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Women Spur New Trend in Wine Marketing

“Men prefer beer; women prefer wine,” according to a 2005 Gallup Poll. That has been the trend for more than a decade and likely beyond although wine continues to gain in popularity among both sexes and for the first time has edged out beer as Americans' preferred drink.

Women make up 52 percent of the adult population and purchase 55 percent of the wine consumed in the United States . They represent a huge market with great purchasing power that until recently has been overlooked. According to experts, women are less influenced by wine ratings, as they tend to judge the entire product. Although the wine quality is important to women, so are the label design, the bottle shape and the philosophy of the winery.

In response to this growing awareness of women's influence, a new wine magazine was recently launched specifically targeted to this economically significant segment of the market. The publication highlights recommendations from experts and focuses on lifestyle topics relating to food and wine. There are also several books currently on the market that are written by women for the feminine wine lover.

A greater marketing awareness toward women consumers is emerging as a trend in the 21st century. This has been brought about partly by women themselves gaining stature in the industry. They inherently recognize that women comprise a major market, representing more than 50 percent of all wine purchasing decisions. It makes good business sense to make sure that communication messages have appeal to women.

Milestones of Women in the California Wine Industry:

Women have always been an integral part of the California wine industry. Traditionally, they inherited their positions from husbands or fathers, however beginning in the 1960s, women started to become prominent winemakers, to own wineries and to assume management positions based on their own qualifications, often independent of family heritage. Their advancement mirrors the growth of the California wine industry in general.

From the late 19th century to the present, there has been a pioneering aspect to women's increasing visibility in the wine industry. The first woman winemaker in California , Josephine Tychson, was 31 years old when she founded her winery in 1886, after the tragic death of her husband. Kate Warfield was known as “the leading vineyardist from Glen Ellen,” when she took over her late husband's Ten Oaks Vineyard in 1877. Isabelle Simi Haigh assumed management of her family's winery as a young woman after her father's death. Internationally famous actress and noted Victorian beauty, Lillie Langtry purchased 4,200 acres of land in Guenoc Valley in 1888 with the goal of making the “greatest claret in the country.” She even brought her own French winemaker from Bordeaux , France . These notable women set the stage for all those that have followed. America 's first woman winemaker to graduate in enology from a university, Maryann Graf, came on the scene in the sixties. She joined Simi Winery in 1973, during the height of the revival in the California wine industry, which had been in hiatus since the early 20 th  century due to Prohibition (1919-1933) and World War II. In 1975, only about 5 percent of the students enrolled in viticulture and enology courses were women. By the early 1990s, that ratio had increased significantly.

“According to historian William Heintz, 10 percent of California 's winemakers were women in 1890,” said Eileen Crane, another woman winemaker who began her career in the 1970s and is now managing director and winemaker at Domain Carneros. “In 1990, my personal research indicated that the figure for the number of women winemakers was again about 10 percent. Today, I estimate that women constitute about 15-20 percent of the winemakers in California .”

In addition to an expanding number of women winemakers in California , there has been an increasing prominence of highly visible women making ultra luxury premium wines. This new breed of women winemakers emerged in the mid-1990s, when the high tech boom created intense demand for high-end products. Although the economy has softened, many of these wines continue to garner attention and in some instances, cult status.

Women have been making inroads in the commercial world for a generation, and the wine industry reflects this change in women's role in society. A watershed year was 1998, when Dianne Nury, president of Vie-Del Company in Fresno , became the first woman chairman of Wine Institute since its establishment in 1934. In the same year, two other prominent wine industry trade associations in California also elected women as board presidents for the first time: Napa Valley Vintners and Sonoma County Wineries Association.

Women have put a new face on the industry, taking lead roles in sales, marketing, hospitality and distribution. There are also increasing numbers of women sommeliers, traditionally a position held by men. Women have proven they can succeed in all areas of the wine business through hard work and dedication.


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