In the October 30 edition of The Wall Street Journal, wine columnist Lettie Teague asks “Do Women Really Want Wine That’s Sweet, Pink and Silly?” expressing her outrage at wines that pander to women with their sexist labels. She notes that, adding insult to injury, many of them just don’t taste good. With names like Sweet Bitch, Sexy Wine Bomb, and Hello Kitty, these wines invoke her wrath. She asks, “Why are such wines so popular right now, when women are so socially engaged, so woke?” 

When asked to explain this condescension toward women, Phyllis Thompson, a Harvard University lecturer on women, gender, and sexuality (and, according to Teague, a discerning wine drinker herself), explains, “When women assert themselves, a backlash inevitably follows … that puts women wine drinkers (back) in their place.” Silly wines and sexy labels are the result. 

Katerina Dunphy, one of my wine merchants in Bloomington, confirms that many of her younger female buyers purchase wine based on the label. It’s an activity I discourage as the label rarely reflects the quality of the wine. There are exceptions, but for everyday drinking, choosing by the label is a crapshoot. For more certainty, look at the importer. Names like Eric Solomon, Kermit Lynch, Terry Theise, Robert Haas, or Kysela Pere et Fils are good indicators of quality.

I couldn’t find any Sweet Bitch or Hello Kitty wines locally but managed to locate two other sexy labels, one of which is better than those Teague experienced. 

The label on Zin-Phomaniac 2015 Old Vines Zinfandel ($16.99, Big Red Liquors) features a bodacious and mostly unclothed babe. She might be pandering to women but more likely to men. This is a medium-bodied zinfandel with cherry, blackberry, and light vanilla flavors. The wine isn’t as hot a number as the babe on the label indicates, but it’s still pretty good.

The other is Bitch Bubbly ($11.99, Big Red Liquors), a non-vintage Rose Cava sparkling wine made with grenache, chardonnay, and viura grapes from South Australia. The wine and label are a very girly, bright pink. Its back label gives the ingredients and provenance as “bitch” and “bubbly bitch” some 30 times, so we know it’s a really bitchin’ wine, whatever that means. I call it bubble-gum wine and won’t drink it, but I am obviously in the minority as I’m told it flies off the shelves.

So, condescending or no, there is wine for every taste out there. I’d prefer you drink the good stuff, but I’m satisfied that you maintain an interest.

And I will drink to that. 

Photo by Rodney Margison
Photo by Rodney Margison