Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Women & Wine: Once Again

Two months ago, I posted about "Who Buys & Drinks More Wine, Men or Women?" A recent report had indicated that women purchased and drank 60% of the wine in the U.S. Now comes a new report that the numbers may even be higher.

The Napa Valley Register reports that at a recent Women in Wine symposium at Copia it was stated that women buy 80% of the wine in the country. It was also stated that many men are introduced to wine by women.

The article does not state the source for these figures so I don't know how accurate it is. The number is certainly surprising. The article does not state anything about the type and price of the wines they purchase. I could believe the previous 60% but 80% seems quite high. The symposium was pushing that women are a strong power base in the wine world.

There is also mention that biologically, women have extra tastebuds. This could explain why women's wine reviews differ from that of men. I don't know if their reviews actually differ that much or not. But it might be interesting to compare reviews from fellow wine bloggers, men and women, on the same wines to see if their reviews differ, and if so, how.

There are certainly a good number of female wine bloggers now so it would be easy to do. The easiest comparison might actually be with Ryan and Gabriella of Catavino. They taste many of the same wines so it would easy to draw comparisons based on their tasting notes.


Dr. Debs said...

This statistic doesn't surprise me at all. What continues to surprise me is that the wine world continues to pay relatively little attention to these women, except to market wines called Little Black Dress, and Bitch Grenache. Honestly, it makes you wonder.

Wine Scamp said...

It's standard market wisdom that women purchase 80% of all household goods. Why would wine not be included in that category?

Also, I'd be surprised if you find any kind of systematic difference in wine reviews by women and men of similar wine education and experience.

gopaz said...

In regards to the difference in our tasting notes, between men and women, Ryan and I are generally in the same camp. Part of the reasoning is that, although we try to avoid this, we chat about our experiences while tasting wines. The other part is that after sharing food and wine for so long, we have found many of our notes to coincide. We have completely disagreed as to the quality of a wine, but that is the exception and not the rule. Check out our port tasting notes at the end of this month and let us know what you think. The other couple I would suggest is John and Dorothy from the New York Times.

Another question that has intrigued me is whether female taste buds change throughout the course of the month as a result of our hormones changing so dramatically? I've always interested in gathering a group of woman to test this theory. Any takers?

Richard A. said...

First, thanks all for the input.

Dr. Debs, why do you think the wine industry generally ignores such statistics? Are most marketers/advertising personnel men and don't really understand the market (i.e. like the AMC Mad Men series?). I would agree that most advertising I see for wine seems more directed to men.

Wine Scamp, do you feel a woman's extra taste buds won't create a difference in their wine reviews? It would seem to be it should lead to some differences, which would then come out in reviews. Though I am not sure significant that difference might be. The article did try to contrast Parker and Robinson's reviews.

Gabriella, do you detect any difference between your tastings? Do you think maybe you detect certain flavors more strongly than Ryan? Have you ever pointed out something in a wine that Ryan might have only faintly detected? Or do extra tastebuds really have little effect in practice?

Wine Scamp said...

I can't find any studies that show that all women have more tastebuds than all men. I do find studies that show that 35% of US white women are "supertasters" and 15% of US white men are "supertasters," ie, they have more tastebuds than other people.

However, tastebuds have much less to do with flavor perception than do olfactory powers. Women of childbearing age are shown to have stronger olfactory perception than men, but those gender differences disappear after the age 45, more or less.

All those factors established, do we beleive there is a set of characteristics in each wine that is present and just waiting for someone to perceive them? Thus, do we think (premenopausal) women detect more of those characteristics with their strong noses and possibly more numerous taste buds? Most crucially, does detecting more of those characteristics make you a better judge of wine?

I think that the people attracted to wine, who educate themselves and taste wine attentively and thoughtfully, probably perceive similar characteristics in wine. I see very little difference in perceptive ability between male and female oenophiles; sometimes I find differences of preferences, but rarely in the ability to detect, say, "banana" on a wine.

I'd be curious to hear any anecdotal evidence of women perceiving more flavors than men in wine. Anyone? Beuller?

Richard A. said...

I too have been doing more research online. Most of the research I have found is based on the work of Dr. Linda Bartoshuk and concerns "supertasters." There are a couple other articles mentioning women have more taste buds, but I am unsure if that is based on Bartoshuk's work or not.

ryan said...

Women from all I've read and in my personal experience have a better sense of smell and therefore taste(can't have one without the other)...If you really want interesting information on this, read Jancis Robinsons accounts of tasting wine before, during and after pregnancy...she had here hormones dramatically affect her sense of taste.
As to women buying the wine, at my shop I can offer some obvservances. Women often bought wine to drink, while men often "trophy hunted". In fact I can only think of one female who was concerned with scores, where as very few men were not!

Richard A. said...

Do you think Gabriella has a better sense of smell/taste than you? Is it noticeable when you discuss the tasting of specific wines?

Carol B said...

Drew and I taste some wines differently but I attribute that to the fact that I have a much stronger sense of smell than he does. (And he will readily admit this if you want to ask him.) There are also some things that taste different (both better and worse) to me after my pregnancies, so I imagine hormonal changes have some effect as well.

As to women's vs. men's buying habits - I agree w/ Ryan's observation. That's pretty much what I see in my store as well. Men like to buy to impress. Not all of them, but they're more concerned with how people might perceive the bottle. I'll certainly pay closer attention over the next few weeks, though.

To me 80% does seem like a high number. I think just for fun tomorrow I'm going to do a very unscientific survey and keep track of men vs. women customers and what wines they purchase. I'll get back to you with the results.

Richard A. said...

Thanks Carol for offering to do an unscientific study!

I run a wine group, with about 200 members, and about 75% are women. So when we go to wine events, the women definitely buy more than the men. And at many of the tasting events I go to, women do seem to predominate.

I'll ask at some of my local wine stores if their customers are more men or women.

Erika Strum said...

I'm afraid everything I had to say has been said already! I was going to make the Super Tasters comment but I think Wine Scamp hit the nail on the head there. I'm definitely suspect but I'm usually suspect of any stats that surprise me since I used to do a lot of Sociology in college. It's so easy to skew numbers in a certain direction. An interesting debate nonetheless. Carol, let us know what happens with your "unscientific study"!

Wine Scamp said...

Incidently, Richard, great topic. I've enjoyed doing the research and following the discussion! Thanks.

Richard A. said...

I did some more research on women, taste buds, and supertasters and made a new post on the matter. It does not touch on the issue of women buying more wine than men though.

Carol B. said...

OK, today ended up being a rough day for my "study" because I got slammed with salespeople and deliveries and kind of forgot about it for a while, but generally, women customers have outnumbered men 2 to 1. I'll try this on Saturday again which is a bigger wine buying day (Thursdays here tend to be booze-heavy).