A few weeks ago I was sitting at dinner and the lady beside me made an interesting point about the restaurant's wine list. 'It's very definitely not woman friendly,' she said. I pressed her to elaborate. 'The way restaurants write their lists, all grape types and countries of origin, doesn't help women choose.
A few weeks ago I was sitting at dinner and the lady beside me made an interesting point about the restaurant's wine list. 'It's very definitely not woman friendly,' she said. I pressed her to elaborate. 'The way restaurants write their lists, all grape types and countries of origin, doesn't help women choose. Women would be far more interested in the feel of a wine, how it makes her feel. Is it a happy wine? A romantic wine? A sophisticated wine? A fun wine? A woman friendly wine list would give you that sort of information.'
It got me thinking. There's no getting away from the fact that the wine trade has been male dominated for thousands of years. Mind you, that's true of a lot of trades and professions, but there's something very staid and conventional about the wine business, and it's possible that orienting their sales pitch to women hasn't been high on the agenda. Yes, I know that some Californian wines calling themselves 'blush' have made a definite pitch to the female buyer - but making it pink, flowery and girly seems a tad patronising to me.
Labels, if they're carefully designed, can tell you much about what the wine-maker wants you to think about the wine. Silly names and funky labels are saying 'this is a fun wine', while labels that drone on about terroir and varietal mixes are obviously asking you to take them seriously. But the fact is that labels are not on view in a restaurant, all you get is a brief description and a price. And it's that description that my friend was complaining about, all factual male-orientated stuff.
So how could we go about addressing this gender imbalance? Let me suggest a few categories. A young, fruity wine intended to be drunk young is definitely in the 'fun' bracket. It doesn't demand tiny, careful sips and palate-smacking, you're not required to salute the wine-makers' art, just drink it. Wines with a history, or from exotic places are perfect for romantic moments; the story or the provenance can spark a conversation and make a moment memorable. Costly wines with noble pedigrees and austere breeding are clearly made for the sophisticated moment, and with that of course goes expense, a profound form of flattery if it's bought for a woman.
The category of a 'happy' wine has already been taken by the sparklers. Champagne houses spend fortunes linking their wine with moments of celebration, so the connection is pervasive and profound. It's so well ingrained that any sparkling wine announces by its presence that there's something to celebrate.
Borsao 2001, Campo de Borja