Expensive Wines, Men v Women, and Peacock Feathers
Women are less likely to buy expensive wine than are men, even when you control for personal disposable income. This is the conclusion drawn by Wine Intelligence, which did an analysis in 2018 and further concluded that women “Could they be the next growth opportunity?” This matches what we’ve known for a long time about gender-based wine buying patterns. Men are far more likely to seek out and purchase expensive and collectible wines.
The Wine Intelligence explanation for women not equally participating in the purchase of high-end wines is this:
“One clue may come from differing gender attitudes to money in general. It has long been a cultural cliché that women should hold the purse strings, and recent data from online financial services would appear to bear this out. A study of its US customer base published in 2018 by Stash, an investing app, suggested that women were more cautious and sensible with their money, and less tolerant of risky or aggressive investing strategies….
“Our US data on wine drinker attitudes consistently shows that, while women appear to know as much about wine as men, they are significantly less confident in that knowledge. As such, they gravitate towards reassurance and safety in their wine choices, and will often opt for a cheaper, tried-and-tested wine over a more expensive and unknown product.”
I don’t think the difference between men and women in gravitating toward more expensive wines has much do with confidence in their knowledge. For as long as I’ve been in the wine business it has been very clear that men are far more likely than women to use wine as an object of conspicuous consumption.
Whether a matter of culture or sex differences, it’s clear that women and men use different items to signal or attempt to raise their community and cultural status. My experience tells me that men are far more likely to engage in the wine auction market, even to the extent that it becomes a means for them to be seen as “winners”. And though on a much smaller scale, the acquisition of showy, well-endorsed wine is far more likely to be used by men to display their feathers and to connect with other peacocks of the male variety.
The Wine Intelligence researcher who explained the company’s findings, Lulie Halstead, wrote: “I am now beginning to understand the everyday-sexist trope of my husband being handed the wine list in a restaurant, and him receiving more attention from the wine store clerk when we were in New York in the summer (as it happens, conducting qualitative research for the same Premiums report). Consciously or not, retailers and sommeliers alike seem to know who is more likely to boost the transaction value.”
Of course they know men are more likely to spend more on wine. Whether this knowledge and acting on this knowledge in the way Ms. Halstead experienced amounts to sexism is another question for philosophers and ethicists. However, it’s certainly an economically sound practice.