What's in a Name?
With so many wine companies targeting women with cutesy names and girl-friendly labels, we decided to see what some real ladies thought about them in a blind taste test.
By Alyssa Vitrano
Photo Credit: P. Hall/Getty Images
At this point, wine is the drink of choice for almost all of my girlfriends, so I guess it shouldnt be surprising that lately Ive been hearing about wines that are targeted toward women. They have names like Mommys Time Out, Jealous Bitch, Middle Sister and Little Black Dress and generally cost about $8-11a few bucks more than Yellowtail but still pretty cheap.
Ive studied wine and have a website called grapefriend.com, so Ill admit I was a little dubious about these wines being more gimmicky than good. But my biggest belief about wine is that if you like it, its good. So I got a few ladies together to blind taste a few of these chick wines and see what we all thought. I picked out four of the girl-skewed brands and mixed in some others among themtwo that were similarly priced to the lady brands and two that were a bit more expensive. We tasted all of them without knowing what they were and gave each thumbs up or down (along with some often hilarious commentary) before the labels were revealed.
First up was Seven Daughters ($10.99 ) a blend of seven different white grapes. Some of the best wines in the world are blends based on balancing strengths and weaknesses of each grape, but the seven in this blend wouldnt be my choice (and yes, Im saying that as nicely as possible). The website really goes for it with the girly stuff: Seven Daughters carefully selects from among the finest grape varietals across California, to create red and white wine blends that are sophisticated, flirtatious and undeniably fun - just like you. I did like the label (seven colorful dots on a white background) but wasnt as crazy about the wine. It had a waxy texture and tasted like overripe red apples and pears. But Abby (who, by the way, is the editor of this site) thought it was smooth and easy to drink. And my friend Julia even went so far as to say, It has no flaws. I loved it and want to buy it. Duly noted.
So that one didnt go badly at all. The next option, however, went in an entirely different direction with seven unanimous dislikes. Penny, who doesnt really hold back, said, That is nasty. Ew. Double ew. And Abby, not exactly known to be overly picky about wine (Ed note: This is entirely true.), said, Even I cant drink that. Annie offered that you could use it for sangria, which I thought was very resourceful of her. But then Penny threw down a $20 bet that it was one of the wines marketed to women. Make it $30, said Eun, a wine captain at an upscale Upper West Side restaurant.
It turned out to be a Little Black Dress Riesling, which sells for about $8.99. The label isnt badit looks like black cloth with a hanger and shoes in white stitchingbut I thought it was effervescent and slightly sweet and not in a good way.
Just as I thought things were going south (and not in the Sicilian Nero DAvola way), we got to the reds and I actually really liked one. Mommys Time Out Primitivo, $7.99, had some blueberries, blackberries and a yummy spicy cinnamon thing going on. Very smooth and pleasant. Jessica, who also works at Marie Claire, loved it and thought it was deep. Abby liked the spice factor, but didnt think it was as smooth as the whites wed tasted.
I hope this is one of the expensive wines, Penny said, otherwise Im a cheap effing date. (I think her boyfriend will be pretty psyched.) And this was the wine, as Abby put it, with the most egregious name of all.
So as I sit thinking maybe I had pre-judged these wines too hastily, out comes the Cupcake Red Velvet blend. This one blends Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and sells for about $8.99. I thought it tasted like thin cranberry juice, and was super astringent and acidic. Its too sweet. It pops in my mouth, said Annie. And Abby added, Its watery. Dont like in big letters. (Which I guess would be DONT LIKE.)
Once we finished the wines and discussions of how Katy Perry is like a cheesy Zooey Deschanel and what Pippa ate before Kates wedding, I told everyone how much the wines cost. Surprisingly, the low price seemed to be a negative issue. As Annie put it, If you cheap out on wine, its not like shopping at Target. Its cool to be budget in fashion but not in wine.
Still, most said they spent anywhere from $10-20 for an everyday wine which isnt too far from the "chick wine" prices. And the most expensive wine we had in the blind tasting, a $30 Rioja, wasnt a total hit either. Some people said it smelled like feet and had mouth-puckering tannins (or as Abby put it, I just got Renee Zellweger face.).
But heres the real problem: instead of persuading everyone to buy the wines, the names generally seemed to turn everyone off. When I was revealing the wines, Abby said, That thing is actually called Cupcake? And most people agreed they wouldnt show up to a dinner party with Mommys Time Out. Maybe Id bring it as a joke, Penny said. And Annie, the only mom in the group, added: Id bring it to a baby shower or my friends house. But Id be more inclined to buy a label with sexual innuendo like Menage a Trois over one with mommy language.
But at the end of the day the sheer quantity of wines on the shelves can be overwhelming, so its a great concept to have some girl-friendly labels and brands. People often tell me theyre intimidated by wine, so I love the idea of making anything about it more friendly and fun. But dont sell women terrible wine. Thats as bad as not calling the day after a hook-up. Weeks later we wont answer some out-of-nowhere text, nor will we buy crappy wine again.
Overall, though, the wines were pretty decent for the price. The Little Black Dress was borderline undrinkable, but the Mommys Time Out got a thumbs up from almost everyone. And maybe the best sign of a good wine was that at the end of the night someone asked for a refill of MTO. Even further proof? There wasnt any left.Alyssa Vitrano is certified in Viniculture & Vinification and Blind Tasting from the American Sommelier Association and has a wine website, grapefriend.com.