Here’s a statistic that might surprise you: women buy 80% of wine in the United States that is consumed at home. That’s a whole lot of buying power. It’s not a secret that American women love wine. There are all kinds of memes about “Happy Hour for Mommy,” and many women aren’t shy about sharing that they look forward to a women’s wine night or unwinding with a glass of wine at the end of the day. Women are drinking plenty of wine and they’re buying most of it. But the people we turn to for advice about wine - the experts, the sommeliers - are still mostly men.
Little is known about how women actually shop for wine, but it is known that they rely pretty heavily on the label and point-of-sale materials (the shelf signage frequently found near the price). We also know that wine marketers take advantage of the fact that many women work 60 - 70 hours or more each week between a career and home responsibilities. That means they are seriously strapped for time and need to multitask. In other words, they aren’t going to spend time in a specialty wine shop when they can just get their wine at the grocery store. Sure, it’d be lovely to visit a local bottle shop and learn the characteristics of dozens of wines, but more often than not, a busy mom will just choose from what’s easily available. Unfortunately for her, a diversity of great wines is really not available in grocery stores the way it is in bottle shops. Compare this experience of wine shopping to the experience of men, who typically consult up to 5 sources of information and read books and magazines about wine before purchasing. Women consult about 3 sources, and typically on the spot in the store. As a result, men have a strong preference for small wineries, and women typically have a preference for national and international wineries (big brands). Men display a stronger preference for $25 and up wine while women have a strong preference for two price points, $10 to $15, and $2 to $10.
The good news is that women’s lives in America are changing in some very specific ways that lend themselves to a deeper, richer experience with wine:
First, more and more women are opting out of heteronormative lifestyle. Many women choose not to get married until much later in life, if they get married at all. And many married women are choosing not to have children, a huge shift from previous generations. These women have the extra time and money to seek out a wine experience that is deliberate and unrushed, in opposition to the overwhelmed mom that so many “grocery store wineries” are targeting.
Second, the online shopping economy enables generations of women to purchase groceries and all manner of consumer goods like wine from the dashboard of a laptop. “Shelf talkers” are now online and the attractive photo is now a teeny-tiny thumbnail. This makes it easier for women to link to the valuable information about wine that has traditionally been sought out by men. While these online wine purchasing details are still targeted to male consumers, more and more female consumers are discovering them - and that’s progress.
Third, nearly half of married American women are divorced by midlife. Once the heartache is over, these divorced women are often on a mission to completely reinvent themselves, from their appearance to their job to their lifestyle, all with the goal of making a fresh start. It can be a joyful exercise for these women to go out and discover their own tastes - in clothes, furniture, food, cars, décor, and wine. They want to travel, they want to experience things, and they want to taste what they’ve been missing. So, it’s not just more time that is opening doors for women in the wine world - it’s also a genuine desire to learn more.
Finally, an AARP study shows that women 45 to 90 are much happier now than they’ve ever been. How’s that for great news? Women are starting to feel a sense of freedom from all sorts of heteronormative assumptions. They don’t so often seek approval from others, and they feel more free to be themselves. They still feel young and are excited for the new adventures that life has to offer - maybe they’ll learn a new language, travel abroad, or become serious connoisseurs of wine, something they always enjoyed but never had the time to fully explore.
As it turns out, the wine industry is also at a crossroads. Just making good products isn’t enough anymore to grow the market. Since the 1960s, there have been significant scientific, agronomic, and engineering advances that enable better quality of wine throughout the growing, winemaking, and sales channels. It truly is a great time in the history of the world for good wines. And women are showing up just in time.
Interested in checking out some great wine books written by women? Check out our review of the Top Nine Wine Books by Women!