Here’s something that’s been baffling us. If women buy 80% of wine sold in grocery stores and consume 60% of wine overall, why do some companies feel the need to create special “women-only” brands to reach them? With the failed introduction of Berringer’s White Lies last year, a low cal, reduced alcohol chardonnay that created a firestorm of criticism from female wine bloggers and performed dismally at retail, we were surprised to hear, via Michele Miller’s recent blog posting, that Brown-Forman Corp. has introduced a line of “feminine favorites,” Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Merlot, under the label Little Black Dress. More conservative in their marketing (Berringer spent half a million just on the PR campaign for White Lie), it still smacks of marginalizing the very consumer that is currently driving the industry. In an ironic statement, when describing the reason no little black dress appears on the label in an interview with the Courier-Journal, (which instead shows an empty red hanger and a pair of red spike heels) Brown-Forman spokesperson Laura Webb said, “That's because women don't want to be pigeonholed into a certain image.”
Our question is this – what has given these companies the impression that women only drink wine alone or with their girlfriends? Is White Lie or Little Black Dress something you’d want to serve at a mixed gender dinner party or enjoy with your spouse? With the wine shelves at most grocery stores packed with bottles that vary widely in quality and price (sometimes in inverse proportions), wouldn’t it be helpful to make it easier for women to select the best wine to pair with the meal they’re planning to serve? Or make the ratings and descriptions, which often read in a sort of code akin to vague real estate listings, easier to decipher on the fly vs. having to spend time wondering what tannins are and how much of them you might like? Wouldn’t it be more profitable for a company with several brands to create opportunities for women to try new varietals, incorporating them into their entertaining year-round vs. trying to limit them to that “light” realm of White Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio? Better yet, once you have table share in a woman’s home, do you really want it to be with a brand that shuts down the opportunity to appeal to the men in her life - be it husband, brother, father, friends, or all of the above - too?