Wine: Girl power

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Those for whom every day is Valentine's Day may be interested in a new range of wines aimed at women developed by a French wine merchant. WineSight has selected about 30 French wines under the label Sublimelle, "parce que la femme est Sublimelle". It boasts "no need for images of lingerie", so the fact that a French lingerie label of the same name adorns such fine brands as Forplay (sic) and Leg Avenue, is presumably a coincidence. Selected by a man, Frédéric Auriol, the range (available at www.chateauselect. co.uk) offers wines for a variety of occasions, "whether it is a girls' night out, an individual tasting, a romantic dinner, after love-making, or a business success".

Young women embarking on drinking wine are particularly susceptible to the blandishments of marketing speak, as I have found from the sessions I teach 18-year-olds in schools on the Leiths course. They tend to prefer white, preferably chardonnay and pinot grigio, to red, whose tannins they find bitter, and in answer to my first question – about which wines they like best – the most common answers are rosé and names such as Blossom Hill and Jacob's Creek. It's hardly surprising then that there are so many successful examples of the wine industry targeting young women with anything from fizz such as the Sofia Mini Blanc de Blanc fizz in a can, named after Sofia Coppola, and the modish range of girly champagnes like Pommery Pop.

Marks & Spencer has recently got in on the act with the launch of a Pink Port, £7.99, which it thinks will be so successful that is set to "transform the port category". A heady claim, seeing as a tasting panel that included two Masters of Wine said it was "more like vodka and cranberry juice". Give me a tawny such as Warre's Otima 10-Year Old Tawny, 50 cl, £10.99, Sainsbury's, every time. Rosé, fizz, pinot grigio and chardonnay are all hugely popular with women, not least because of the big budgets thrown at colour, fragrance, lower alcohol, sweetness, bubbles and packaging. Yet while there is evidence that women are better wine tasters than men, are they really on Venus and men on Mars when it comes to wine?

According to a report from the Office of National Statistics, men will most commonly drink with friends, then their spouse or partner. Women, however, prefer to drink with their loved one. If women drink wine mainly with their partners, you might think they'd be looking for a wine that both they and their partner can enjoy together. Besides, like describing a wine as prestige or premium, fancy attempts at marketing often fall short of expectations.

"When choosing a boyfriend, the plainest wrapper has the best inside," a female friend confides. With snazzy labels, but boring drinking in her opinion, she cites 2006 Xerolithia White, 2007 Soaring Kite Chardonnay, Barramundi Semillon Chardonnay and Cycles Gladiator Pinot Grigio. Three wines, all in simple packaging, that she adores, and I'm with her on these: the citrusy 2007 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling, £9.99, Oddbins, australianwinesonline. co.uk, the characterful 2005 Annie's Lane Semillon £7.19, Oddbins, the toasty 2004 Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Chardonnay, around £11.75, Arthur Rackhams, Guildford, Avery's, Bristol, Thomas Panton Wines, Tetbury, Bayley & Sage, Wimbledon, and the apricot-laden Duncan McGillivray Longview Beau Sea Viognier 2005, £10.99, Oddbins, and 2006, £10.99, Majestic. If what my friend says is true, I suspect that once the seductive pull of sweetness and pretty pink colours have palled, what most women want from a wine is not that dissimilar to what men want: flavour, quality and value for money.

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