Unscrewed: Ladies, the Wine Industry is Courting you!

If you missed my Unscrewed article in the Village Voice on marketing schemes that blatantly pander to the female wine drinker, here is your second chance…

Considering women now buy more than half the wine that ends up on the American table, a few companies have devised marketing tricks to capture “her” dollars. I submit the following evidence:

Exhibit A

Pretty in Pepto Pink!

The wine purse. No, there aren’t pockets for your cell phone, mirror, and gloss. That might make the packaging useful as opposed to merely silly. No, this wine “purse” only holds wine in a bladder inside a cardboard handbag. There are two companies perpetrating this stunt. Volere, from Italy, is selling Pinot Grigio, Merlot-Pinot Noir (???), and Rose in knockoff Chanel bags that are, what? Meant to fool the casual observer? Vernissage, from Sweden, offers a Canal Street-worthy L.V. design filled with French Chardonnay/Viognier, Syrah/Cabernet, or Rose.

My issue is not with boxed wine (which is actually bagged wine in a box). Boxed wine should be a good idea — it is environmentally friendly, easy on the wallet, and good for large groups (see keg wine). However, most boxed wine is bad because good wine isn’t (usually) boxed.

Exhibit B

Which wine defines your style, Ladies?

Little Black Dress Wines. This offering is a strange amalgam of single-varietal, no origin wines, and LBDs coupled with party tips. Not sure how they go together, other than the company’s attempt at likening its wines to the reliability of the LBD — it is stylish, always there for you, and there is one for every occasion. Seems like a tenuous comparison.

The Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, is of unknown origin (read: a blend of red wine from nameless vineyards selling off their excess), and has the following description:

“Sometimes a little drama in life can be good, particularly when it’s as tasteful as our Cabernet. This red wine has spice and oak flavors that say it’s okay to be bold. There’s nothing indecisive about this label. It makes quite a statement, just like you in that little black dress…”

Does this really entice women to buy this bottle? Wine is not Mountain Dew; it is a complex product that people spend years making. Are these companies dumbing wine down for women, or merely demystifying it with playful products? Is there a place in the market for these wines, or are you insulted that Merlot and Pinot Noir were actually blended together, and then packaged in a handbag they assumed you would buy because you’re a girl and it’s cute?

I haven’t tasted these wines, so I can’t comment on the quality, but I can make an educated guess.

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