When fellow freelancer, Eli Keel, posted a photo on social media of the back label of Old 502 Winery’s “Kentucky Lady,” I have to admit, I felt the angry feminist rant welling within me. The labeling is clearly a marketing ploy supporting the notion that women: A) don’t know what they want when they enter a wine shop, and B) lack a developed, or sophisticated, palate that would enjoy a product of mild body or depth. Kentucky Lady, “a hit with the misses,” reads the label, is another example of the spirits industry not seeing women as equals who enjoy the same products as do men.
As a human with a vagina, and as a member of the beverage industry, I am not OK with this.
I wanted to give this product a chance to redeem itself beyond its skewed graphics, so I grabbed a bottle of Kentucky Lady, broke it open with some friends and spoke to an expert on the matter. The verdict is in, and this is going to hurt. In the words of Beyoncé, “I ain’t sorry.”
If you’re not familiar with Kentucky Lady and the labeling, here it is in all of its glory: “Disappointed that there isn’t a wine crafted with the gentler sex in mind? Weep no more, my lady. Old 502 Winery’s ‘Kentucky Lady’ uses Kentucky-grown grapes to yield a wine with a light — almost delicate — hint of sweetness in the finish. A not quite demure, but ladylike wine faintly inspired by its place of origin just blocks from Louisville’s bustling red light district.”
Did you feel that, friends? Yes, it was the thundering hooves of society taking several giant steps backward in the quest for gender equality.
When I contacted Logan Leet, winemaker at Old 502, he apologized that I found the label offensive. But he said it is “apparent to most people that read our labels, if they read them at all, that we use a lot of satire,” and that I was only the second person in four years to contact them about the label. Leet said the aim is to be the “anti-wine-snob winery,” and they hope people “don’t take them too seriously.” Got it. I’ll just be complicit in my own dehumanization.
Still, though, I wanted to sample this delicate potion through my blinding rage, so I asked a male friend to open the bottle for me, because, you know — tiny, lady hands. What was a girl to do? My comrades and I poured some. Super sweet, fruit-forward and incredibly one-note, the Lady hits the tongue and disappears. It’s high viscosity, paired with loads of sugar. I don’t care if this product was called “Bad Bitch Alert,” (which would be a far better name) this substance is sub-par. Is it a pinot grigio? Is it a sauvignon blanc? Nobody knows: It’s a “Kentucky Lady,” and we ladies don’t actually know what either of those wine or grape varieties are.
I asked Veronica Shipman, former Sullivan University instructor of wine/beers/spirits/hospitality courses, about Kentucky Lady. Shipman, who now runs the bar program at 502 Bar & Bistro (opening July 25 in Norton Commons), said science shows women do enjoy products with more residual sugars, yet “are more susceptible to sensory aspects of their palate. We pay attention to mouth feel.” That allows for exploration of endless varieties and styles in wine tastings.
“They made this (wine) because it doesn’t have a true identity. It’s the most marketable,” said Shipman. “There is reasoning behind catering towards women — we do the shopping and like to see products like Little Black Dress Vodka, Skinny Girl, etc., but this [label] is the most blatant slap in the face,” she said, adding that she prefers South American Malbec’s and Carmenere’s, both spicy and full-bodied reds.
Yes, it is true that some women are sweet and demure, and many like highly-sweetened white wines — and that is OK! But women are not necessarily “ladylike.” We do not need products geared toward the notion that our sex should behave, or exist, in a particular realm. We are not the “gentler sex.” Women are cis-gendered and masculine and straight and queer and strong and kind and angry and heartbroken and unabashedly happy. Did you design this product as ever-so-easy to stomach, so that we’d all get drunk enough to forget about the wage gap and street harassment and that even our glass of vino, at the end of a long day, is telling us how to live our lives? Do you think women want to be marketed to as the weaker sex? And, where the fuck is Louisville’s “bustling red light district?” Old 502 Winery, I’ll be waiting for you to redeem yourself. Until then, in the words of my friend, Jack Johns: “Please take several seats.”