I think about writing a lot. I think about wine a lot. So, I think a lot about how we talk about wine. And, lately, I find myself wondering why people still insert lame, outdated gender roles into the discussion.
For years I’ve heard men refer to wines with higher alcohol and riper fruit as being “slutty.” This comment is almost always made by a man (frequently dripping with disdain) who fancies his palate too refined for floozy juice. A search through a popular internet database of wine tasting notes reveals hundreds of references to a wine being “slutty,” and I’ve heard it used more times than I can remember.
I’ve heard a common refrain from some people in the wine trade that Cabernet (usually a more structured and tannic wine) is the woman you marry, while Pinot Noir (usually a more exotic but temperamental wine) is the woman you take to bed. This kind of talk strikes me as, well, pathetic. It speaks to a sense of male possessiveness and assumed superiority over women. From the nerdy/hot redhead girl next door to Marilyn Monroe, comparing a wine to women is so common in male-dominated wine circles that it’s not only gendered bullshit, it’s a boring cliché. It’s not clever. So why is it still a thing?
I like to think that some (or even most) gendered comments about wine are not made with the conscious decision to offend or denigrate women. Well-aged Barolo or Burgundy from great vintages is frequently described as elegant and feminine, and this is meant as a great compliment. In some sense, I understand how those words may make sense in describing fine wine, something so profoundly difficult to describe. I frequently refer to young Cabernet as being muscular or strong, and aged wines as being restrained, smooth and elegant. By attaching traditional gender stereotypes to wine, we’re perpetuating an outdated dichotomy. And we’re further complicating and sexualizing something that is already unnecessarily complicated and sexualized.
Traditional gendered discussion of who drinks what has been changing, and there is certainly progress being made in breaking down some of these odd barriers. Last year, for example, the term “brosé” made the rounds in some popular publications. This term was used to refer to millennial men (bros) who drink rosé, a pink wine. This lighter, fresher, and sometimes sweeter wine is made from red grapes, but it is shades of pink in the glass. For decades (think white Zinfandel), rosé was stereotyped as a girly drink. The tired trope that pink wine is for the girls has always been bullshit, and I penned a piece last year encouraging men skeptical of rosé to “drink the pink.” Good news, dudes: there is no scientific study linking the consumption of pink, bubbly or sweet wine and smaller penis size.
“Brosé,” like all gendered wine trend terms, has become a tired trope. But as it was catching on, Chloe Wyma discussed the trend in a well-written and insightful piece for GQ: “the rosé bro is inaugurating a freer, more egalitarian world of gender-fluid beverage consumption.” And that’s a good thing. If there’s a gender stereotype out there somewhere, I want to smash it, so I fully support this trend.
However, while I have been a huge supporter of the dry rosé movement for many years, I don’t see the need to pop my collar, gather around with a bunch of dudes and toast to open-minded, gender-nonconforming consumption habits. Dry rosé wine is fucking amazing. It is no revolutionary act for a man to drink pink wine in celebratory fashion. I’ve never felt self-conscious about drinking rosé and I don’t think anyone else should either.
|Drink our canned wine, ladies! (Yoga pants/toned butts not included.)|
Credit: Lila Wines PR image
On some level, I understand the approach wine marketers take when they try to target specific consumers with gender-based marketing. They’re trying to make a buck off a bottle (or box, or can) of wine, an object that has been gendered and sexualized for hundreds of years. I get it. But it’s tired. Very, very tired.