Your Wine Glass Ceiling is My Wine Glass Box. An Open Letter to Karen MacNeil and the Wine Industry.

Last Saturday afternoon my phone, emails, and notifications blew up with mentions of your blog post Women and the Wine Industry and your SOMM Journal article, Beyond the Wine Glass—A New Glass Ceiling? Before I commented I wanted to read the post and the article. I wanted to sit with the story because I am a woman in the wine industry. I’m a new wine professional and I hoped the article would give me insights. It did, but it also lacked what is obvious in the wine industry too – diversity.

In January 2016, I decided to embark on a career in wine. Your book was the first book I purchased. I read The Wine Bible cover to cover. I made copious notes and highlights. It’s a book I return to again and again. I could not get enough. Your story is amazing. Your legendary status in this industry is well deserved. You are a wine rock star in my opinion. Imagine me reading your article, seeing the images, and thinking this can’t still be happening in 2017 and leading into 2018.

I read the article twice. I reviewed every photo. There were 36 photos. In 2018, I am disheartened to not see one African-American woman among the photos. I did not see anyone who looked like me. I don’t know whom you reached out to and interviewed. I cannot imagine an African-American woman turned down your interview. I’m certain you didn’t ask one. I composed a response on my Facebook page because surely the women who shared your article could see this blatant omission. It never occurred to most of them. That’s because they never have to consider being seen. The industry is made of people who look like them and the world recognizes them immediately over me.

I resonated with the feeling of being silent. The eight years you tasted with men who didn’t want you to speak. The men who didn’t expect you to have a voice? Now multiply that by each day of your life. This is what it feels like to be an African-American woman today. Not just in wine, but in every industry. I have been asked more than once at tastings if I was the help. This is my glass box, it’s not a ceiling. Nearly forty years later after your beginning in wine, voices and faces that look like mine aren’t expected to have opinions in the wine world. We have a few exceptions, but they aren’t the rule.

To quote you. “The fact remains that the wine industry needs more women.” I want to add to that statement. 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.

You further state, “[l]anguage can marginalize.” Imagine being marginalized every day due to the color of your skin, class, and knowledge.

The comments on my Facebook post were encouraging and supporting. The only way we understand racial injustice in all forms is by communicating why representation in this industry matters. I hope you will find this blog post and the Facebook post worthy of a read. The industry keeps referencing the lack of diversity, but change happens only when the people in power are allies in being the change they say they want. Representation in the wine world only comes from representation in the wine media that is lacking. The wine media is responsible for these images.

I agree with you a glass of Champagne every night is a must. I hadn’t thought of this, but I will begin to implement this grounding technique in my life.

I want to add to your list of things we can do as an industry.

  • Make diversity happen and quit being a buzzword.
  • Make other women feel welcome at industry events, even when they don’t look like you.
  • Look for new voices in wine media that represent the diversity of the world. They are out there.
  • Mentor when possible.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. African-Americans have been out of our comfort zone for centuries.
  • Be open to discussing others' perspectives of this industry.
  • Quit assuming all African-American people only drink Moscato. Yes, this is a thing.
If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.
— Shirley Chisholm

In 2018, I shouldn’t have to bring a chair.
I should be invited to the meal in my own seat.

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