I do yoga sometimes on Monday nights, with a group of girls and a couple of bottles of wine. I meet up with girlfriends at the wine bar for happy hour and regardless of what restaurant I’m at, I’m far more apt to be interested in the wine list than the 100 beers you have on tap. Conversely, Chef Boyfriend takes a six-pack over to his buddy’s for Friday night poker and would never think of grabbing a bottle from our cellar.
Alcohol seems so gendered. Wine for women, beer for men and while I know it’s not true, that anyone can drink or not drink anything they damn well please, subtle reinforcements of this stereotype are all around.
Like when Chef Boyfriend and I go out for dinner and order a bottle of wine. Sometimes he picks; sometimes I do but 9 times out of 10, the server will pour him the taste not me. And why is that?
In culinary school, our last two classes before our internships were in the school’s restaurant. Three weeks in back of the house and three weeks in the front of the house. And though I had been a server before, I learned plenty about fine dining service. When a table orders wine, you present the bottle to the host for approval and while it’s often completely up to the server to guess whom the host at a table is, why are servers always assuming my boyfriend’s the host? He doesn’t always pay and he doesn’t always pick the restaurant.
This subtle gendered behavior is mirrored in other aspects of the wine world. Culturally, we view wine as a feminine drink but the wine industry itself is dominated by men. Male farmers growing grapes, male winemakers, male vineyard owners, male wine importers, male wine store owners, male sommeliers, male wine writers.
Last year, I challenged myself to read only books by female authors. It wasn’t difficult except when I went looking for wine books written by women. Yes, there are some and for the most part, they’re great. As a reference, The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil is excellent and late last year I read Red White and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean. I found The Widow Cliquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo and was amazed by the story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin who assumed the helm of a young champagne house after her husband died. I also read a collection of profiles on women working in the wine industry – wine makers, sommeliers, writers, and was heartbroken at how poorly written the book was. The book was an opportunity wasted and I started to think I could write a book as good, if not better.
I want to answer the question: if women enjoy wine and women are making wine and women are writing about wine, where are they? Why of the 230 Master Sommeliers across the world are only 32 of them women? Why is Robert Parker the end-all-be-all in wine recommendations?
I want to be a part of the wave of women who ambush the current wine industry and turn it on its head. Constantly learning more about vineyards and grapes and the wine making process and then sharing what I’ve learned with anyone who will read my words. I want to drink wine and think about it. I want to drink wine with food and without and I desperately want to find a chardonnay I like.
But, and there always seems to be a but, what do I have to offer to the field of wine writing? I’m not a winemaker with a unique perspective. I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting Screaming Eagle or Château Lafite Rothschild. I can’t afford most bottles of vintage champagne. So what do I bring to the field? What can I add to the conversation?
Honestly, I don’t have an answer to these questions and I’ll probably always be plagued with doubt. But if I don’t write, don’t try, don’t put myself out there, I’ll never know. This could be the path I’m meant to take. This could be my calling, my passion project, my side-hustle.
I may or may not be reading a self-help book right now (ok, I totally am) and the biggest take away I have so far is I’m a unique snowflake and there will never be another me. My palate is my own and my wine opinions, thoughts and stories are mine. So while I may not have my masters from UC Davis, I’m going to write about wine. And I invite you to stay tuned and keep reading.