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Male and Female Wine Drinkers -- Are They Really That Different?


Date: 11/28/12

by Dr. Liz Thach, MW

“Women prefer white wine. Men only drink red. Women like sweet wine. Men purchase less wine.” These are just a few of the common myths that arise around wine and gender, but are they really true? One statistic on which we can rely is that the make-up of US wine consumers is approximately 55% female and 45% male, according to Nielson, but there has been an increase of men adopting wine in the past decade.

So what is really happening around the topic of wine and gender in the US? In order to answer this question, a research study was developed to explore differences in wine drinking occasion and motivation between men and women. The study included in-depth interviews with 30 men and women who drink wine as well as an online survey with 305 wine consumers (155 men and 150 women) residing in California. The results show strong similarities between men and women in many categories, but also some surprising differences.

Similarities Between Male and Female Wine Consumers

In terms of preferred wine varietals, the study shows that cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the top favorites of both men and women; however, women also identify white zinfandel as a strong preference. The favored white for both genders is chardonnay (see Table 1). These data are consistent with previous research showing that American men and women both prefer red wine slightly more than white.

Table 1: Preferred Wine Varietals of California Men and Women

img 1

In terms of occasions to drink wine, the survey analyzed responses of men and women in 22 different wine drinking occasions. Of these, both genders reported they drink wine at similar frequency in 16 of these occasions. The top four highest scoring occasions on which men and women agreed are:

1) With Meals at Fine Dining Restaurants
2) Non-Meal: Special Occasions/Celebrations
3) With Meals at a Friend’s House
4) Non-Meal: To Socialize with Friends

In terms of their motivations to drink wine, both California men and women concurred that their top three motivations were: 1) because wine enhances food, 2) they like the taste, and 3) it helps with relaxation.

Differences Between Male and Female Wine Consumers

For the six occasions in which there is a statistical difference in how California men and women consume wine, women reported lower frequency of consumption than men:

1) Alone at Home to Relax After Work
2) Alone While Cooking
3) Alone at a Bar
4) With Meals at Home Alone
5) With Meals at Home
6) With Meals for Business

The fact that four of these occasions are “alone” situations is most likely a primary reason for the difference. This is because women identify the social benefits of consuming wine more often than men. This could also be true for drinking wine with meals at home, if others are not in attendance, or during a business meal that may not be perceived as being a relaxed social setting.

In terms of motivation, the study shows that women identify social and relaxation reasons to drink wine in more occasions than men. Men, on the other hand, identify more pragmatic reasons to drink wine, even in social settings where they focus on technical aspects and exhibiting knowledge. Some quotes to illustrate this are:

(Women) “It is fun to be with friends and talk about the wine.” “It is a social thing.” “I like the whole culture around wine of conversation, friends and laughter.”

(Men): “I like considering the historical nature of wine.” “I like to collect wine.” “I think women like to enjoy wine with friends. Men use wine as a “show off factor. They often like to brag about it. “

Regarding which sex purchases and pays more for wine, this study supports current statistics showing that women consume more wine, selecting it over other alcoholic beverages more than men, by at least 10%. However, men will usually spend more on a bottle of wine than women. In this study, the difference was an average of $4.04 more per bottle for men.

Implications for Wine Marketing

The results of this study suggest implications and potential opportunities for wine marketing.

Gender Neutral Wine Promotions Still Very Relevant - this research shows that, overall, there is much in common between California men and women in terms of wine-drinking occasions, motivations to drink and preferred wine style. This suggests that gender-neutral wine promotions will most likely be more successful in reaching a larger demographic and thus market-share.

Opportunity to Focus Wine Marketing on Men - this study illustrates that men are drinking wine in more new occasions and will spend more money on wine than women. This suggests an opportunity for more focus on men in wine marketing. Though there have been several successful wine brands targeted at women, such as Little Black Dress and Mad Housewife, it is not clear that any popular wine brands have specifically targeted men, except in subtle ways with masculine labels/names such as Gnarly Head and True Grit. The advantage of creating a new wine brand targeted at men, is that women will be curious about the wine and will most likely purchase a bottle to taste. However, the reverse cannot be said about men and wine brands targeted at women, because advertising research shows that most men are not willing to purchase a product that is designed for women, unless it is a gift for a woman.

About the Author: Dr. Liz Thach, MW is the Korbel Professor of Wine Business & Management at Sonoma State University (Liz@lizthach.com). This research study is based on her MW dissertation with the Institute of Masters of Wine in London. A version of the study was published in the 2012 Journal of Wine Research, Vol. 23, No. 2 under the title: Time for Wine? Identifying Differences in Wine-Drinking Occasions for Male and Female Wine Consumers. The article is available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09571264.2012.676542, as well as in the collections of Sonoma State University Library and Healdsburg Wine Library of Sonoma County.

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