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Wine Demographics / Jun 14
As Father's Day 2022 approaches, it's a ripe time to look at men's drinking habits. And it looks like gentlemen drinkers are seeing the light.
Before the days of 'gentlemen drink red and ladies drink white' there was 'Men drink beer and women drink gin'. English artist William Hogarth's 1751 prints 'Beer Street' and 'Gin Lane' were a window onto the grim world of drinking in poverty but it also served to flag a clear gender delineation regarding choice of beverage.
In more modern times, we still find men flocking to bars and pubs to drink pints, demi-litres and schooners of beer, although even within the boundaries of beer there are miniature style and class wars to be observed. Lager, Real Ale, Craft Beer, etc., there are plenty of social associations defining age groups and various other stratifying categories.
Gallup's summer 2021 study on alcohol consumption in the United States revealed that only 15 per cent of men have a preference for wine compared with 49 per cent of women. A stark enough figure without even going into preferences within the category.
Beer was, unsurprisingly, the No1 alcoholic beverage for almost half of the men polled.
But in wine's wider context, it has now been a couple of generations since men outside of the Old World winemaking countries learned to appreciate it. The consumption is now worldwide. And with that comes a shift. The Venn diagram is getting mighty technical.
Perhaps the biggest shift is in male consumers globally suddenly feeling comfortable drinking white wine.
Wines made from classic white grapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling etc have been around for centuries, and yet it's only relatively recently that an entire gender has felt comfortable with buying and ordering them. Why is this?
I grew up in a household that didn't drink. One could argue, fairly vociferously, that I have rebelled. But that's to drink or not to drink, rather than me being guided towards a choice of drink. But are there pressures? Is white wine still 'girly'?
Marie Olivier works at Soif, a friendly and well-stocked wine bar in the centre of Bordeaux. She is seeing a lot of younger men drinking white wine in recent years. "I see it in men of my generation, which is 25-30. They tend to drink a lot more white than they used to."
But Marie is well aware that this is generational.
"Men in France, from what I grew up with, were always drinking red. My father always drinks red. He's thirty years older than me. But," she says, introducing a new cultural variable, "I don't know if that's because he grew up in the countryside." Perhaps there is an Urban/Rural dynamic at work?
Her boss, Nicolas Lefevre, emerges from the kitchen and joins the conversation.
"Red wine is traditionally quite strong, bold and oaky. In the past, the white and rosé wines were purely for women. So for a part of the population, it's only red that they know. But men also like to drink more, in general, and so they began to look for wines that were lighter, less strong."
"I think people got tired of those heavy, oaky reds," says Marie.
Trends in consumer choices in 2022 are pointing to lightness and lower alcohol as well as having more than one eye on sustainable produce.
According to a study of French wine habits released in March 2022, only 11% of men said their preference was white wine.
In a study of Italian consumer preferences published in 2020, 45 percent of men plumped for beer while 43 percent of females preferred wine as their top choice.
Ben Warwick is a British actor who is coming to screens worldwide this fall in the hotly-anticipated new season of The Crown. He began his white and rosé wine odyssey in the 1990s.
"White and rosé started for me with summer travels in my 20s. Backpacking round the Greek islands on a budget out of season in June. Discovering the whole world of freshly caught seafood: squid, octopus (or whatever had come in that day) and having it with Greek salad and chips in a taverna in the beach. I’d invariably guzzle retsina but then waiters would push local white wine and rosé, serving it ice cold in carafes."
And for people like Ben, there's a world of opportunity to put the right wine with the right food. A beachside taverna in Santorini for example will almost certainly open your eyes to wines made from the local grape, Assyrtiko, which would be a perfect match for fresh calamari. Likewise in Liguria, Italy, you might find yourself eating octopus with the local white wine, Pigato, which is hardly ever found outside of the region.
Likewise in the Pays-Nantais, you will find a host of places serving mussels and oysters on France's Atlantic Coast, and there you're going to find plenty of local Muscadet wine made from Melon Blanc to go alarmingly well with such delights.
When it comes to viticulture, it's true to say that men of all generations are rejecting the conventional. Not only do they drink white wine more and more, but they grow it organically. Conventional methods of farming are being increasingly seen as outdated across the board. It's a slow burn as there's a lot of land to change but people like Jo Landron in the Loire Valley are embracing sustainability with open arms.
"Biodynamics opens us up to a new philosophy," he says. "Treating a vine like a human being...that's not what they teach you in school."
Interestingly, Landron's region, the Loire, is at the forefront of French organic and biodynamic winemaking. Most other regions only register around 8% of winemakers achieving some kind of sustainable certification, but in the Loire it's four times that.
To help change our choices as consumers, why not help the men in your life understand that unconventional is cool. As a Father's Day special, VIVANT have released this unique Tasting Kit full of organic and biodynamic wines.
We have a long road ahead, but together we can change the way the world buys wine.
Live organic and drink eco!
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Digital / Yearly