One of my mentors recently shared an article written by Jancis Robinson December 2014. The title is The Feminisation of Wine. This article points out gender divides such as men are expected to know more about wine than women. Who has not experienced the waiters’ offer to have the man at the table taste, before pouring the wine? Historically, society expected men to know about wine and women were not expected to know about wine. Jancis Robinson continues to write about a European wine bloggers conference that titled a session ” We Don’t Need More Women in Wine.” Women have long been excluded from the world of wine.
Change is inevitable, would you agree?
Women are the most powerful economic force in the wine marketplace. One stat showed women in the U.S. make up 59% of all regular wine purchasers (thesis written by Felicity Carter). Women have surpassed men in scores on some of the most well-known, well-respected and internationally recognized wine exams across the globe.
I recommend a terrific book written by Ann Matasar, Women of Wine. For centuries, forces kept women away from the world of wine through biases, traditions, religious practices, superstitions, physical characteristics and social stereotypes. Gender distinctions permeated wine in areas such as production, consumption, distribution and appreciation.
Matasar writes that jars of wine were placed in tombs of upper class Egyptian men so that life after death would continue to be comfortable but no such comfort in the after life for Egyptian women. It was thought that the women would become drunk and act promiscuously in the after-life.
Matasar continues to amuse the reader with more history: Ancient Greece established the first male drinking clubs with women only allowed in to serve the wine. The Romans also had such exclusionary clubs, focused on No Girls Allowed and in fact didn’t even allow women to serve wine. Later years brought male-only taverns and cabarets in France. As wine culture spread to the New World, the collegiality, intellectual sophistication and learning associated with wine consumption remained associated with male only establishments.
Both Jancis Robinson and Ann Matasar offer that women perform more precisely in tasting experiments. Two olfactory sensitivity studies, one at the University of Pennsylvania and the other at the University of Cardiff, showed women consistently out-performed men in odor identification and sensitivity. Yale School of Medicine established 3 categories of tasters: non-tasters= 25% of the population, medium tasters=50% of the population, super tasters = 25% of the population. The group of super tasters had the most taste buds and was made up of predominantly women. Check out this Wall Street Journal video ( click on link to watch brief video)
Women are now wine makers, wine growers, wine critics, sommeliers, wine writers and the list goes on. I thank the women who have paved the way: Importer Martine Saunier who once said “There were no women in the wine business then, we were supposed to marry and shut up.” Her French charm is front and center in her role as star and producer of wine documentaries. A Year in Burgundy premiered in 2013 and A Year in Champagne premiered in February 2015. Let’s remember Lalou Bize-Leroy, who established herself as a businesswoman in the Burgundy wine business in 1955 when she took over her father Henri Leroy’s négociant business and finally let’s also thank Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (of the French Champagne house Veuve Clicquot) who lived during the French revolution era. I recommend a very good book on her life written by Tilar Mazzeo titled The Widow Clicquot.