It’s the eve of the 2018 Women’s March. Following last year’s Women’s March I made a conscious choice to shine the light on some accomplished women in the wine industry. The question I kept asking was, “Do I have to identify these women in wine as women?” In the back of my mind I could recall a comment made years ago by Kay Simon of Chinook Cellars that she can’t wait for the day she’s referred to as a “winemaker” rather than a “woman winemaker”.
Vicki Denig’s pointed article Why I Hate Female Sommeliers and So Should You addressed the issue head on:
Why, in the 21st century, do we still feel the need to emphasize the fact that these professional industry workers doing their jobs — and doing them very well, at that — are female?
For decades now, we haven’t called female college students “coeds.” I’ve never heard anyone say they’re going to get a cavity filled by their female dentist. I’ve never heard someone tell of a physical exam they underwent at the hands of their female doctor. No one has ever told me they got advice from their female lawyer.
With that in mind, I didn’t shine a light on gender in my interviews with Kerry Shiels of Cote Bonneville and Jennifer Hurley of Northwest Wine Academy. Then during an interview last year Casey Cobble of Robert Ramsay Cellars proclaimed, “I want women to know this is a viable career option.” So perhaps there is value to identifying women winemakers for the time being.
Wine expert and renowned author of The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil, recently shared her article Beyond the Wine Glass—A New Glass Ceiling? In this article she discloses that her introduction to wine in the late 1970s began in a tasting group in which she was the only female. The condition of her participation was that she could not speak during the tastings. She goes on to declare that today, “The fact remains that the wine industry needs more women.”
The article was addressed by Julia Conney who further reveals that not only are women underrepresented in the wine industry, but that no African-American women were included in Ms. MacNeil’s article. Ms. Conney points out, “The fact remains that the wine industry needs more women, more people of color in wine media, wine journalism, winemaking, and more support for the people in our industry who are not recognized.”
On this eve of the Women’s March I salute all of these skilled, hard-working humans in the wine industry who have shared their stories. And I salute all of you who are working to bring about change and engage others in support of women’s equality and equal rights. It’s a big deal.