The wine industry is a very male dominated world. All facets of production, appreciation and sales have traditionally been the domain of men. This has, of course, undergone a considerable change in recent years, and the wine business is becoming much more balanced. But wine styles and marketing are still very much skewed towards attracting male consumers.

 

In fact, more than half (56%) of wine drinkers in Western countries are women. While average individual female consumption is lower than for men, women still account for the majority of retail purchases. What’s more, women drink wine more in social situations than men. Traditionally the wine industry has created the idea that in order to enjoy wine you must be able to appreciate and collect it. Women have decided that in order to enjoy wine all you need is some good friends.

 

Vietnam is no exception. 15 years ago it was rare to see Vietnamese women drinking in public. The whole drinking culture was a very ‘males only’ event, involving drinking ‘mot tram phan tram’ until you could no longer walk. The fastest growing wine-drinking demographic here is females between the ages of 20 and 35. They are young, well-educated (often abroad), hold good corporate or professional jobs, are not yet married and — unlike their parents — have disposable income. Drinking wine in Vietnam is still associated with sophistication, worldliness and success; all the things that today’s young Vietnamese businesswomen aspire to.

 

Where’s Your Head At?

 

It is perhaps odd, then, that wine marketers have not latched onto this. Maybe the industry is still stuck on the notion of light, fruity, sweet wines as “chicks’ drinks” and that real wine is the domain of men. I, for one, know of plenty cases where the opposite is the case, where wine style preference is not related to gender. But it is also true that women tend to be more open-minded and willing to try new products based on promotions or attractive labels than men are.

 

Occasionally there are also just lucky accidents. At the turn of the century, Spanish producer Maetierra set about reviving native white grape varieties like Muscat à Petit Grains that had been all but wiped out by phyloxera. They wanted to create a modern, fresh expression of the variety that was food-friendly called Libalis. They did — the wine was very good — but the packaging was tired and old-fashioned and the variety un-trendy. The wine struggled.

 

Then, rather than try and educate and lecture the public as to why the wine was good, they decided to create a label that expressed how they would like to see the wine enjoyed; in a fun, happy-go-lucky sort of way. The new packaging connected with female consumers and sales took off. Not just a pretty bottle, Libalis has won many awards around the world including at two special wine shows which are judged only by women, AMAVI in Spain and Sakura in Japan.

 

The point in all this is, I suppose, that conventional wine culture promotes consuming rare and expensive bottles, to show off with wine knowledge and to taste. Not enough time is spent promoting the social aspect of drinking a bottle of wine with good friends, catching up, talking and enjoying one another’s company. This does not mean that women appreciate or understand wine any less than men, but that they are more attuned to realise that it tastes much better when shared with others.

 

Libalis Muscat 2014

 

This is dangerously drinkable and at 11.5% alcohol it won’t knock you on the head. Slightly off-dry with ripe peach, mango and rambutan fruit flavours. It has a long, full bodied finish. A great wine for spicy Asian curries and Vietnamese salads.

 

Jim Cawood is a trained sommelier and is presently man-at-the-helm at District 2 restaurant, Lubu

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Jim Cawood

One half of the brains behind contemporary Mediterranean restaurant Lubu, Jim is a wine nut who has worked in the industry since his early 20s. A trained sommelier, he is one of only a small handful of people living in Vietnam who truly knows his wine.

Website: www.luburestaurant.com

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