career culture

4 Women Who Are Taking Over the Wine Industry

A once white & predominantly male-dominated industry is now a story of the past. The wine industry continues to boom & has made way for many women of color through social platforms’ power. We see them in the spotlight more than ever, from winery owners, sommeliers, and influencers. But like myself & many others, we crave the refined, classy array of different wines to set the vibe and indulge in the simplicity of it all to unwind. Before the pandemic, wine vineyards were the hot spots to visit with your girlfriends from wine tasting while horseback riding, snacking off a beautiful, delicious charcuterie to sip a semi-sweet or off-dry wine if you will, chat & create memories.

Now we are more homebodies and need some wine to help us through this pandemic; however, beginners or maybe not picking your perfect bottle of wine may not be the most straightforward task to do. There is so much involved when choosing that ideal wine bottle, which can be overwhelming from reds to whites, from sweet to dry & aging. That’s why the TQS team has linked up with some amazing, knowledgeable women involved in the wine industry to help us learn more about it along with their journey & passion for wine, and a bonus will be them sharing some yummy wines for us to try this season.

TQS: What inspired you to become a wine enthusiast, sommelier? 

Anoushica, Owner of Sweet Spice Wines

@sweetspicewines: I found my passion by chance. I worked in a Michelin-Starred Italian restaurant, and wine was such a big part of the restaurant that I couldn’t help but be introduced to it, although it wasn’t until I traveled to Tuscany I truly got the wine bug. As a head waiter, I was lucky enough to be sent on a trip with one of their suppliers to Tuscany. Seeing the vines, tasting from the barrels, and listening to producers talk with such passion about all the intricacies of winemaking inspired me to pursue it seriously. I started to see a bottle of wine as a piece of art, just as much as a vinyl record is, and it was a whole other art form that I wanted to explore. I have now been working in the UK wine industry for six years. I’m in Sales, working mainly with neighborhood restaurants and bars and independent retail shops. A year ago, I also founded Sweet Spice, a wine events platform centered on POC, which was born out of experiencing such a lack of POC representation in the wine world and wanting to start this conversation in the industry.

Pauletta K. Jordan, Founder of Wine With Wisdom

@paulettakjordanHello, Everyone! I am Pauletta K. Jordan & my blog Wine With Wisdom explores how new wine drinkers can experience wine on an affordable budget. I also throw in a couple of fun wine quotes with all my posts because I like quotes and think they are fun! I have been drinking wine with my family for many years. Wine is a huge part of our time together; we sit around the pool in the summer and the fireplace in the winter every year. It is a beautiful time together, and I wanted to share the warmth and comfort that a good glass of wine with your friends and family can bring on my blog. 

In March, before I officially started Wine With Wisdom, I was doing weekly wine reviews on my Instagram story of affordable local wines that I always had available in my home called Wine Wednesday. I started Wine Wednesday right when COVID was at its peak because I felt that myself and others needed something to distract us from the pandemic and keep us cheerful, and I chose to do that with wine. I had considered starting the blog before March, but after getting into medical school, I was nervous about committing to it & seeing growth. However, after seeing all the negativity and pain due to COVID, I knew myself and others needed something fun and affordable to help all of us relax and unwind. Also, I felt the wine was a great option because we could deliver it contactless and didn’t require anyone to go outside.

TQS: As a woc how do you feel about our impact in the wine industry as a woman & a woc? 

Mel & Brax, Hosts of Poured Choices

@pouredchoices : More importantly, not only as women but also people of color, representation in the wine industry is imperative. This has been historically a Caucasian male-dominated niche. We are not only black women with locs, but we also are not the cookie cutter sommeliers one may expect. We don’t know the wine world’s technicalities, but we know what tastes good, we’re always open to learning or trying new things, and we like to have fun. We always get hype when we see someone of color creating their wine brand (McBride Sisters, John Legend, Nicki Minaj, and newest member of the club, auntie Mary J). It was eye-opening at the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement when everyone posted all the black-owned vineyards and wine companies. We had no idea there were so many! And growing. It gives us all a little hope and broadens the possibilities for our branding. This is a new experience for us both, putting our genuine selves out there. We want not only the wine industry to know that wine lovers are diverse, but also we want the world to know that “black girls drink wine too!”

@paulettakjordan: WE NEED MORE REPRESENTATION & we need it badly for both women and women of color! With all the recent discussions of racism and how black people are treated in this country. I have attempted to shift the focus of my blog to Black-owned wine companies. While I have found there are many options for Black-owned wines, their wine availability compared to their white counterparts is very apparent. I have had to pause my wine reviews because I do not have access to wines produced by Black-owned companies. 

