The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

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Page 14 of 108

14 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2018 { one woman's view } Karen MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible and the editor of the free digital newsletter WineSpeed. Dear Ms. MacNeil, I am writing to let you know how moving I found your article in last month's SOMM Journal about women in the wine industry. I am a sommelier and partner in a wine bar in New York City, and I can relate to all the topics you covered. In the past few months, I have been lucky to be sur - rounded by exceptional women in different aspects of the wine business. I'm pleased that there are so many accomplished women, and it has been meaningful to be able to discuss these topics with them and not feel like I'm crazy. One of the most difficult aspects of sexism in our field is that it's not always overt. In the rare cases where we speak up for ourselves, we are painted as reactionary. I find it's only with my female peers that I'm able to discuss these things and be heard. I have wonderful male business partners who are very supportive, but, not being women, they cannot empathize or internalize how it feels when, for example, a wine rep continually marginalizes me even though I do half of the beverage program with my male partner. Nor do they understand my frustration when guests write reviews and refer to me as a waitress, while my male counterparts are sommeliers or bartenders. You've inspired me to start a women's wine-tasting group, a vague idea that I had had for some months but that your article crystallized for me. You highlighted that female wine professionals "drop out" at a certain point and are eclipsed by their male peers. I suspect a part of this is that serious tasting groups are essential to pursuing an MS, MW, or WSET diploma. Tasting groups can be intimidating for anyone, I think, and even more so for women (certainly for me), who are often in the minority and who tend to question their own opinions for fear of ridicule. I am continually surprised when my own fears are echoed by my female peers, most of whom I consider to be rock stars. Our anecdotes and reservations re - garding professional advancement are almost never heard from male colleagues. Thank you for being a pioneer in the field and for writing such a thoughtful article. It was right on the money. I've shared it with friends and had it mentioned to me by an openly gay male wine professional who sees parallels for men like himself (another interesting topic). In addition to starting our tasting group, our wine bar's by-the-glass list will be featuring wines made exclusively by female winemakers for an entire month this summer. Whenever I am faced with a challenging situation like an interview or contributing to an article, I remind myself that it presents an opportunity to add another voice to those of my female peers. As women wine professionals, we need to either seize opportunities or create them for ourselves. Next time you are in NYC, please come visit. Sincerely, Alexis Percival Partner/Sommelier If you missed Karen MacNeil's article "Beyond the Wine Glass—A New Glass Ceiling?" you can access the December 2017/January 2018 e-edition of The SOMM Journal on the homepage of our website at Women Making a Difference A RESPONSE TO KAREN MACNEIL'S "BEYOND THE WINE GLASS—A NEW GLASS CEILING?" THIS WEEK, IN response to my SOMM Journal article on the status of women in the wine industry, "Beyond the Wine Glass—A New Glass Ceiling?" in the December 2017/January 2018 issue, I received this poignant letter from Alexis Percival, Co- Owner and Co-Sommelier of the New York wine bar and restaurant Ruffian. Percival's vivid description of what it's like to be a woman in our industry is a must-read. I was struck (and saddened) by how similar her experi - ences are to my own when I worked in New York restau- rants nearly 30 years ago. As I write this on Inter- national Women's Day, I'm hopeful but also more aware than ever that our work has only just begun. I will write a follow-up to my piece on the status of women in wine later this year, and if you are a woman in the wine industry, I'd like to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and experienc - es by emailing me at karen@

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