I had to think about that wine world. Musty cellars. Gaudy smoking jackets. Exclusive back rooms. Those goblet glasses so tenderly caressed. That jolly back-slapping commentary about bussomy wines with great legs and perfumed nose.
But in today's world, women rule in purchasing imported table wine in the U.S. It's estimated that 52 percent (some say it's a few points higher) of wine consumed in the U.S. is consumed by women.
While on a national tour, Lovenbruck — spokesperson for the Lulu B brand from France — has set up shop at Natty Greene's in downtown Greensboro. She's invited me to sample three wines from a new line, a new line I've already dabbled in a few weeks earlier because, well, its lines caught my eye in a manner of speaking.
I confess I was drawn by the curvy, coquettish mademoiselle in short skirt and French beret, hoisting a glass of claret. That label seemed refreshing respite from the monkeys, snakes, kangaroos, zebras, llamas, and turtles rolling into the U.S. from the Southern Hemisphere.
What I found mildly alluring, Lovenbruck was quick to emphasize, is something women will find inspiring if not empowering: An inexpensive line of wine made by a woman, marketed by women, and aimed at women.
This spring, Boisset America — the third largest wine company in France — launched Lulu B selling for $8-$9 and now easing into the Triad market. I found it at Tobacco USA and its local distributor says it's finding space from The Flying Anvil to Harris Teeter.
The story is this: The daughter of famed French winemaker Louis Bernard (his own brand long distributed in the Triad) launches a new brand from the south of France and aims it squarely at an American market. What I find intriguing in all this:
First, it builds on the wine marketing assault into the hearts and minds of women. Second, it screams practicality. Unlike so many haughty French wines, its label sports the name of the grape, not the region, ending confusion about what's in the bottle. And it comes in a screw cap. So even a guy can fumble his way into this.
Finally, it's priced to compete with the wave of inexpensive imports coming from Australia, Chile, and Argentina. What's more, at $8-$9, the quality is there.
In April, I stumbled over the brand and bought the 2004 Pinot Noir, enjoying a light-bodied red sporting cranberry, dried cherry, and earth.
A few weeks later at Natty Greene's, Lovenbruck augmented that with the 2004 Syrah and 2004 Chardonnay along with a second introduction to the Pinot Noir. I found them all pleasant and went back for a second taste of the Syrah, with its soft blackberry, black pepper and smoke. The Syrah would make an excellent accompaniment to North Carolina barbecue, be it eastern or Piedmont style.
In recent years — before the 2003 vintage — I've been unabashed in my bashing of French wine, given the price/quality ratio of what had been arriving this side of the Atlantic.
But at this price and with this fruit profile, Lulu B is worth raising a toast over. In the "fighting varietal" category, the French are back on American soil. And if they keep the average enthusiast in mind — particularly women — they might just stay awhile.
Lovenbruck's presentation left me reaching for an adaptation of a book that snuck its way into the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
First published in Paris in 1927, Monseigneur le Vin includes a laundry list of wine attributes, all of them positive to suggest texture, mouth feel, weight and complexity: Full-bodied. Nice frame. Well furnished. Closely packed. Stripped bare. Fleshy. Chewable. Nice waistcoat. Well endowed. Seductive. Sensual. Voluptuous. Shameless. Well preserved.
And this favorite: That stretches out.
That primer was written by — you guessed it — a guy.
I couldn't help but share that same text with some friends of the opposite gender.
They liked wine. They liked guys. And they particularly liked these 1920s wine characterizations (none of them attributes) as somehow resonant nearly a century later: Worn out; Deflated; Overdressed; Tired; Short finish; Rough; Mute; Dull; Doughy; Puny. Biting.
And they found some that were, they said, entirely a matter of personal taste: Burning. Sharp. Scratchy, Prickly.
Their personal favorite? That stretches out.
Thank heavens our wine world includes Venus and Mars in orbit.