Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's a Man's Man's Man's World

The past few weeks in France and Italy has cemented in my mind the reality that, in the wine business for at least half of the known wine made in the world, it is still a man’s world. Rather, it is a paternalistic point of view that still dominates, whether those views are held by a man or a woman.

At Vinitaly all one had to do was look at the seminars and panels and know that the world is still heavily populated by white middle aged and rapidly graying men. But a new product is being promoted, and who do they send out to blow the horns about it?



Where was I? Oh yes, the archetype - father knows best.

My dad loved the TV show, I Dream of Jeannie. He used to say this to me all the time in the 1970’s. “Son, man’s job is to provide and woman’s job is to love.” Imagine how well that would have played if I had bought into that and taken that back to my northern Californian university life. Needless to say, I became indoctrinated in the movement that had women striving for equality. It was a tilt and a shift from the cultural perspective the women in my highly matriarchal family (they lived longer than the men – man’s world indeed!) dispensed. They were highly supportive of their young men growing up in which they were the "center" of some world. It is just that in the Italian (and Greek and pretty much the Latin) world, the women are so benign (and protective) that the majority of men grow up thinking they can do no wrong. So off they go to conquer the (wine) world.

Giacomo Tachis just announced that he was retiring, and for a generation Tachis has been a guiding light. I never spent that much time with the Dottore, except to meet him a time or two. But his influence had been wide among man and women in the wine world. If Maria Gazzaniga or Teresa Lungarotti had been accorded with the same level of gravitas in the world of wine, would it have changed things much? I don’t know. But I know this – I am tired of the domination of the wine world, indeed the world indeed, in which the history has been written by a quill that has been dipped in the inkwell of testosterone. I see it so much in Italy, especially at Vinitaly where everything is concentrated and magnified 10x.

It seems that even the ascendant women in the business have a great deal of that paternalistic juice flowing in their veins, blue bloods and terrones alike.

And while it might be more a matter of those who like to dominate the process vs. those who jump around in the creative pond, I am navel gazing a little bit this Sunday morning.

How else can that explain this continuing mania for oak and alcohol? The need for an “important” wine, which means a Cabernet @ 14.8% drenched in new oak, screaming for a huge piece of meat. Please, that’s so 1982. Or so 1962.

I was sipping on a Soave last night and enjoyed it thoroughly. And that is the way it seems to be going.

Personally, I will enjoy it more when the important men and the women in our world come down off their magic carpets and relate a little more with us little people. There are plenty of wines in Italy and the world ( of man, woman and all the other creatures in it) that are not important and are a perfect joy to be around. Kind of like the people in it.



To be continued….



10 comments:

Do Bianchi said...

Along the lines of your "big tree" posts, I've been thinking a lot about the legacies of Italian winemakers and their children. I can think of at least 5 families — off the top of my head — where a woman (more or less my same age) is taking over the legacy of her father's winemaking. And I'm not talking about the Lungarotti princess types. I think that we will see a shift in this trend in our lifetime: the generation-in-waiting is sure to be marked by a greater presence of women... can that be a bad thing? no way...

Scott said...

Welcome home! One great thing about American wine is the Land of Opportunity allows female winemakers the same chance at greatness as the boys. Celia Welch, Heidi Barrett, Mia Klein, Vanessa Wong, Kathy Jordan, Merry Edwards, Martha McClellan, Karen Culler, Lynn Penner-Ash and of course Helen Turley make many of the best wines in America and no one cares about their gender.

Of course, I don't think it's that lopsided in Italy either. Look at Gaia Gaja, the Antinori daughters, Sofia & Daniela Pepe, Barbara Sandrone and I'm sure many more. The girls are coming on just fine and they have a different and important perspective to bring to wine.

Jeff Siegel said...

The New World wine business (not as much for California) is increasingly becoming pink collar. I'll be curious to see how that affects the wine over the next years.

Live From Tuscany said...

I don't think Blogger has enough bandwidth to support all I have to say on this topic! I live in Italy and usually feel like I am living in America about 50 or 60 years ago, for many reasons, but most often because of the role of women in Italian society. Watch this video for an idea of what we see every day on TV here, yes, in 2010: http://www.ilcorpodelledonne.net/?page_id=89. It's a problem. Italy will continue to be left behind economically and socially in relation to the rest of Europe if half of their population realizes less than half of their potential.
I hope what you're saying is true, DoBianchi. But those women are entering the all-hallowed "family business" here, which is always the easy way in. What about women that want to enter the wine world that don't have family connections? Well, what about any Italian without family connections? We're screwed!
I know exceptions of course, but lots of women in the wine world here (and all industries for that matter) are there because they're good arm candy, wine knowledge being low on their list of qualifications.

Do Bianchi said...

@Live from Tuscany no doubt, we have a long, long way to go before we see a truly balanced (and no longer chauvinized) Italian wine industry. But anecdotally, I have seen a lot of cases where women have made a mark in the world of Italian wine. One great example of this is Cinzia Merli... what she's achieved — entirely on her own — is truly remarkable... Montalcino also has a lot of women winemakers, and the recent passing of Elina Lisini is another example of a matriarchal hierarchy. In any case, you and I are on the same side of this equation! :-) Italy is an inherently and intrinsically chauvinist country and culture...

Samantha Dugan said...

As a woman
In the wine business
I would like to know....
Will you marry me?!

Fantastic post dude. Naval contemplation suits you...

Marco Cuccinoto said...

Momma mia! Nekkid women and marriage proposals all in one post.

Shakti-Gaia power is coming no doubt. The signs are everywhere. Since wine is of the Earth, so much the better.

tom hyland said...

Jeremy is correct about Cinzia Merli - her achievements have been formidable. Also look at the work done by Marilisa Allegrini, Donatella Cinelli Colombini and Marisa Cuomo.

It may not be as much of a man's world in Italian wine as you think.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Odd, how it is that the guys are saying, no it's OK, the gals are getting in.

That's not what the women are saying, boys.

tom hyland said...

The women that aren't saying that want a big shakeup - it take time. They should be proud of what they've accomplished.

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