There appears to be a growing trend in the number of women who love wine. In “Real Housewives” several members have parlayed their own screen imbibing into marketing their own wine brands. There are numerous Facebook groups for women who like wine.
Although this may not seem like anything unusual, women have not always had such a keen appreciation for the delicacy and flavor of wine. Clever wine marketing is actually behind the popularity of wine drinking among women.
This is how the trend started and gained momentum over the decades:
After the prohibition, most of the Californian wineries had perished. In an attempt to recover, the wine industry decided to promote to women because postwar housewives were frustrated by the fact that wine was considered a symbol of male power. In classy restaurants, for example, where wine was most often consumed, when waiters approached a couple, they addressed the man, and it was the man who viewed the wine list and took the first taste after the bottle was uncorked.
One successful promotion was introducing wine in supermarkets. Middle-aged housewives were hired as wine samplers. When younger women shopped, they were offered them a sip of wine. After the sampling, they were trained on how to educate the younger women on what wine went best with the dinner they were preparing that evening.
Another successful promotion was wine tips in women’s magazines. These articles taught women how to order wine in restaurants and how to serve it at home. It also promoted wine as a way to relax and unwind after a stressful day.
Over time, public perception about wine changed. Women began to associate it with equality, entry into college, economic status, and stress relief. It became seen as a symbol for women who were entering male-dominated colleges and working in male-dominated professions like technology and finance.
However, wives and mothers also began to associate wine as a positive thing. They saw it as an antidote to their boring lives. Although not vying for status or recognition with men, imbibing wine offered relief from the dreariness of staying at home and looking after children.
Is this a sign of growing alcoholism among American women? Not necessarily. According to an article in the Greenhouse Addiction Programs blog, entitled “Binge Drinking: Do You Have an Alcohol Use Disorder?” there is a defining difference between “low risk drinking” and “binge drinking.” This site refers to the definition offered by the National Institution on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA): “Moderate drinking is defined as having up to one alcoholic beverage each day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.”
Statistics on Women Who Imbibe
While social drinking is innocent enough if it is done in moderation, things become a little more alarming nationwide when you look at the statistics.
According to Gabrielle Glasse, who wrote an article in the the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Why She Drinks:”
- Women are the primary drinkers of the 800 million gallons of wine sold annually in the US.
- Between 1998 and 2007, the arrest rate for drunk drivers rose 30% for women while it dropped to 7% for men.
- Between 1999 and 2008, the Emergency Hospital admission rate for dangerously intoxicated people rose 52% for women while it only rose to 9% for men.
She also discussed how Gallup Poll studies showed the following trends:
- Well-educated, affluent women were more likely to drink.
- White women drank more than black women and Hispanic women.
- The percentage of women who had come to imbibe rose over the years. For instance, in 1992, 37% of White women out of a sample group of 85,000 American drank. Then in 2002, the percentage had risen 10%. (The percentage of all racial groups increased over time.)
Women’s Tolerance for Alcohol
Although the rate of alcohol consumption can be correlated with the rising social and economic equality of women, the effect of alcohol on women is not the same as that for men.
Women who drink the same amount of alcohol than men experience a stronger effect. This is because they have more fat and less water. The fat makes them absorb more alcohol while there is less water to dilute it.
What’s more, men have more of an enzyme which breaks alcohol down before it slips into the bloodstream.
Since women experience the toxicity of alcohol more than men, they are also more quickly impaired by it. This means that liver and brain damage is more acute in women than men.
When Is Wine Drinking Problematic?
According to the NIAA, addiction problems arise when low-risk drinking becomes excessive drinking. They define low-risk drinking “as no more than three drinks in a day for women or four drinks per day for men.” And they define excessive drinking as anything “more than the recommended daily drinking levels – or more than seven drinks in a week total for women or 14 drinks for men – is termed “excessive drinking” and may increase the drinker’s risk for developing chronic health problems caused or worsened by alcohol or experiencing an accident under the influence.”