I was reading this morning recent and older articles on the demographics of wine consumers. When writing Wine Brands I was mostly interested in two groups, women and Millennials. I might have missed a third group, the gay community, targeted by wine makers as early as 2003. Let’s go back in time. This early move came from the Merryvale Vineyards in Napa Valley, California and the gay-owned Rainbow Ridge wines. Launched in early 2003, their labels feature a rainbow colored cluster of grapes and the grape variety used to make the wines is also a minority – Alicante Bouschet. What is the purpose of such a marketing move? The gay community is often targeted for its spending power as it is considered very consumer-driven and affluent. “It’s not just a marketing thing, it’s also a community outreach,” said Jean DeLuca, marketing director of Merryvale. The winery had supported various gay events over the last year, including celebrations in its cask room.
The importance of the gay community on the US market rose several times those last few years when I was working on the marketing strategy for French pink wines. Should we specifically target this group or also include women? Can the color stand as a sale point by itself? What kind of story can we create for a pink wine label to sustain this strategy? All those questions ended up with one single answer: it’s impossible to target the gay community as one group because there are several sub-groups in the community in spite of common values.
That’s why I was a little surprised to read that a French winery created a brand specifically targeted at the gay community, called TendreBulle (Tender bubbles). The wine is a sparkling rosé from Languedoc. Winemaker Jacques-Edouard Pailles said he started out wanting to make a rosé wine that would be called the gay wine of Malpierre, one of the local place names, but could not, because of AOC regulations. “So then I thought it would be fun to make a happy wine, something festive, as in happy which is what gay used to mean in the middle ages,” he said.
Gay and happy is quite in the French spirit. The Spanish have a very different approach of the gay community. With homosexuality just being recognized and gay marriages being authorized, a group of Ribera del Duero wineries gathered to create “Mundo Gay” to honor the gay community. “Rather than being aimed specifically at gay people, the wine serves as a homage to the gay community, an honor,” spokesman Fernando Martín said. “It would be absurd if we made a wine exclusively for gay people. It is a risk calling the wine ‘Mundo Gay’, as we may alienate non-gay drinkers, and we don’t want to lose money on the wine, but so far it has got a good reception,” Martín added.
Good luck to all those adventurous winemakers!