Business

Joe Six-pack, meet Charles Chardonnay

Cal Dennison likes a nice cold glass of chardonnay. And he's man enough to admit it.

That's hardly surprising since Dennison is a winemaker at the Modesto-based Redwood Creek winery, but is he an exception?

Judging by some marketing campaigns, you might think so. Take the Super Bowl ad that ran a couple years back in which men invited to a wine and cheese party sneaked into the kitchen to unpack beer hidden in a fake wheel of cheese.

It was a stereotype played for laughs -- in real life lots of men like wine -- but maybe one with a crumb of cultural truth. The designator for "average dude" in political campaigning last fall was Joe Six-pack, not Peter Pinot Noir.

It's hard to say for sure exactly who's drinking what, but a Gallup Poll from last July found that among women who drink, 43 percent say wine is what they drink most often and 28 percent say beer. Among men who drink, 58 percent say beer is what they drink most often and 17 percent say wine.

"As a general rule, guys get together, they don't want to be seen with a glass of wine," says Nelson Barber, an associate professor of hospitality management at Texas Tech University who has studied gender differences in marketing wine.

Wine companies would like to change that. During the past few years some have adopted guy-friendly marketing with tie-ins to such red-blooded pastimes as camping and racing.

Take Maximus, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot introduced by the Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga a few years back. Bennett Lane, which owns a NASCAR team, is sponsoring a NASCAR West event at Infineon Raceway this weekend.

Then there's "The Slammer," a syrah from Big House wines (their Soledad winery is near a California state prison), that features a back label showing a tough-looking guy with pants slung at plumber level.

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