"I said it once before, but it bears repeating…"

by Katie Pizzuto on January 29, 2010

in marketing

You know what I never got? The Gay Olympics…I’m sorry, I mean the Federation of Gay Games. The struggle for every minority in this country’s short history has been that of equality…of assimilation. “We’re just like you and deserve to be treated the same and receive the same opportunities.” Which is why self-imposed segregation has never made any sense to me. If you’re a great athlete, go try out for the Olympics, please. I don’t give a shit if you are straight, gay, bi or dig animals. I just want to know that you can nail a triple axel and make it look like a cakewalk. The same holds true in the wine industry, although there seem to be plenty out there who disagree with me and continue to make themselves a separate target market simply because they deal with PMS and have tits (no, man boobs don’t count). I wrote about this a while back in Mutineer Magazine, but it bears repeating because female wine guru Leslie Sbrocco is at it again.

Leslie is the author of Wine for Women. She’s also a speaker and personality of sorts, and her speech topics include: “Top 10 Ways to Reach the Female Customer,” and “How to Teach a Male Dominated Industry the Customer is ‘Queen’.” Chapters in her book are organized around an insultingly soft-headed fashion theme (chardonnay is “basic black,” while rieslings are “spring dresses”). All of this sends a message that women are not part of the mainstream and need special attention. She recommends that wineries approach their marketing to women from a lifestyle angle and says, “Don’t just talk about things like ’12 months in new French oak.’ Who really cares?” Umm, me Leslie, because I’d put that chardonnay back on the shelf. She also recommends that retailers hire more females for their sales staff because, “Female salespeople help make wine buying less intimidating for other women.” What?! How am I supposed to get 10% off the shelf price if I can’t flash a salesman some cleavage?! Geez.

Now she’s back with a new book, Adventures of a Thirsty Girl, and a website to match. “Women rock. We generally don’t get hung up on what wine scored what…but we do care about taste, style and pleasure.” (and men don’t?) “It’s our way of relaxing and connecting with friends and family. As a girlfriend of mine who stays at home with her kids says, ‘my 5pm glass of wine is called mommy’s little helper’.” Fucking great. Now we’ve equated the nectar of the gods with Valium.

It pisses me off to think that in an honest attempt to gain a bigger market share, many wine brands are grossly underestimating their female market…but then again, are they? I’d like to think that we are above the “oh m’god, that’s like soooo cute” way of wine shopping, but recent trends in marketing would shut me up quickly thanks to folks like Sbrocco, who keep women shackled to a stereotype that segregates us because of gender instead of uniting us because of passion.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Strappo January 29, 2010

Awesome, gonzarina.


2 Ben Simons January 29, 2010

What a great post. I can’t personally relate to the being female side of this post, but I hate that everything in our society has to be dumbed down for the lowest common denominator. Everything has to be spoon fed to us like we have the mental capacity of a 6 year old. And all of this gets presented like it’s some kind of populist, anti-elitist thing, when really it’s just plain and simple condescension. Anyway, I guess if people buy it, it probably means that the marketers are right.


3 Elle January 29, 2010

Hey, don’t sugarcoat it, ok? 😉

You’re absolutely right! How can women expect to be treated equally if we’re trying to be all cutesie dressy and flowery 100% of the time? You don’t need to dumb it down for us, give us the facts and let us form our own opinions and decisions. “Basic black” and “Spring dresses” have to be two of the most ridiculous ways to describe wines I’ve ever heard! It’s condescending and sends a message that the only way we, as women, understand something is if you equate it to something easy so we don’t have to think. It’s insulting and ridiculous.


4 kat January 29, 2010

Ugh! I avoid wines that try to be too cute & wines for women would totally turn me off


5 Katie Pizzuto January 29, 2010

@Ben “presented like it’s some kind of populist, anti-elitist thing” is EXACTLY it. Food Network does the same thing, and it’s all horseshit. I couldn’t agree more.

@Elle and Kat….let’s hope marketers are listening to your comments.


