Women are the primary purchasers of wine and yet wine marketing for some reason tends generally to be focused on men. This anomaly is being addressed by two new wines, Seduction and White Lie, targeted specifically at women. David Robertson reports.

The wine industry has been a male-oriented world for centuries but as companies start to look more carefully at who is drinking their product the female consumer is gaining prominence. There have been ad hoc attempts to target women drinkers in the past but this year has seen the launch of two female-oriented wines and the if successful they could have a significant impact on how wines are made in the future.

The reason for this new interest in female consumers is that US research shows that about 77% of all wine is bought by women, and they consume about 60%. In many bars and pubs across Europe and North America there is a near uniform split between the sexes: men drink beer while women drink wine. And yet, most quality wineries continue to tailor their products to an elite collector class, which is mostly male. Recent trends have also been towards higher alcohol content wines, which again are more to the male taste.

Beringer Blass, part of the Fosters' Group, has decided to address this imbalance with White Lie, a Santa Barbara chardonnay. White Lie started hitting supermarket shelves in the US two weeks ago and will continue to roll out through the summer. Priced in the $10 range, it has been created using the "early season" technique, which involves picking grapes earlier to reduce alcohol and calorie content. As a result, White Lie is about 9.8% alcohol with 97 calories per serving, compared with about 130 for other wines.

One of the most interesting things about this wine, however, is how it came into being: After seeing US sales slow due to oversupply in the last couple of years, Beringer Blass decided to look at ways to re-ignite consumer demand. It started by hiring Tracey Mason of Diageo as director of innovation and Bettina Ferrando of the Fosters' Group as new products development manager. They teamed up with one of Beringer Blass's wine makers, Jane Robichaud, to work on new concepts.

In itself it is striking that this recent innovation brought together three women. That would have been unusual even just a decade ago and it is evidence that winemaking, at least in the larger companies, is no longer a male-only environment.

Within just a couple of weeks the Beringer Blass team were looking at why their majority consumer was so badly serviced by winemakers. "We are starting to look into innovative areas to see what's going to be next for us as a company. When the three of us got together to think about the market we realised there was a big hole there. Women were buying and consuming more wine than men but nothing was being done for them specifically," Ferrando said, adding that the decision to go with an early season grape was based on interview research indicating that women struggled with the alcohol content of regular wines. "They told us they really enjoyed the wine experience but they wanted the option of not having all the alcohol or calories."

Beringer Blass has made 100,000 cases of White Lie and 20,000 have already been sold. Fosters' Group is understood to be keeping an eye on its development as it considers rolling it out in Europe and Australasia.

On the opposite end of the scale is Barton O'Brian's Seduction. Made in the Napa Valley, Seduction is a full-bodied, Bordeaux-style wine. It is also considerably more expensive than White Lie at about $25-30 a bottle. But what the two wines have in common is that they are both aimed at female consumers. Where White Lie is aiming for the supermarket and bar crowd, Seduction has been developed for women to serve to their girlfriends at a dinner party or to consume during a girls' night out.

O'Brian said: "I was listening to my wife and her friends talk about wine and how they buy it and it struck me how different they were to my male friends, who were wine collectors. This raised the question of how I could make this an opportunity and sell to women. Women have a very different view of wine to men: they see it as an emotional accessory, something to bring to a party but only if it is elegant and fun."

Seduction comes in a red translucent bag and the labelling is more "emotional" than on most other wine bottles. For example, on the back it says: "Romance of the heart, passion of the soul. A voluptuous wine with sensual flavours and a velvet kiss. Enjoy in good company."

"We go to a lot of expense and trouble to package this wine in a very elegant outfit," says O'Brian. "We noticed that when women give wine as a gift they want to put it in a bag or wrap it. Men don't care how the bottle is delivered but women want it to look like a gift." O'Brian has produced 1,900 cases of Seduction and is seeing strong sales.

A number of other wineries are thought to be watching these developments with interest. It seems possible, therefore, that if brands like White Lie prove successful there might be a radical rethink in how wines are made and sold as companies take more interest in their female consumers.