Women and wine: How the fairer sex chooses the grape

In the battle of the sexes, wine presents an even, albeit confusing, playing field. The grape equally intimidates both men and women — they search for anything or anyone that can make it easier to navigate.

Last year, the Wine Institute released results from a study on how consumers make their choices. They found that people rely on: 1. personal recommendations from friends and family, followed by the sommelier or server in a restaurant; 2. publications, including newspaper columns and magazines; and 3. a visit to the winery. But I wondered if women — who aren’t above asking for directions — have it a bit easier without pride blocking the way? To figure out how the female mind strategizes its wine selections, I polled 10 women with varying degrees of wine knowledge and comfort on how they plot their wine purchases. The results:

How do you select wine from a wine list at a restaurant?

Servers, you have no idea how much power you have over the ladies. 50 percent of those surveyed ask for your advice.

Katy replied: "Typically I need to have heard of it or had it recommended by a friend or the server. At restaurants, I like to try wines I haven’t in the past or enjoy ones that I only see at restaurants and not at retailers. Sometimes, I may even take a chance and just go with a region I’ve had luck with in the past."

Mariana, a winemaker, is more methodical and independent: "First, I narrow it down to varietal/type of wine based on what I am eating … thus usually I choose my food first, wine second. I also generally prefer to order wines by the glass so that I can try more than one. Then … [I pick] something I have never tried before and is moderately priced."

How do you choose wine at a shop?

The majority of the women polled look for recommendations in a wine shop, but it often depends on the price point, a special occasion or if they’re stumped. Many admitted that labels influence their buying habits as well.

Katy: "Labels can definitely catch my eye, but if the name is too catchy or the label too flashy, I often suspect it’s making up for lacking qualities, much like a jerk in a Corvette … I love venues/events where I can try [the wine] first … I’m apt to buy much more that way. I’ll read the back of the bottle, hoping that they’re being truthful in their description but realizing it’s not quite on the mark. I will also try wines I’ve read good reviews about and that speak to the flavors and qualities I want in a wine."

JL: "If I am buying for myself, then I go with something that I know is good and inexpensive (but not cheap) [for] house wine. If a gift for a friend, [I look for] something unusual at a higher price point that I think they haven’t had before … and [I’m] likely to ask for advice. If it’s something special for me, usually I’ll pick an interesting, adventurous-looking label — marketing works!"

Vonita: "[I shop by] label, what I have heard someone talking about and from what I know from wine tastings. I usually don’t ask the wine shop for recommendations or really look at ads for wine."

Mariana: "Generally, I buy something I have read about or tasted. Otherwise, on impulse I buy something that seems like a great value (even if I don’t plan on drinking it right away). Labels are fun to look at and I generally like modern, simple labels best but seldom buy a wine based on the label."


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