6 Gwendolyn January 29, 2010

Great post. As a “wine” person, I am also turned off when someone tries to talk dumb to me with wine. Don’t get me started on the fact that my husband is almost ALWAYS given the wine list at restaurants (how hard is it to set the list in the middle of the table?!?!?!). I fear, however, I(we) are in the minority. I can’t tell you how many bottles of “Bitch” grenache we sell (I work with Wine.com) because of the label, or the amount of wine my younger sister and her friends buy because of the cute label or clever marketing tag line. It seems to work for many, so, like Ben says, if it works, they use it. I am hopeful that the number of savvy women wine drinkers is growing, though, and perhaps cutesy labels and dress comparisons are gateway descriptors that will eventually lead gals to extolling the complex mineral components found in a glass of Grand Cru Chablis.


7 Don January 29, 2010

These are great points Katie. You should see if you can get something trending on twitter like #boycottwineforwomenstereotype.

just sayin’


8 Kimberly January 29, 2010

Holy crap, yes. Gwendolyn, you said it! How hard is it, indeed, to put the wine list in the middle of the table?! And the “Bitch” grenache — don’t get me started! I work in a wine retail shop, and countless women — and a few men — have bought that very wine for the label only. Many ask, “Is this wine red or white?” I am not making that up. And also, “Is this a sweet wine?” Um, no. They honestly don’t care what the wine itself is like, they are in love with that pink and black “Bitch” label. I could write a dissertation on why calling a wine “Bitch” is just soooo unsavory, but I’ll keep it to myself. : )


9 The Wine Commonsewer January 30, 2010

Wine for Women? That’s a concept worth enjoying. I have made it a life long avocation to provide wine for women. It’s much more fun than, say, providing Bud Lite for sweaty guys on a hot afternoon floating around in a bass boat.

Stellar write up, Gonzarina (I like that, Strappo).

…..the amount of wine my younger sister and her friends buy because of the cute label or clever marketing tag line.

Yes. And the quality of the wine is almost always inversely proportional to the cutesy label. You’d think a bottle or two later, they’d move on.


10 Katie Pizzuto January 30, 2010

Not a bad idea, Don, though a shorter hashtag is in order, LOL!

“Little black dress” is another wine I discussed in the Mutineer article, as well as wine marketed towards gays now. It’s really insulting. You would think, Mike, that they’d move on after a bottle or two, but that would depend on people not liking it, and as we all know, plenty of people like plonk. I’ve always said that gimmick will only get you so far, and then the wine actually has to be good if you’re going to build brand loyalty. But I’m not sure how many of those brands are after loyalty anyway.


11 Coupe 60 February 1, 2010

Katie a couple of things…Love your writing, I really do…

First off, I think ass-imilation is a huge goal of most participants at the Gay Olympics …

Second, I believe that Fat Bastard probably sells as well as Bitch …for much the same reason…People are generally idiots that get easily distracted by the first shiny object that is passed in front of their eyes (Though for full disclosure, I did buy a bottle of Jose CabeReyes with a picture of the Mets shortstop on the label last year…Alright I also bought the Santana Select Merlot)…

Finally, I would like to see smoking hot salesgirls at my LWS…shit if they were topless all the better… Hopefully I do not have to post my reasons for this desired change in wine store hiring patterns…


12 ConstanceC February 3, 2010

Katie, I love your post. You hit the nail on the head!


13 Katie Pizzuto February 3, 2010

Thanks Constance! Thanks for stopping by…it’s been a while!


14 Rob February 4, 2010

Last time I looked at the research (which was admittedly several months ago), women made up a majority of the wine purchases in the U.S. Something along the lines of 60/40. I believe this came from the Wine Market Council, but I could be mistaken. Combine that with the Nelson sales data that says Chardonnay and White Zinfandel are STILL the number one and two wines sold in US markets and we have the problem that most of us who are really into wine face: Most people don’t care about what goes into a wine, they just care how much it costs and will it get them intoxicated. I do not think it matters if they are men, women, or other.


15 Katie Pizzuto February 4, 2010

You’ve definitely got valid points, Rob, and wines have done their part in targeting men as well (Cleavage Creek, etc.) It just truly pisses me off that someone who is supposed to serve as a knowledgeable voice in the wine industry (Sbrocco) makes the situation worse by perpetuating the idea that women only like cutesy wine labels and could care less what the oak regime was. Worse yet, she writes books for women that reinforce that view. If a singer is told he is tone deaf enough times, he’ll eventually believe it. Thus, if women readers are continually told that they are about “lifestyle” and don’t need to care about things like oak regimes, they’ll believe it, and never aspire to more.


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