Winemakers Produce Merlot for Men

An acquaintance of mine used to run a fairly large wine company for his father. This was back in the days when the supermarket’s wine section consisted of the really inexpensive wines that were little more than flavored water with a little alcohol added, the upstart ones from California, and a lot of Mogan David types made from Concord grapes. You had to go to a liquor store to get anything from out of the country and that was mainly from France, Germany, or Italy. One day my friend had a meeting with the folks from Anheuser Busch. The reason for this meeting was never really made clear, but let’s just say that Augie was in attendance. (August Busch was the former CEO of the brewing giant who at one time owned the baseball Cardinals, and whose bright red cowboy hat can still be seen riding around at the ballpark encased in glass atop of the Clydesdales wagon.) The guys from the winery brought along a few bottles of their favorite vintage to share with Augie and his entourage. But Augie would have nothing of it. He ordered the wine removed from the boardroom in no uncertain terms. Only beer would be consumed and it certainly wouldn’t be Miller’s.

Beer had always been seen as a working class man’s drink, conjuring up sporting events and backyard barbeques, beer bellies, and corner bars. Very rich men drank imported reds and the very poor drank Night Train. Women, on the other hand, drank liqueurs and white wine. There were exceptions to all of this of course, but that seemed to be the general perception, at least in my old neighborhood.

Nowadays wine sales in the U.S. are somewhere in the vicinity of about 8 billion dollars per year. The corner liquor store, once almost the exclusive haven of men is rapidly disappearing, and the average supermarket can literally have hundreds of different varieties of wine on their shelves. With such a huge selection to choose from, winemakers have recently looked for new ways to market their product; from innovative packaging and label art to getting creative with names.

Last year wine marketed specifically for women was the theme with such names as White Lie and Mad Housewife. This year the target audience is going to be that guy in the backyard replacing his lager with a nice glass of Merlot. You probably won’t see any white wine being marketed towards men; as a matter of fact some vineyards are using grapes grown on hillsides where the vines have to struggle to grow for their manly Merlot. This produces richer fruit and a more flavorful, robust wine.

Nothing on the label has been left to the imagination either with scenes of hunting and fishing and one bottle bearing the likeness of a raging stallion. Even NASCAR is getting into the picture with the recent opening of a winery owned by Mario Andretti no less.

No one really knows whether gender vending wine will really take off or not, but last year’s feminine side did account for about 10 million dollars of that 8 billion total in sales. Who knows? If all of this had taken place back in Augie’s day, maybe even he might have taken a sip. Or not.

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