine is – a wine that retails for at least $1000 a bottle—is a prime example.


Yet, we now have our answer – using wine as the backdrop, researchers at the University of New Hampshire, as published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, have come to the conclusion that:

“… women are more likely turn to interpersonal relationships such as friends and family for information about purchases. On the other hand, men prefer to gather information from impersonal and published materials.”

This is validation that - yes - men don’t ask for driving directions!

It’s also validation for the “pulled down boxers and exposed male anatomy with measuring stick” that makes up a lot of wine publishing and dialogue.

The study continues:

“Three key findings emerge from this research … males are less comfortable with personal interaction in making life decisions.”



So, women talk to friends and family for wine recommendations while men go about their information gathering in a monastic (onanistic?) singular pursuit ala eBob and its ilk.

Makes sense … I think. 

The research summary goes on to say:

“Overall, the men surveyed viewed themselves as much more knowledgeable about wine than the women (Ed Note:  little surprise). And while men were more likely, in general, to turn to impersonal sources for information, when it come to buying wine as a gift, they valued the input from retail clerks, friends and family just as much as women.”

The research concludes by stating:

“Therefore, in order to capture the male wine consuming market, increase market share, and establish a loyal following from male consumers, wine producers, retailers, hoteliers and restaurants must consider educating their staff to better handle male customers’ needs.

This could be accomplished through staff engagement of male consumers in open discussion, creating an environment where it is acceptable to ask questions and exchange ideas and comments about wine.  Possibly more important to wine producers is the creation of promotional material directed at attracting males as a potential wine consuming group and thereby creating brand loyalty and expanding the overall wine market.  This could be accomplished by creating a ‘masculine’ image for wine.”

According to Nelson Barber, the research author, “This understanding will lead to a more critical look at marketing strategies aimed at establishing relationships, particularly with male customers and particularly given they are an untapped and potentially large market.”

Within the context of this study, they note that as much as 80% of wine is purchased by women making men a large target for growth.  God help us all if wine begins marketing with a more “masculine” image.  Can we expect to be approached with marketing materials, retailer and Sommelier training in which the blowhards and boors are catered to coupled with a greater emphasis on masculinity?  I can only imagine the advertising campaigns that would result … Kendall-Jackson meets the Marlboro Man … and more validation that somehow eBob has it right.

To read the entire research report titled, “Gender Difference in Information Search:  Implications for Retailing” click here (initiates a PDF download).

On the other hand …

If 80% of wine is purchased by women then you have to believe that most of them are either Mom’s or soon-to-be Mom’s.

Enter, “Moms Who Need Wine” a web site and Facebook fan page with over 92,000 members.


The web site says:

“If you’re not sure you could survive motherhood without a stockpile of your favorite Red—then you’ve come to the right place! Let’s face it, we all LOVE being Moms. There’s not a better, more rewarding job in the world. But sometimes, enough is enough! And there’s nothing better to bring you down than a little sip from a nice piece of stemware (or the closest sippy cup.)”

According to AdRants, an advertising industry-related web site and email newsletter, the “Moms Who Need Wine” founder, Marile Borden, says,  “We’re looking at it as a new sort of publishing model—with new kinds of opportunities for ‘media’ buys. In addition to blog ads, we’re working with sponsors on ways to leverage the whole FB audience—with things like sponsored blog posts (that get sent via the feed), coupons (on our coupons tab), sponsored virtual wine events hosted on FB, market research panels, etc.”


Taken together, these two snippets of information make me realize that the beautiful chaos that is the wine world isn’t going to get any simpler any time soon.

Second, I realize that vis-à-vis wine, while men busy themselves with being “right” most of the time women are busy figuring out how to get it done.

Wait a second … didn’t we already know this?

Restaurant wine illustration credit:  Hemispheres magazine


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (3) |


On 02/14, Sasha Smith wrote:

Great post. These results are absolutely consistent with my experience working in wine retail. I now teach wine classes in people’s homes, and in that environment, men are much more likely to ask questions, solicit advice, etc. and feel confident enough to reveal what they don’t know.

On 02/14, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

If the Bordeaux bottle were reversed—thin bottle with wide neck…nah…

On 02/18, Kimberly wrote:

I too work in wine retail, and my experience pretty much fits hand-in-glove with the image you mention of, “Can we expect to be approached with marketing materials, retailer and Sommelier training in which the blowhards and boors are catered to coupled with a greater emphasis on masculinity?”

It’s the male shoppers who don’t generally want to engage in information-gathering; they come in knowing what they want and very often buy based on label and status, expressing disinterest, or even disdain, at the mention of better wine, from lesser known producers, for less money. They want the Joseph Phelps or Far Niente, etc.  Now, if they are buying it for personal consumption, this isn’t necessarily true.

But if they’re buying a gift, or picking up a wine for a dinner party, they want the prestigious and well-known label.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, there are also men who ask questions and are open to suggestions, but unfortunately, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.


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