What do Women Want in Wine?
The short answer: something balanced and drinkable, enjoyable and easy to deal with. Screw the unnecessary complexities. Unless they’re Type A with a vendetta, most women are intuitive, peacemakers, and strive to keep things on an even keel: confrontation is out, negotiation is in. Subtlety is favored over absolutism.
When they open a bottle of wine, or order a glass at a restaurant, they don’t want anything that gives them lip, a hard time or a headache. For the most part, it’s not an intellectually challenging experience they’re after, (keeping the peace is far more exhausting than starting a fight and throwing punches), but an enjoyable beverage that enhances whatever experience they’re having, whether it’s catching up with the girls, having dinner with good friends, watching a movie, relaxing in the hot tub, or cajoling that exasperating, whiny client over a snore-a-bore dinner at some effete restaurant with linty linen napkins.
It’s common knowledge that women have enormous buying power when it comes to wine: they buy eight out of ten bottles of wine consumed at home. That’s why the International Women’s Wine Competition was created. Says Chairman, Debra del Fiorentino, “Our goal is to provide the female perspective to professional wine buyers and consumers. It gives women in the wine industry the choice to determine the best options available to female wine consumers. This wine competition is judged with a feminine spirit and an intuitive edge. Our job is to attract the best female judges, give them the environment they need to fairly evaluate the wines, and let the winners emerge.”
For the 6th annual competition, in partnership with Women & Wine® (womenwine.com), 24 wine-loving women gave up a layer of enamel on their teeth and probably a few layers of skin off their gums and lips, to evaluate over 700 wines from across this fair land, and beyond. From sea to shining sea, from Long Island to Malibu and almost everywhere in between, came brilliant examples of wine made by women – and men – who also put their skin in the game.
Caroyln Mulas, Erica Mandl (winemaker at Korbel), Doug (panel coordinator) and Laura Ness
Two sets of sweeps entries were judged: the Overall Competition and the Wine Made By Women Competition.
The “Best of Show” for the Overall Competition was Calcareous Vineyards 2008 Tres Violet Red Blend, hands down the Rhone Queen, garnering 20 votes in acclimation voting, followed by 16 for a Tannat.
Best Red: Calcareous Vineyards 2008 Tres Violet Red Blend
Best White: St Michelle Cold Creek Riesling
Best Rose: Tassel Ridge Winery NV Pink Catawba
Best Sparkling: Gloria Ferrer NV Blanc de Noir
Best Dessert, Late Harvest or Ice Wine: Hernder Estate Wines Vidal Ice Wine
In the Wine Made By Women Competition:
The “Best of Show” for the Women’s Wine Competition was Wilson Vineyards 2009 Molly’s Vineyard Zinfandel.
Best Red: Wilson Vineyards 2009 Molly’s Vineyard Zinfandel
(*) Best White -- Tie: 2010 Windsor Oaks Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Galen Glenn Gewurztraminer
Best Rose: 2010 Verdad Wine Cellars Grenache Rose
Best Sparkling: 2010 Rock Wall Wine Company Blanc de Blanc
Best Dessert, Late Harvest or Ice Wine: 2006 Haak Vineyard Madeira Jacquez
(*) This was a bit controversial, since both wines received the same number of votes on the second round, and the Competition Masters (all guys), wanted a face-off. In typical female fashion, we judges unanimously insisted both wines were worthy, and why not make two winemakers happy instead of just one? If you want to understand the female brain, there is your biggest clue.
The vast majority of wines that made it to the Sweepstakes were well balanced, well under the 15% limit and built with a style more befitting Gwenyth Paltrow or Susan Sarandon than Angelina Jolie or Lady Gaga. No “statement” wines were evidenced in the Sweepstakes.
Overall Competition Entries: 726
202 Bronze (28%)
230 Silver (32%)
62 Gold (8.5%)
16 Double Gold (2.2%)
200 No Award (28%)
Women Winemaker Entries: 319
97 Bronze (30%)
104 Silver (33%)
29 Gold (9%)
6 Double Gold (2%)
70 No Award (22%)
How Women Judge
As women wine judges, we might be unfairly harsh: we’re quick to dismiss any wine that comes out with sharp elbows, too much tannin, too much acid or too much wood. And increasingly, too much alcohol. We did it to save our sisters from extreme displeasure.
A Sneak Peak Inside the Process
Here’s an inside look at a few wines and how my panel approached a verdict. Erica Mandl is a sparkling winemaker at Korbel and heads a 14-person team: she’s been there 15 years. Carolyn Mulas is a partner in Alta Vista Vineyards and has been North Coast Wine Manager for the largest and most respected distributor in the US, Southern Wine and Spirits, for over 20 years. She tastes hundreds of wines every week.
A Sauvignon Blanc –
Erica – oooh, this smells like tropical B.O., kinda sexy sweaty guy smell.
Laura – you mean, like the cabana boy?
Carolyn – OMG, it smells putrid!
Laura – nice-looking resort, but don’t walk around the back where the dumpsters are
Carolyn – it’s stinky and has no acid
Laura – plus it’s kinda flaccid
Erica – not good in a pool boy!
A Claret – a term we won’t be able to use too much longer, as the French are putting term limits on this one, just as they slammed the hammer down on “Champagne.”
Erica – this is so piney and green: I can’t get past the tannins
Carolyn – I love this wine! This is classic Claret! I love the woodsy menthol, minty thing
Laura – Chocolate mint! it’s got a big dose of Cab Franc – maybe it’s East coast?
Erica – I don’t have any experience with East coast. You guys decide.
Carolyn – I love it! Let’s give it a Gold.
All – Gold! (Again, that’s how women work.)
Carolyn – OMG! what is this stuff? it smells like (crap)
Laura – it’s a native grape – non-vinifera. It smells and tastes like Limburger cheese
Erica – I’m afraid to taste it.
Laura – no, go ahead, it tastes like it smells. Really, try it.
Doug (our fearless panel coordinator) – I want try it. (Sniffs. Tastes. Eyebrows rocket skyward) Wow! That does taste just like Limburger – I’m from Minnesota!
A wine with huge VA
Erica – This wine is off. It’s got huge VA!
Carolyn – what do you mean? acetone?
Laura – actually, it’s more like nail polish. Doug, you might not know what that smells like.
Doug – oh, no, actually, I’ve had a few pedicures!
Girls – really! smell this wine – does that smell familiar?
Doug – Whoa! Yeah, nail salon! I hate it when those little Asian gals go to work on my cuticles. Man, does that hurt!
Girls – That’s what wine is for!