Wine Marketer’s Try to Get Men’s Attention


I once read an article in a trade wine magazine.  "Sommelier" is a French wine magazine and every issue is both in French and English.  The subject of the magazine is no secret.  In that article, the author who was a famous French Sommelier working in the US stated that American men follow Robert Parker's ratings and American women follow Wine Spectator Magazine's ratings when choosing wine.  I did put both scores on my wine list which had only a couple of hundred bottles but 38 wines by the glass.  It was a lot of work but the sales went up dramatically.  I expected the wine-by-the-glass to grow to 75 at the rate I could add wines if the restaurant had not closed for remodeling and I hadn't left.  Marketing wines to American public is much harder than expected.  America has always been beer country if not for the climate and dominantly Southern population of German origin but for the fact that it is great for manufacturing.  Wine is the opposite and the larger the production the less likely that serious wine drinkers follow it.  Many California fine wines have productions about 13000 cases which is not small but enough to feed all wine venues.  These wines are manufactured (aka "made by winemaker") to withstand abusive travel, fluctuating temperatures and intermittent storage in warehouses.  The more "wine making" done to prepare wine for such harsh life in the distribution channels, the less of a wine it becomes.  And, let us not forget the inherent higher cost and alcohol.  Beer companies did not invent Light Beer to please women (as some wine companies try to make low alcohol wines for women) but to feed the macho urge to drink up many bottles.  One 5 oz glass of wine has as much alcohol as one 12 oz glass of beer.  Let's wish them luck but making men drink more wine is a hard niche to cultivate.


Cal Dennison likes a nice cold glass of Chardonnay. And he's man enough to admit it.

That's hardly surprising since Dennison is winemaker at Modesto's Redwood Creek winery, but is he an exception?

Judging by some marketing campaigns, you might think so. Take the Super Bowl ad that ran a couple years back in which men invited to a wine and cheese party sneaked into the kitchen to unpack beer hidden in a fake wheel of cheese.

It was a stereotype played for laughs – in real life, lots of men like wine – but maybe one with a crumb of cultural truth. The designator for "average dude" in political campaigning last fall was Joe Six-Pack, not Peter Pinot Noir.

It's hard to say for sure exactly who's drinking what, but a Gallup Poll from July found that among women who drink, 43 percent say wine is what they drink most often and 28 percent say beer. Among men who drink, 58 percent say beer is what they drink most often and 17 percent say wine.

"As a general rule, guys get together, they don't want to be seen with a glass of wine," says Nelson Barber, an associate professor of hospitality management at Texas Tech University who has studied gender differences in marketing wine.

Wine companies would like to change that. In recent years, some have adopted guy-friendly marketing with tie-ins to such red-blooded pastimes as camping and racing.

Take Maximus, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot introduced by the Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga a few years back. Bennett Lane, which owns a NASCAR team, is sponsoring a NASCAR West event at Infineon Raceway this Father's Day weekend.

Then there's "The Slammer," a Syrah from Big House Wines (their Soledad winery is near a California state prison), that features a label showing a tough-looking guy with pants slung at plumber level.

Redwood Creek doesn't define itself by gender – the outdoors isn't solely a male preserve – but it is sold under a campaign strong on muscular pursuits; corks are emblazoned with GPS coordinates leading to various hiking spots.

"Without a doubt, we start with the great outdoors," says Dennison, a horseman and fisherman. "If you decide to bring a little wine on an outdoor adventure, by golly, Redwood Creek is the wine of choice."

When selling wine, one thing you don't want to do is walk up to a guy in a wine shop and ask "Can I help you?" says Barber. He theorizes this may have something to do with that elusive asking-for-directions gene.

An opener like "What kind of occasion are you thinking of buying a wine for?" is a better bet, Barber says.


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