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Selling wine to women

It happens all the time: a couple sits down for a nice meal and before the woman even unfolds her napkin, the man is handed the wine list. But it’s a move that can cut into your wine sales and hurt repeat business. How come? Because females buy and drink the majority of the wine sold in this country, that’s how come. Women account for 64 percent of wine consumers in the United States, according to the Wine Market Council. And their tastes are sophisticated and informed.

It happens all the time: a couple sits down for a nice meal and before the woman even unfolds her napkin, the man is handed the wine list. But it’s a move that can cut into your wine sales and hurt repeat business.

How come? Because females buy and drink the majority of the wine sold in this country, that’s how come.

Women account for 64 percent of wine consumers in the United States, according to the Wine Market Council. And their tastes are sophisticated and informed; those pretty pink blush wines and house whites no longer satisfy. Exclusively female wine clubs and organizations, both serious and social, are springing up to educate and enlighten. And although it’s still a male-dominated profession, the ranks of women vintners, winery owners, sommeliers, wine writers, instructors and masters of wine grow every year.

Many say that women are attracted to wine because it’s a sensual, tactile, social pursuit. There’s evidence that the female sense of taste and smell are more acute, says Leslie Sbrocco, author of Wine for Women and a consultant for Kimpton Hotels. “Kimpton not only highlights female vintners, we tap into the female customer’s experiential side,” Sbrocco says. “Women like to explore, pair and share wine.” Prestige and ratings aren’t as important as they are to men, she adds.

Pia Loavenbruck is a brand manager for Lulu B., a French wine created expressly for women. “We noticed a big desire for wine with a female edge; a varietal at a good price point that pairs well with food,” she says. Lulu B. is available as a Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—all in whimsically labeled bottles with screw caps. Retail price is about $9 and restaurants sell the wines for $6 to $9 a glass. “Women look for fruit-forward, food-friendly wines, so we kept the alcohol level down,” Loavenbruck explains.

Research prior to the launch of Lulu B. confirmed that women value wine education as much as they do wine quality. A sommelier who can share a little wisdom with the wine list is likely to sell more wine. That’s the strategy of Alpana Singh, master sommelier and director of wine and spirits for Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. “Female sommeliers tend to be more inclusive and communicative because they know what it’s like to be overlooked,” Singh says. “It takes the intimidation factor away.”                                   

Facts about women and wine

  • A 2006 Merrill Research study reveals that women drink more red wine than white (39 vs. 35 percent) or blush (26 percent).
  • Women are more likely than men to order wine (72 vs. 70 percent) in a casual dining restaurant, says the same study.
  • Out of 78 Master Sommeliers in the United States, 13 are women, reports Kathleen Lewis, executive director of the Court of Master Sommeliers.
  • The first National Women’s Wine Competition was held this year.
  • Wine groups geared to women are burgeoning. A few of the more active: Divas Uncorked, Vino Vixens, Women for WineSense, Wine Chicks and Women’s Wine and Dine.

Expert selling tips

Make the wine list more descriptive. Singh arranges hers by weight, style and flavor (light-bodied, spicy, fruity, etc.) instead of country of origin, vintage and varietal. Plus, she offers helpful, easy-to-understand descriptions of each wine.

Put the wine list in the middle of the table instead of automatically handing it to the man, says Mollie Battenhouse,
sommelier at New York City’s Tribeca Grill. Or, put more than one list on the table.

If you’re serving a couple, act like the wine selection is a joint decision and offer tastes to both, Singh advises.

Encourage questions. Women are not shy about “asking for directions” so they can learn; they’re not afraid to show vulnerability, notes author and wine columnist Natalie McLean.

Host wine-focused social and educational events. Winemaker dinners, wine tasting clubs, wine-pairing menus and cooking demos all give women a chance to develop their exploratory side in a comfortable setting, Sbrocco says.

Women love to sample, so offer wine flights paired with food; 2- to 4-ounce pours are often more appealing than whole bottles, Sbrocco adds.

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