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10.12.2005

The Gender Gap vs. The Consumer Gap In Wine

wine_women_and_horses.sm.jpgThere are an incredible number of individual wines and entire new wine brands hitting the market right now expressly targeted at women. There's even a new wine magazine devoted to women wine drinkers. The real question, though, is WHY? Is there really so much of a gender gap in wine drinking and wine connoisseurship that we need special marketing efforts?

These are the questions that Michael Steinberger raises in his latest column for Slate Magazine, and he does a great job marching through questions that I've been musing over for some time, but never really fully articulated. What is it with all these women focused wines and wine publications? I understand niche marketing (though I don't understand why all these people focused on the female niche seem to think it requires them to dumb down the wine or the writing), but most of these people are not just claiming that they're addressing a specific set of consumers. No, they're telling us that they're righting decades, even centuries of inequality and bias in the wine world. As Steinberger so aptly points out, that may have been true 60 years ago, but that's a pretty specious argument at the present, especially given the fact that the majority of wine consumers in the US and the UK are women. Not to mention people like Jancis Robinson and Heidi Peterson Barrett, etc. etc.

You get the point. But read the article. Steinberger does a good job of jabbing a sharp stick at the notion that there are problems for women in the wine world, and instead asking whether we might just have problems for consumers in the wine world.

Comments (6)

Alix wrote:
10.17.05 at 1:47 PM

Although I agree to an extent that maybe this 'wine for women' trend is a bit exaggerated, in the case of a wine magazine for women, I thought I would point out the fact that Wine Spectator, arguably the most influentional wine magazine, does not have one regular female writer. In fact, all of the main columnists are male writers (James Laube, Matt Kramer, Bruce Sanderson). Doesn't really leave much room for variation now does it...

And although I have not yet read Wine Adventure, hopefully it will provide some new viewpoints/angles to the world of wine (As long as it doesn't 'dumb' things down). I think I would personally find it quite refreshing. Not necessarily something to be criticized. Just as Wine X Magazine created a space for the younger, generation X drinkers, Wine Adventure may broaden the spectrum of wine journalism.

Alder wrote:
10.21.05 at 11:12 AM

Alix,

Thanks for your comments. I did know that fact about Wine Spectator, and think that it's unfortunate.

However, on the flip side, which Steinburger points out in his article, perhaps the second most influential wine critic in the world, and quite possibly the most popular wine writer is Jancis Robinson. Unfortunately for us, she's in the UK.

As for Wine Adventure providing new perspectives on wine, I'm right there with you. I'd look forward to them, though not necessarily because I think they need to come from women, but just because we need new perspectives on wine, period.

Wine Adventure Mag insider wrote:
11.10.05 at 7:16 AM

Well to be honest, the magazine thus far is an utter failure in terms of developing any circulation whatsoever. They don't even have a newsstand deal. You can't find readers if you don't spend money to acquire them--though many a wannabe Publisher thinks they have a short cut--a PR placement, hosting the odd small event, etc. Say what you will about The Wine Spectator, their circulation is 300,000, affluent, and yes made up of large wine purchasers--that does not mean everything is expensive! The next closest circulation in the field is Wine Enthusiast, with less than half that many, and 1/4 the advertising. Food & WIne, Bon Appetite, Gourmet, do not have enormous circulations and they are owned by American Express Publishing and Conde Nast. Magazines are costly to build and profits are only usually achieved after 3-5 years, so having deep enough pockets or strong backing is vital, even for small publications.

Wine Adventure's writers are not necessarily women, as a matter of fact the key contributors in terms of pages of edit are men. The magazine is really not about wine, it is trying to be about traveling to wineries. The owner and Publisher is a man named Lucien Bonnafoux who claims to be an industry expert, but has never worked in the wine industry, not less run or managed a magazine. His girlfriend is the editor. They operate from the couple's apartment and pretty much no one who works for what Bonnafoux touts as his "virtual company" has probably ever met anyone else in the company.

The editorial product is very amaturish sadly. Terrible covers that send a clear warning about the unruley malange of the pages within. Photography that they claim in their media kit ill be cutting edge is at best press photos provided by various tourim or wine producer companies. (Bonnafoux's only background available on the web is that he is or was a "professional" or former photography teacher in a high school in the San Diego area.) Graphics are really hiddeous, and the splashes of colour are dank, unattractive and ininviting. If you want a similar magazine produced by a quality publisher, try Savuer Wine Country, a new quarterly by the publishers of Savuer, the esteemed cooking magazine which is available on fine newsstands. Savuer, like all epicurean magazines has a largely female readership.

Nice idea, but a successful business endeavor requires a strong business plan and the money to execute on it. Just check out their website--its a dud and all it does is tell you about the issue's editorial features--you can't read anything to get a taste and they want $30 for 6 issues, fine and fair if you get a considerable publication, bit not what they have produced.

All in all the Slate article was quite accurate. No women's voice. But worse, articles about food and wine pairing will not attract advertisers--its not an epicurean magazine, offers too narrow a travel perspective for most of that industry's marketers, and if you don't have the numbers or the editorial that focuses on wine then what is there really for wine industry marketers? If you get a copy, look to see the utter lack of one recognizable winery!

Let's just say I have the inside scoop on Wine Adventure

KathyR wrote:
02.19.07 at 12:25 PM

Ha!! Lucien Bonnafoux was my high school photography teacher (Encinitas, CA). Crazy world.

Jill B wrote:
08.19.07 at 1:51 PM

And he was my HS photography teacher as well. And the reason I'm a professional photographer today. Absolutely one of the best educators I've had.

09.17.14 at 12:03 PM

Wow, this piece of writing is fastidious, my younger sister is analyzing such things,
thus I am going to inform her.

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