Tiny bubbles

Why are vintners trying to sell women eensy-weensy wine?

Published May 11, 2006 12:00PM (EDT)

You know how, as a woman, you wish wine went better with your zippy, feminine lifestyle? Like, as a beverage it's good, but the containers could stand to be smaller and cuter? Wait, you don't? Me neither! Why do wine producers think women want itsy-bitsy wine?

First there was Sofia, the fizzy wine in a dinky can. Not the best idea we'd ever heard -- as Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy aptly summarized, the cans are "cute, pink, emblazoned with vapid teenisms like 'petulant' and 'reactionary,' come with extendo-straws so you don't muss your lipstick" -- but at least they seem light and portable, like wine coolers for the MySpace set. (Plus, Twisty liked them, reporting that "the wine really doesn't suck.") Now there are Littlest Penguin fun-size four-packs -- or, as the promotional materials call them, Chix Pax, which promise "a fresh way to look at wine that fits women's lifestyles."

And by "women's lifestyles," the Penguin people apparently mean "activities the women in commercials seem to enjoy." The Chix Pax media kit recommends pairing the screw-top bottles with such "chix" activities as knitting ("For the hundreds of devoted 'stitch and bitch'-ers, the Little Penguin Chix Pax will be the perfect accompaniment to 'bitch' about celebrities, or gush about your new crush"), chick-lit book groups ("Little Penguin Chix Pax will be a welcome addition to any book group -- whether discussing the political undertone of a bestseller or the loss of Fabio on a beloved romance rag") and, of course, watching romantic comedies (You'll be amazed at how well the Little Penguin Chix Pax go with a huge bowl of buttery popcorn, and a good cry, or laugh, or fantasy"). I like knitting, so-called women's fiction and "Sleepless in Seattle" as much as the next gal, but they don't exactly represent the range of women's interests. (And if I ever convene a group of women to lament Fabio's disappearance from my favorite beach read, I hope some kind friend clonks me on the head with a regular wine bottle, not some Barbie-size 187-ml confection.)

The Chix Pax score a few points for economy; the four-pack is $6.99. And if the little bottles result in less wine wasted -- or, for those who can confine themselves to one minibottle apiece, less wine consumed -- I guess those are good things. But most women can probably manage their own portion control, and the needless extra packaging required to produce individual-size wine isn't doing the planet any favors.

Sure, marketing and advertising tend to reinforce clunky gender stereotypes. But the kicker is that American women don't seem to need fresh ways to fold wine into their hectic lives; as Slate's Michael Steinberger noted last year, "women purchase 55 percent of the wine sold in this country." Plus, Steinberger wrote, "wine has always been portrayed, in the popular culture anyway, as a woman's drink." So the pint-size wine is probably less a reflection of women wanting their products pink and petite and more an attempt to corner the crucial bachelorette-party drink market. Cheers!

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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