"The heavy reds are the girl at the end of the bar with the low neckline and the short skirt," reads a creepy line from Oregon's Register-Guard newspaper, continuing the old-time tradition of comparing wines to women who want to have sex with you. That quote is from Robin Pfeiffer, the owner of Pfeiffer Winery, and is meant to show that a full-bodied red isn't as thrilling as Pinot Noir because it's easy. "Pinot noir is the girl next door that every winemaker is pursuing, it makes you drop to your knees," Pfeiffer adds, bringing this whole slut-shame-y wine-are-like-women comparison to fruition. Pinot Noir is, apparently, like a good girl who doesn't have sex as often as the girl who shows skin. And shame on you if you like those skanky petite sirahs or mourvedres.
The idea that women who dress in a certain way that doesn't show skin are more worthy of being pursued than women who don't is already an incorrect and deeply troubling notion. That warrants its own separate post. What boggles the mind is why food writers continue to compare foods, wines in particular, to shopworn female stereotypes and tropes. After all, we don't see Rieslings being compared to the guy in the club with a fedora who shoots finger guns while dancing. Nor do we see Gruner Veltliner written about like your friend's Ivy-league, cashmere crew-neck wearing, educated cousin who has a great smile, is funny, volunteers at the Boys and Girl's Club and possesses a firm handshake.
Throughout the years, writers have enjoyed referring to Pinot Noir as woman with plenty of secrets. "Pinot Noir is like a woman: You can devote your whole life to figuring it out," a Pinot drinker told Food and Wine back in 2003. That same article also included this quote, which again equates Pinot Noir to sex: "Anyone who makes Pinot Noir just wants to get laid." And that same article also goes on to equate Pinot Noir to a type of female beauty that isn't "slutty":
Greg Crone, the brand manager of New Zealand's Brancott Vineyards, likened wine drinkers' developing appreciation of Pinot to a man's maturing taste in women. It was, he said, like graduating from Pamela Anderson to Grace Kelly.
And The New York Times in 2012 called Pinot Noir a "femme fatale." The bottom line: Pinot Noir is a grape that's hard to grow, and it isn't appreciated by wine newbies. How this turns into talk about a woman's looks and a heterosexual male (or lesbian) sex drive, is still hard to explain.
At its core, this type of writing is just alienating. It's hard for heterosexual women and gay men to relate to these type of randy narrative. And those two demographics represent a big share of the wine market. Bloomberg reported in 2010 that women represented 53 percent of wine drinkers in the U.S. Heterosexual men and lesbians would probably have a hard time reading about how the Sirahs are the Adam Levines of the wine world.
But this writing style is also disconcerting in that it's one more way women are objectified. There's this idea that only one kind of women/wine is valued, and that eventually people will come to their senses and drop, in this case, the full-bodied red. "These archetypes convey little information beyond the sexual appeal of the woman in question. And food writers repeat the pernicious belief that women are valuable only insofar as men want to look at them or sleep with them: matron bad, "it" girl good," Slate's L.V. Anderson wrote in August.
Anderson points out that food writers do this because writing about food is inherently boring and sex with women is not. Though if these lazy comparisons continue, the latter won't be true for very long.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.