A Washington Post article from this week got me thinking about the truly, epic lack of diversity in the wine club and winery space. It’s well worth a read, but it deals with a couple of new wine clubs that aim to bring more diverse voices into the industry.
Since this is something that is a problem and has been an issue for quite some time, I wanted to talk about the lack of diversity within the wine space and why it’s important to work on improving it.
First, why is there a lack of diverse folks making wine? There’s a number of reasons for that, but really we have to look at MOST winemakers I know grew up with some connection to the industry. I work in the trade, but do not make wine, in large part because I didn’t ever realize that was even an option for a job. One of my kids might well choose to make wine, because they’re exposed to wineries and winemakers on a consistent basis. With the history of the industry dating largely in California to Italian and eastern European immigrants, those folks are the ones exposed to the industry from a young age.
Secondly, winemaking programs in colleges are now predominantly female (like all 4 year colleges actually) but still struggle to attract applicants that don’t look like me. Why? Like any science based program, there are a lack of feeder programs for BIPOC folks and while that’s something we see changing locally, it’s a slow, slow go. Plus, if you run a winemaking program and someone interned for a name winemaker for a summer during high school…..aren’t they generally going to get a spot? So yes, even more personal connections here.
But why this lack of diversity an issue? For consumers, we need more voices. As an example, folks that grew up eating the same food, are more likely to select flavor profiles, harvest dates and even the same types of grapes to plant, harvest and eventually make wine. Someone who grew up with a different set of foods, might well make different choices about all those things. After all, pairing wine with Pizza vs Tacos vs Jambalaya requires different wines.
As a consumer, don’t you want all of those wines available? I certainly do and that’s without even getting into the much larger issues of access, jobs and equality that are in play here.