Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wine - Is it a man's world?

Get the ladder out, I'm climbing up on my soap box.

Fellow women wine-bloggers, Farley and Dr. Debs got me thinking all day today. Is it still very much a man's wine-world? Farley of Wine Outlook blogs about dining with her boyfriend. Farley wanted to order some wine, but the server gave the wine list to her boyfriend instead. What? Women don't know how to order wine in restaurants? We keep reading that the majority of wine purchases in stores are made by women, but is it different in restaurants? And why does the wine server often give the bottle and the cork to the man at the table when it was the woman who made the wine choice?

Today, Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under 20 blogs that the eleven major contributors to the Wine Spectator magazine are all men - not one woman writer. While talented men, Dr. Debs points out, is the Wine Spectator telling us that there are no women in the world capable of writing for them? I feel honored to be on her list of fellow women wine bloggers who she feels should be given the opportunity.

When I started my blog back in 2005, I have to admit I felt alone in the wine blogging world as it was mostly men and sometimes I felt like I was not taken serious. With time, things have become a bit better but still...when it was time for the American Wine Blog Awards to be given out --- where were the wine blogging women receiving the awards? They were men giving out the awards to other men.

In the state of Washington, and especially Walla Walla, I see progression and attitudes changing about women and their mark in the wine business. We have prominent women winemakers, women winery managers and owners. We have women marketing directors and women wine servers in restaurants. There are women vineyard owners, women wine judges and women wine writers for local publications. Every year we have new women students at the Walla Walla Institute of Viticulture and Enology and at Washington State University. But I know that behind a few wine bottles in a restaurant's cellar and in a few dark wine caves, there is still evil that lurks in the heart of those who thinks that the world of wine belongs to men. I say to them the same thing that Cher said to Nicolas Cage in the movie Moonstruck: - - "Snap out of it!" Slap!


Dr. Debs said...

Great post, Catie. And yes, you would be a great writer for WS or any other venue that you might chose. I think we are getting there--slowly. But as long as women and people of color are not part of the mainstream publications, the public face of wine will remain largely white, and largely male. I think blogs are becoming a presence that cannot be ignored in the wine world, and women do participate in this arena. One day, we'll be on the WS mastead, too.

Anonymous said...

It's misleading to generalize from one issue of Wine Spectator (or any magazine). If Dr. Debs had chosen June 30, for example, she would have found that the cover story was written by a woman, our senior editor Dana Nigro. As I pointed out in my response on Dr. Debs blog, ithere, our masthead counts 20 men and 13 women. I'm not denying that more "established" wine writers are men than women, but there's no policy at Wine Spectator to hold back talented women.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator

Catie said...

Thank you Mr. Matthews for taking the time to inform me and my readers the Wine Spectator's side of this discussion. It is very much appreciated.

I read your comment on Dr. Debs webiste. I have to say that it concerned me. You wrote: "It seems, however, as if the women posting on this blog are not even interested in working with us. That's a shame, for them and for Wine Spectator."

To be honest with you Mr. Matthews, I didn't realize that we even had the option to work with you. I feel I can speak on behalf of us all, that we do want to work with you, but honestly did not know that would be an option. If I had written to you via email or letter about this concern, would it have been lost in a pile of other letters and even been addressed? I believe that it is situations like this that can bring two sides together, discuss their concerns and everyone leaving satisfied and of the same mind.

Since you were the one to bring up,"...not even interested in working with us." - - which I feel is an assumption...

Where do we start?


Kathleen said...

I'll raise my hand! I'm a wine blogger here in Upstate NY, I also am the assistant director of a wine enthusiasts club - both the director and I are women.
We're out here!
Kathleen Lisson
Albany, NY

Wine and Stories from the Vineyard blog - http://www.myspace.com/gamay

Steve Bjerklie said...

Let's not forget Dr. Debs' other point: that the wine-writing world is not just sparse with women, it's almost entirely devoid of non-white writers. That's a scandal -- particularly when the changing demographics of both North America and Europe favor people of color. If the wine industry hopes to sell wine in the future in its traditional markets, it better begin broadening its cultural appeal. That effort needs to include publications such as the Wine Spectator.

Dr. Debs said...

Catie, I hope Mr. Matthews contacts you. You would be a great asset to Spectator. And in addition to people of color, I was serious about the under-representation of guys without ties, too. My dad is a working class guy who loves wine and has a great palate. I had to coax him into reading Wine Spectator because he said "those guys aren't like me." Now he's on CellarTracker, and argues about cassis vs. blueberry notes in cabernets. Guys like my dad are another untapped market, in my opinion.

Steve Bjerklie said...

The Wine Spectator bills itself as a "lifestyle" magazine, not a wine publication. The lifestyle it promotes and that its advertisers pander to is decidedly upscale.

I agree, Dr. Debs, that this approach cuts entire demographics, such as the working class, out of the mix. Perhaps Mr. Matthews would argue that every issue of WS includes a few "Smart Buy" recommendations, which are wines costing less than $10 or $12 per bottle, typically. Yes, it does. But everything else in any given issue of the magazine points toward and caters to wealth.

I think it's an enormous disservice -- but business is business. There's much more money in ads from Rolex and Lexus than there is in ads from Sears and Ford. WS has made a business decision, and people of color and the working class, who deserve the respect of the wine world as much as anyone else, were left behind on the table.

farley said...


Maybe we should both seek jobs there and see what happens. It's not that I don't want to. Just didn't think I'd have a chance...

Michelle said...

Last week I attended a trade tasting as a representative of a local food & wine publication (as opposed to my blog). Counting me, there were maybe 7 women in the room. Several of those owned restaurants or were chefs and one was a winemaker. I was surprised at how few women were there, but impressed by the ones I met.
Also, I suspect Mr Matthews was referring to freelance submissions. According to my Writers Market for this year, WS is 20% freelance written (that's not much) - submit seasonal material 4 months in advance - submit query, response within 3 months. If you want all the query info, shoot me an email. Truthfully, while I'm no stranger to rejected queries, I've always been a bit nervous to submit to WS.

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