Wine Adventures

Men and Women are Different

Boys and girls are different.  So one of the topics that gets brought up continually in the wine world is how men and women approach, discuss, and experience wine.  For some reason I keep coming back to this topic, and wrote about it in this space last year.  However, the intrigue continues, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of books and articles ruminating on this very topic.  The ways women diverge from men in tasting and discussing are well worth another visit, and probably worth a book all by itself.

In today’s wine trade, women who anchor winemaking families devote themselves to not only making and marketing wine, but to forming groups for “discussing moderate wine consumption” and “its benefits in a healthy lifestyle.”  They call themselves “Women For WineSense,” and work toward getting balanced consumer information placed on wine labels.  Many of the members’ names appear on those very bottles:  Margaret Duckhorn, Rosemary Cakebread, Annette Shafer, Susan Sokol-Blosser, Margrit Mondavi, and many more.

Some women make wine, some sell it.  While the traditional image of a restaurant sommelier is almost exclusively masculine, the number of female somms has gone through the roof.  Restaurant groups like Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group have several women in positions that are critical both for guest relations and sales.

And more and more women are making wine decisions…including at the restaurant table.  Kristene Hansen noted in her blog that women who dine out may feel more comfortable and less intimidated discussing wine with a female sommelier.  Hansen discovered another interesting point:  men often order a pricier wine from a woman than they would from a man.  If they’re trying to impress one woman, they want to impress them all.

The actual reasons why women perceive wine differently involve basic physiology and body chemistry.  These differences are supported with studies done by geneticists, biologists, neurologists, and even sex researchers.  In the introduction to her annual wine guide for women, French critic Isabel Forêt says, “women are more sensual, their breathing is different…they perceive aromas more subjectively.  Wine is more than just a simple beverage, it is a combination of aromas that open in the mouth, offering an infinite number of sensations.”  Women, she says have more olfactory sensitivity to perfumes, to the aromas of foods, to the scents of the home.

Women also approach the wine world with different attitudes and goals.  This is clear in the hundreds of women’s wine clubs, tasting groups, business and social networks that have appeared through social media.

The About Us pages on these sites generally promote the social and comfort aspects of wine consumption, the meeting new people, networking, sharing, exchanging.  In fact, female members of the international wine club Direct Cellars spontaneously formed their own sub-group within the organization and called themselves “The Women of DC.”  They have a separate Facebook page, and interact with each other apart from the club’s many thousands of members.

Popular media has taken notice.  There are more television series than ever that feature wine-loving women in leading roles, such as “The Good Wife,” and Connie Britton’s character in “Friday Night Lights.”  Wine is a part of the lives of women such as Skyler White in “Breaking Bad,” and Claire Danes’ character on “Homeland.”  That’s much different than the Cosmos that were so enthusiastically consumed by Carrie Bradshaw and her crew on “Sex and the City.”

So here are some suggestions for your next white tablecloth dining experience.  First, don’t be surprised when your sommelier is a well-educated, well-traveled woman who knows the wine world from top to bottom.  Second, servers have learned to not automatically offer the wine list to the man at the table.  There’s an excellent chance that a discriminating and wine-savvy woman will be making the selection.

My tasting panel’s favorites this week include:

Salentin Malbec Reserve Valle de Uco 2014 ($19) – Smooth and quite approachable for a full-bodied wine.  Bright fruit, minerality with notes of plum and dark cherry.  WW 88

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2016 ($13) – This wine will go with just about any food you like.  Pronounced leather and cedar on the nose, with a firm spine of strawberry and watermelon flavor.  Since it’s 100% Cabernet, it tastes just like the big red version, only much lighter – and pinker.  WW 88

Contrade Negroamaro Puglia 2015 ($10) –The Negroamaro grape is characteristic in Puglia, which is the heel of the Italian boot.  Deep ruby color offering a nose of dark flowers and honey.  Interesting flavors of warm cherry, blueberry, and cocoa.  Just a bit on the sweet side.  WW 89