Additionally, I have noticed the lack of diversity displayed on prominent wine and spirit companies’ social media pages and websites. The absence of variety has forced me to stop supporting companies that I once endorsed wholeheartedly and have fantastic wine. 

TQS: What has your journey been like in the wine industry? What was your process on educating yourself about this industry? 

Desiree Harrison-Brown, Owner of Wine Noire

@winonoire: Growing up, my parents weren’t big wine drinkers. They occasionally had a bottle of Sutter Home, Barefoot, or Yellow Tail, but that was its extent. Wine coolers were a house staple, but the “wine” in wine cooler is used very loosely.

It wasn’t until I got a part-time job with a company called Brand Builders that introduced me to the world of wine. Brand Builders is a promotional company that hires ambassadors to host wine and spirit tastings to build brand awareness.

Although the job wasn’t commissioned, I’ve always been a competitive person. I hated not knowing the answers to the wine questions that people were asking me.

I started with online resources. My absolute favorite website as a wine beginner (and even still today) is Wine Folly. The information is broken down in a very approachable way. 

I also started buying a ton of wine books. The first wine book I ever purchased was Drink This: Wine Made Simple x Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. It was recommended to me by a customer at one of my tastings. 

I finally decided to take a more formal approach to wine education through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). They provide wine education and certifications and different schools around the world. 

After taking a few wine classes and becoming more confident in wine, I transitioned to a sales role, and now I am currently a wine ambassador for a global brand.

@paulettakjordan: I have not been in the wine industry for very long, and I plan to make my way in it. Many experts and vendors have tried to tell me which wines I should promote and which ones I should not, but the truth is that wine is versatile and applicable to every person differently, and I think that is what I enjoy most about it. There is no one size fits all idea for wine; it truly is a unique science to each individual.

As far as education, I have been mostly self-taught. I go on a wine tour and tasting a couple of times to learn new information and share ideas. Still, I find that most of the time, “wine jargon” can be off-putting to people who don’t regularly drink wine, so I spend a lot of time trying to describe wine outside of the typical wine context and learning to do that has been a massive lesson in itself.  

TQS: As a woc how do you feel about our impact in the wine industry as a woman & a woc? Do we need more representation along with more wine brands that are owned by woc?

@winonoire: When I first entered the wine industry professionally, I was longing for a community of women of color. Luckily, I could use Instagram to find my tribe, but there honestly wasn’t a big community. When I was a sales representative, buyers would blatantly ignore my presence on account visits and make excuses as to why they couldn’t taste with me during appointments. As a Black woman in wine, I feel that I am not taken as seriously as my male counterparts despite my credentials.

We need more representation in all wine industry areas from winemaking, sales, distribution, marketing, etc. The Black Lives Matter movement has pushed many brands to look at their diversity efforts, which is a good start, but we still have a long way to go. 

@sweetspicewines: I think we have done a great job, especially in the States; I was so hyped to see Wine Enthusiasts front cover earlier in the year, which had the most powerful and inspiring photo of Tahiirah Habibi, who made history for being the first black woman to grace the cover. Watching some of the US’s progress has been super inspiring to me and what encouraged me to start Sweet Spice. It is a shame that these initiatives need to exist, but in the UK, mostly, there just weren’t any conversations happening. When I used to bring this conversation to the table, it would often be met with uncomfortable and defensive responses. For women, it has come a long way. Although I still believe there is still a lot of work to be done until women are treated as equal in the industry, WOC is having to work a lot harder and deal with a different level of bias and prejudice.

TQS: For those queens that are new to the industry and want to expand their knowledge and network, what resources and advice would you give them? 

@paulettekjordan: Drink wine. Drink wine. Drink wine. You can learn from reading so much, but what you gain from genuinely experiencing and tasting the wine is far greater than any piece of information. So, grab a bottle of whatever you like, pour yourself a glass, and then start to learn everything you can about it. From where the grapes are grown to the best foods to pair with it, learn and read everything you can about that one wine. If you know about the wine while you drink it, you will remember that information better for next time. That is how I started and was able to grow my knowledge base quickly without forgetting. After that, see if there is a local winery you can visit or virtual wine tasting in your area you can sign up for and learn everything you can during that time from the experts while, of course, drinking. Pairing drinking and learning about wine together is the best piece of advice I can give. Of course, don’t overdo it because you will forget if you drink too much!

