Monday, May 17, 2010

Rant: White Males Only?

Last week, I attended the Skinner Wine Auction in Boston with my friend Dale. There were about 500 lots up for bidding, though I only stayed for the inital 1/3 of the auction. It is a fun event, though I have yet to actually win anything but then again I also bid very rarely.

The lots included plenty of Bordeaux plus some Burgundy and high-end wines from Australia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and the U.S. Two of the lots sold for over $30,000 each. Guess the rough economy is not affecting everyone in the same way. Almost nothing sold for under $200, though you could get some good values if you had the money. But what most struck me was the make-up of the attendees.

About 95% of the attendees were white males so there was very little diversity. That is essentially the same as the prior Skinner auctions I have attended. But why is that the case? Where is everyone else and why don't they attend such auctions? Is wine collecting primarily a hobby of wealthy white men?

Back in May 2008, there was an article in Decanter magazine called "Collecting: It's A Man's World" by Rosi Hanson. The basic premise was that men are the wine collectors in the world and that few women take on that role. The article begins: "Men collect, women appreciate--discuss." Though there are exceptions, it seems that wine collecting is primarily a male hobby. There is even a psychologist quoted who states that collecting in general is a male thing. There are then quotes from several other people, all giving support to Rosi's premise.

But is that changing? Are more women getting into collecting wine? There are certainly plenty of women now writing about wine, but do they also collect wine? Or are they mainly buying wine to drink, not to save or invest?

And what about non-whites? Are they too buying wine primarily to drink rather than to collect? Is it a financial matter, where wealthier people, white or non-white, collect wine? Boston certainly has a diverse enough population so that there easily could have been more diversity at the wine auction, though there was not.

Is Skinner primarily marketing to white males? How many people even know they have wine auctions twice a year? Do others, besides white males, feel intimidated by wine auctions?

I would like to see more diversity at such events, but I think we need to understand some of the reasons for the lack of it before we can effectuate proper change. What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Such an interesting post! I don't have too much to offer, but you've inspired me to try to build my own paltry collection. I'd love to see a follow up to this - maybe you could interview some sommeliers in the Boston area and get their perspective? Or a prof at the BU Wine Center? Really fascinating stuff.

Sasha said...

The population of wine bloggers, retailers, sommeliers, producers, etc skews male and white. TasteCamp attendees were a pretty decent sample, I would imagine. That's changing, but wine collecting, probably the most rarefied slice of the wine world, will presumably show the slowest rate of change.

Kristi Davis said...

I personally go for the drinking part of the wine but like all things, it will take time to grow and adapt.

Anonymous said...

My two cents and why I don't go: buying something at an ultra premium price just to say you "own one" is outside my realm of possiblilites as an wine lover and an investor. By the time wines get to auction their prices are inflated beyond well beyond their perceived worth.