Friday, August 05, 2005

Sexism or Snifferati
Like the majority of bloggers I spend a little time each day looking through a number of web sites for interesting articles on wine and wine-related subjects that might form the basis of a post on this blog. Today two pieces have caught my eye. The first is an article by Jeni Port in the Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald. It seems that Trevor Croker (Foster Wine Estate’s marketing director) in introducing new wines targeted at female wine drinkers has gotten himself into trouble. The Early Harvest wines were created after Foster’s polled women aged 27-40 about what they wanted in a wine. In introducing the wines through a press release Mr Croker commented that “For women, wine is not an intellectual pursuit.” This has caused Annie Rankin, at Chalice Bridge in the Margaret River region of Australia to commnet "Apparently, we need our very own wine because we are all a little simple and don't need too much mental stimulation thinking about wine." She went on to say "I love sharing good wine, as it brings together bright people and often leads to some lively discussions. So if anyone tries to bring a bottle of this new dumb wine to my dinner party, I'll Kafka them."

Initially I had sympathy for both sides in this argument. I'm sure Mr Croker did not seek to denegrate the audience he wants to buy Early Harvest wines, nor do I believe that women are any less serious in their mental gymnastics over wine than men. But then I read Karen Breytenbach's piece in the Cape Times entitled “This wine festival is for everyone - not just the 'snifferati'”. The Breytenbach piece is on the South African Stellenbosch Wine Festival. The intent of the festival was summed up by noted wine connoisseur and author John Platter. "This is a festival, feast and celebration. Not a wine contest. Not one of those beauty pageants to find winners and losers by committee, and then dispense gongs and curious baubles like double golds, which, as we've come to know, can dull the diamonds and shine the pebbles ...

"This festival is where wines and their makers can present themselves, make their own case, where punters can try the wines without formality," he said.

It seems everyone is catered to at this festival. "We really have something for everyone, from the connoisseurs and 'snifferati' to families who want to have a fun day with their children. We're also offering free Wine Masters Classes and a historical tour of the town.

"We have everything from wine to food to art. Parents can even leave their children in the care of Paul Roos school teachers while they're busy tasting," said Nicolette Waterford, chief executive of Stellenbosch Wine Routes. They will even erect a large television screen so that festival goers can see the Saturday rugby.

After reading the article I began to think that maybe the 'snifferati' play too much of a role in wine appreciation. Mr Croker’s comment may be insensitive, but Ms Rankin is equally insensitive in calling the Early Harvest wines dumb. After all dumb has a specific meaning to the 'snifferati'. It means that a wine is going through a phase where the fruit begins to decrease before the complexities of maturity have fully developed. It can also be called flat spot or the awkward, transformational, or adolescent phase. I doubt that is Ms. Rankin’s intellectual analysis of the Early Harvest wines. In fact I’m at a loss to understand why the wine is being faulted at all. It was Croker’s comment that was the problem not the qualities of the wine. The wine may actually end up being a success especially if it provides the sort of enjoyment that women (or men) seek. And that equates to 90 per cent of women saying that a low calorie wine would be desirable as long as they did not have to sacrifice taste. I’m betting that there is a good chance that the Early Harvest wines will not pass the smell test of the 'snifferati'. But then I’m equally sure it wasn’t made for them. It was made for those of us who enjoy a nice quite day with a bottle of wine and a little bit of jazz, or maybe some cricket on a large screen!


Anonymous said...

Now how could I possibly ignore a blog about myself....Yes I am the 'insensitive' Ms Rankin from Chalice Bridge Fine Wines, Margaret River, Western Australia, referred to in the original post!

Clarity of argument is a must (can't help myself with all these snifferatti terms) so let's review my position...

Wine is simply a beverage that can be enjoyed on its own, with friends or with food. In all these settings, if taken in moderation, it can lift/enhance the moment; it is completely irrelevant what sex you are. A bottle of wine really doesn’t care whose pulling its cork/screwing its cap!

So why do women need a wine made just for them?? Are men not similarly conscious about their calorie intake and general health? Doesn’t the Fosters’ wine company care about men? Oh that’s right they made a lite beer for them.

I took umbrage at the ‘gross generalisation’ that women don’t want to be intellectually challenged and think about wine! Some of us do and some of us don’t.

For me it was another example of the subordination and marginalization of women from wine enjoyment.

Wine appreciation/thoughtful enjoyment is not exclusively a man’s domain and the sooner more women fill their glasses up with great Chalice Bridge wine from Western Australia the better.

Life’s too short to drink dumb wine…or as I prefer ‘I think therefore I drink’.

Mike said...

Ms Rankin I'm flattered that you have responded.

As I implied in the original post I can appreciate your “umbrage at the ‘gross generalizations’ that women don’t want to be intellectually challenged and think about wine!” But your umbrage is surely better directed at Mr Croker than the wine? While the Early Harvest wines may have been designed for women Foster’s have no way to limit access to just women. Who knows the wine, unlike Mr Croker, may end up being quite palatable “especially if it provides the sort of enjoyment that women (or men) seek”!

What is interesting is that the media release (and therefore Mr Croker’s comment) that was associated with the Early Harvest web site has gone the way of the dodo. Is this a victory for the recent publicity? Unfortunately not, delving a little further I found in the Q & A section the question “Why did you develop early Harvest wine?”. Part of the answer is “We started the project on the basic premise of asking young women (27-40) to design the perfect wine for themselves.

We had no pre-conceived idea of what this may be, and from this we learnt that for them wine is not an intellectual pursuit, wine is meant to be fun and enjoyed with friends – and of course it has to taste great.”

Oh dear, here we go again!