@winonoire: There are so many books and resources that can help beginners learn more about wine. Whether you want to gain a better appreciation for wine or work in the industry professionally, I encourage you to take an introductory class from WSET. You will learn so much in the course and have a certification under your belt. More importantly, you will have an opportunity to network with your classmates.

The best way to learn about wine is to taste. Instead of buying your favorite wine that you always get, try something new and take notes about what you do and don’t like about it. Over time you’ll find more wines that you love and regions that you want to explore.

Wine is grown in all 50 states, so chances are there are some local wineries that you can explore in your area. It can be a fun girls’ day or date night!

TQS: Which wine brands owned by WOC would you recommend for the beginner wine lovers who want to explore more?

@pouredchoices – Our favorite wine brand by WOC thus far would have to be the McBride sisters. We haven’t tried any yet, but their brand did not disappoint. The wines are clean and offer a variety of options. Plus, they have a pretty cool back-story.  

@winonoire – I am so happy that Black-owned wine brands are getting much-deserved recognition lately. Some of my favorites are Maison Noir Wines, La Fête Rosé, Brown Estate, and McBride Sisters.

@paulettakjordan- Definitely, The McBride Sisters. I cannot tell you the number of texts and DMs I have gotten about their products and people wanting me to review them. I know they are doing great things for the wine industry and WOC. 

@sweetspicewines – Catoria by Carmen Stevens (South Africa) are also fantastic wines ranging from more easy-going styles to more seriously structured techniques.

TQS: What type of wine would you recommend for the fall season?

@sweetspicewines – Il Palazzone Rosso di Montalcino owned by Richard Parsons (who used to be Obama’s economic advisor). It is a lovely red wine that isn’t too overpowering and a great start for new red wine drinkers. It has been described as a ‘love letter from Montalcino.’ It has beautiful cherry fruit with a hint of spice from a little bit of oak age. Like many Italian wines, it is an amazing food wine and would work with the autumn season produce like pumpkin and mushrooms. Perhaps with kinds of pasta like pumpkin ravioli or mushroom pappardelle. 

@winonoire – I am a seasonal drinker, so now that the weather is cooling down, it’s perfect to transition from white wines and rosés. Here are some are my favorite wines for fall: 

$30 Licataa: A sparkling red Lambrusco created by Raekwon Wu-Tang Clan. Licata is a perfect wine to pair with Thanksgiving dinner- “gulpable” with ripe fruit and floral flavors. If you like your wines with some sweetness, start here.

$20 Maison Noir Pinot Noir – Andre Mack of Maison Noir continues to put Oregon on the map. This Pinot is from the Willamette Valley and has a spice, floral, cherry flavors with gingery wood spice tones.

$12 Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva – Campo Viejo is a Spanish wine brand with three female winemakers – uncommon in the wine industry, especially in the region of Rioja. This wine is predominantly Tempranillo with flavors of ripe cherry, plum, and toasted oak – such a great value

$45 Brown Estate Zinfandel – Brown Estate Vineyards is the first and only Black-owned estate winery in California’s Napa Valley. Their zinfandel is luxurious. Flavors of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, and clove linger on the palate. Trust me; it’s worth every penny.

@pouredchoices- We are so excited to get into the fall season! Our favorite wine for this time of year would have to be Witching Hour Sweet Red. It’s got a high alcohol volume, friendly on your pockets, and most importantly, tastes fantastic. Meets all of Poured Choices’ standards, haha. I mean, we’re talking drool-worthy vino. We have an episode coming soon, highlighting a few fall favorites.

@paulettakjordan – My favorite wine is Rosé! I have never tasted one I don’t like. However, I will say the best one I have tried is by District Winery, a local D.C. winery that I frequented when I lived in the DMV area. The Rosé is very light with fruit aromas, affordable, and perfect all year around.

Usually, I prefer to drink red in the winter and whites in the spring and summer and Rosè all day, every day if I can. For the fall, Butter Chardonnay by JaM cellars is my go-to white wine, it is a bit pricier (my goal is under $10, but this one is under $20), but the pours are rich in flavor (meaning the taste of the wine will linger on your tongue longer) and pair well with a broad spectrum of foods. For reds, I have been enjoying Bogle Vineyard Merlot and Tisdale Syrah, and Pinot Noir. Both bottles are under $15 and perfect for a glass with dinner or by the fire. All of these wines are sold at Target, Walmart, Total Wines, etc.

We would love for you to support these ladies and their platform. To find out where to connect with them here are their links below:

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