Generalizing about women, by a woman, is a notoriously dangerous undertaking. As individuals, women are sensitive to being lumped together as a single demographic, and we should be. History is rife with false and over-generalizations that have made everything from getting the vote to getting woman-centered health care downright difficult, and discussions about wine are no exception.
For the most part, women drink according to preferences of taste, and we have more than proven ourselves capable of mastering the art of oenophilia. While some unfortunate stereotypes remain about female wine drinkers — no, we don’t all like riesling — interesting patterns in preference emerge, suggesting that women consider, drink, buy and experience wine a bit differently than men do. From the wines we drink most often to the bottles we’re more likely to buy, here’s a quick look at what women want in wine.
When it comes to gender assumptions about wine drinkers, the list can get long and a little contradictory, but here is a quick stab at some of the most common conjectures:
- Women prefer sweet wines.
- Women drink more white wine than red.
- Women are less adventurous about their wine choices than men are.
- Women have more subtle palettes than men.
- Men buy more bottles of wine than women do.
As it turns out, every sentence in the above list is either false or in need of a lengthy explanation to show why it is true in rare cases. So, if what is commonly assumed about women as wine drinkers and buyers doesn’t pass muster, what does? What do women want out of their wines?
The Wines Women Drink
In a recent demographic study by marketing researchers in California, cabernet sauvignon and merlot were the number one and two preferences of female — and male — wine drinkers. True to stereotypical form (but further down the list), women also listed sweeter wine, white zinfandel, as a favorite, and both genders listed chardonnay as their top white wine preference. While it’s true that women prefer sweeter wines more often than men do, the occurrence of that preference shows up low enough on the list to suggest we can afford to lose it as a stereotype.
Why Women Drink
Both men and women list the same top three reasons as to why they imbibe:
- It enhances food.
- It tastes good.
- It aids in relaxation.
A similarity also appeared when the two genders were asked where they do most of their wine drinking, with the top four being:
- At a fine dining restaurant
- During a special event or occasion
- With a meal at a friend’s house
- As a way to socialize with friends and family
Interestingly, women and men parted company significantly when it came to drinking alone or at home, with women showing much lower levels of wine consumption. Apparently, we’re partial to keeping company when we drink our wine.
The Bottles Women Buy
Women buy as much as eight out of every ten bottles of wine sold in the United States. Men are still slightly more likely to purchase more expensive bottles, but women pay more attention to a brand’s story and the vineyard’s associations and not in ways that are immediately apparent. When women choose wines that are new to them, they tend to do so based on a friend’s recommendation or a story about the wine or vineyard — which makes sense because, for women, wine is part of life’s social fabric. When we find something we like, we stick to it like glue. In fact, brand loyalty and price are the two primary concerns that women most often consider when purchasing wine.
What, then, does it all mean? What do women want from their experience of wine? Women drink wine to relax, socialize and enhance our experiences of food, and when we do those things, we want to do so among our friends and families. We like red more than white, but we do tend toward a sweeter tooth than men — at least when it comes to wine. We like stories, and we like to have personal connections to the wines we buy and drink.
Oh, and we drink what we want to — each one of us — because we like it.
About the Author: Jenassa Swift is a contributing blogger and an experienced sommelier.