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Winemakers push to attract female buyers

POSTED: September 10, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Shopping for wine in a wine shop can be an intimidating experience for anyone - man or woman - who's unsure of what's lurking on the shelves.

As a result, many wine producers - or at least their marketers - have been making a great effort to draw female eyes to their labels ... and their wines. Some of these efforts are successful; some are not.

Women do at least 70 percent of the supermarket shopping, and large-output wineries have learned that getting their wines on those crowded shelves is a key to sales success. Check out some of those labels: They're loaded with serene woodland scenes or cutesy little animals

(they're called "critter wines") and other visual snares for the female shopper.

One of my favorite - and most blatant - efforts is the series of wines put out by beverage giant Brown-Forman. The collection is called Little Black Dress. Subtle? Well, maybe not. But the marketing for this budget-priced - about $10-$12 - group is clever and never condescending.

And the wine is pretty good, too.

Sadly, the best of the LBD wines probably will never be found in Georgia. It's a syrah rose, and it is a wonderful dry rose that's great with food. I was fortunate enough to get a couple of sample bottles, but don't go looking for it. Only a few hundred cases were made.

The LBD wines feature, surprise, a little black dress on the label. And to carry on the theme, the company supports the work of the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation, which auctions celebrity dresses to raise funds for children's charities.

Oh, joy! Just visit Clothes Off Our Back and you just might snag a second-hand Britney Spears outfit.

Or not.

But what of these wines - chardonnay, merlot, pinot grigio and pinot noir? All but the last are made from fruit sourced from California's North and Central Coast and the Delta Region. The pinot noir comes from France's Languedoc region, near the Mediterranean coast. While good quality, these wines differ little from similarly priced offerings. They are, however, very good value wines.

It's the label and marketing that set these wines apart.

One Tampa, Fla., restaurant in July promised free Little Black Dress wine to all women who showed up for dinner wearing, well, you guess.

Some women, however, react negatively to such advertising appeals. One Gainesville educator noted, "I have to admit I take a wine less seriously if it has a ‘cutesy' name or label."

She also said that at wine tastings she has attended, men got more attention than women. "I often felt as though the distributor's rep tended to pay attention to and answer questions of men tasters much more thoroughly and in more complex ways than they would answer my questions."

Another Gainesville woman, however, has an opposite view. "Yes, I am definitely influenced by labels aimed at women," she said. "The colorful labels and creative names tend to catch a lady's eye."

She noted that well-known labels - Kendall-Jackson, Rodney Strong, Beringer, etc. - are adorned with more traditional, nongender-oriented labels, but female "... wine buyers are familiar with the names and are comfortable buying those on name recognition alone."

Television and print publication wine expert Leslie Sbrocco writes about the role women play in the wine marketplace in her wise and witty book, "Wine For Women," published in 2004 by William Morrow/Harper Collins.

While it's a good read for anyone looking to add to their wine-buying expertise, this book is laser-beamed at the female shopper.

Sbrocco writes about words and terms and graphic devices wine marketers use to attract female shoppers. She sagely divides the wine experience into what she calls The Big Three: buying a wine, pairing wine with food and sharing wine with others.

In summary, women carry a lot of clout in the wine marketplace. And learning more about Sbrocco's Big Three will help them separate the hype from the substance, the marketing fluff from the really good stuff.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? E-mail him. His column runs on the first Wednesday of the month.


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