Friday, March 14, 2008

Backwards and in High Heels

A man and a woman sitting at a table, talking. Obviously some kind of wine dinner. The man has a familiar face. In fact, he has been a major force in the world of wine these past 20 years. But who is the woman he is talking to, is she famous too? Or even in the wine business? Maybe a fan? Or the wife of a collector?

How about this: Her actions move more wine in the world than his. And nobody but a few of us knows about her. Oh yes, he’s famous and influential, he’s a superstar. But she does all he does and more, backwards and in high heels.

There a legions of women nobody knows, but who make all the difference in the world. And their numbers are growing. They are all ages. And they are a force to be reckoned with.

At last month’s Symposium for Wine Writers in Napa’s Meadowood, the room was filled with bright, intelligent women, asking questions, taking notes, making their mark in a traditional male dominated world. I have witnessed it for decades now. Men pass their power to their buddies in the form of a wink or a secret hand shake, behind closed doors, in back rooms and at industry gatherings. But more and more, in seminars, in classrooms, in sales rooms, I see women filling the ranks. Yet we still sell like the good ol’ boys taught us.

This week, from the Italian wine trail, Francesca Moretti joined our door-to-door activities in presenting and selling her wines from Tuscany and Franciacorta. Francesca is in her early 30’s, and has a long life ahead of her in which she will see many more changes in her direction. I see a confident, stable, ready, willing and able person like her making the future of the Italian wine business so much more interesting. And fun.

But it isn’t just at the ownership levels. We must have that commitment from the Italian families, sending their sons and daughters to the New World, preaching the gospel of Sangiovese and Aglianico. We also need our home-grown ones too.

Look at their faces, they are ready. And this is a cause for rejoicing. I know how hard it is to try and sell in a “man’s world.” It’s even harder to do that when it is no longer relevant. It isn’t your father’s one-sided world anymore.

Looking around a sales room, I see the daughters I never had, filling the chairs. They have chosen wine. And they are so good at it.

Sit before someone like Karen MacNeil, who worked her way through the “clubhouse” to the top of the game. She has something to say. We have something to learn from her. She’s not through with us yet. Not by a long shot. All the young writers, from California to Washington, to New York to Texas, and all points in between, longing for their ideas to be aired, their voices to be heard. People like Karen, who paved the way for them with every drop of blood she gave, in the struggle to climb her mountain and plant her flag for herself. And for those who come next.

Gents, those who listen and those who care, take a moment and look around you. The next time you taste a Chianti or a Gavi, if there is a woman nearby, engage her, talk to her about the wine you are tasting. Let her tell you about it, what she is smelling, tasting, feeling. You’ll learn more about that wine than any review can impart to you. It could be your mother, your wife, your partner, your daughter, your sister, your aunt. Turn them loose and open your mind to hear what they have to say about it. This is the future coming at you. They are not going to sit on the benches and merely be spectators anymore. They are not going to be advocates for your tastes and your wishes anymore. They are the new force of nature in the wine business. And they might just save us from this smug little corner of hubris we’re backing ourselves into.

Besides, who among us cares to dance alone in the dark?

[ Blog Post # 300 ]


Tracie P. said...

auguri, ace! and what a nice little 300th post.

we may be roaring, but only people like you are listening.


Anonymous said...

Very encouraging. Facing the music will be much easier if men listen to what women are saying and feeling. As you note, it is hubris. Parker and Helen?

Anonymous said...

Savanna Samson nee Natalie Oliveros

Anonymous said...

Another fine post. You write with elegance and a delicacy that is really quite rare. Very fine read. I think I'll pass through your archive. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

So, who is the lady that moves all that wine?

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