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What do wine bars and a glass of red have to do with nail salons and ads for wrinkle cream?


When I was a kid my mom read the women’s magazines, like Ladies Home Journal. I have no idea what kinds of articles they contained because they weren’t my idea of recreational reading (I preferred Spiderman and the Hulk comics), but I can’t imagine there was much about wine. Maybe something about making a martini for your hubby (and don’t forget the olive).

How times have changed. I was down at 24 Hour Fitness the other day and needed something to read on the exercycle. The only thing around was a magazine, More. I quickly divined that it’s aimed at women of a certain age (the cover story was “Fabulous Over 40: You’ve Never Been Sexier”).

Oh, well, I thought. Better than nothing. I skimmed through (the story on Ellen Barkin was pretty cool.) But what really struck me was how wine was portrayed. Here are a few examples.

Item: The illustration for an article by a guy singing the praises of his wife depicted a man toasting a wine bottle whose label bears a cameo of her.

Item: In one story, they profiled the owner of a Beverly Hills nail salon and asked her what her “essentials” were. Answer: “A little glass of red wine at the end of the day helps me say the day is done — let’s get up and do it again tomorrow.”

Item: They had an article on a Pasadena woman who opened a wine bar, Vertical, at the age of 51. It detailed the hassles she went through at first, and how the wine bar today is “packed even on weeknights.”

The analytical part of me just loves deciphering the semiotics of things like this. The overall message is that wine is and should be part of a modern woman’s life. And not just any woman, but aspirational, with-it women on the move who aim to accomplish something. The nail salon lady seemed sassy and filled with celebration, the implication being that wine helps nurture those desirable qualities.

The message of the wine bar woman was equally powerful. She was the Hollywood producer of such movies as the three Terminator flicks, and the fact that she could do anything that she wanted in life, and chose to start a wine bar, testifies to wine’s chicness, excitement factor and desirability — not to mention that you can make money at it.

But it was that image of the man toasting his wife’s image on the wine bottle label that really got me. Equating your wife with inanimate objects is a high-risk thing that can cause serious backlash. Would they have put her face on, say, a bottle of beer or a prime rib of beef? I don’t think so. (Maybe on a box of chocolates.) But to equate your wife with a bottle of wine confers upon wine a feeling of warmth, trust, intimacy, safety, and even love. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

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