Rethink pink | Can a vodka soda drink help China’s wine trade?

(A version of this post previously appeared in Grape Wall newsletter)

I really wish wine producers, retailers and writers in China would stop saying rosé — “pink wine” — is “for women” or “for the ladies”

For the ladies? Really?

First, the trade has enough sales trouble without painting itself further into a corner and cutting off half the population as potential customers.

Second, the idea women have a predisposition for, say, sweet rosé flies in the face of the sugary treats — the colas, the candies, the desserts — I regularly see men stuff into their mouths.

Third, I have seen men drink rosé. (Gasp!) At restaurants. At wine fairs. At birthday parties and house parties. They all represent further potential wine sales.

Fourth, about this idea the color “pink” is for women — a century ago, in the United States, pink was for boys (“decided and stronger”) and blue for girls (“delicate and dainty”). And in China, rosé seems more likely to be described in peach terms than pink ones. It’s all quite arbitrary.

(This reminds me of claims Chinese prefer red wine to white wine because red is a lucky color and white is the color of death. Baijiu, which has 40 times the revenue of grape wine, translates to “white spirits.” If white is so unlucky, why is baijiu such a big part of Chinese culture and red wine only a recent trend?)

That brings me to Skinny B#tch, a new canned drink — vodka and soda plus lime or peach — in the China market, the kind of mass-produced beverage at which some of my wine terroir-loving friends will suspiciously sniff.

If any beverage sounds like it’s aimed solely at women, not men, Skinny B#tch would have to rank as a contender, no? Yet the launch campaign targets men as well. And uses “b#tch” as an acronym to reach out to them.

The target isn’t simply men or women but people who are concerned about their weight / health. And given such a universal concern, why not go for a broader community? Based on feedback I’ve seen thus far, quite a few men are responding well to the campaign.

Yes, this is a new product, and it’s just one ad, but maybe there’s something for the wine trade to think about here? Maybe the “rosé is for ladies” crowd might see there is hope for men after all. Maybe the trade in general might think about how to broaden, rather than segment, its potential base.

(By the way, the issue of weight and Body image is a whole other topic. I’m talking specifically here about reaching broader audiences.)

In the end, the idea that wine preferences are set in China seems strange to me, especially as the consumer base is still so small. Maybe one day we’ll look back at people who say “men won’t drink rose” the same way we do at people who once said Chinese won’t consume things like coffee (it’s a tea nation!) or cheese (lactose intolerance!) — you can now find cafes and pizza joints pretty much everywhere.

Anyway, I have a bottle of Pinkker in the fridge. This seems like a good day to open it. (Hulu also has it for delivery.)

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