Celebrating our first Birthday!

What a year it has been. 2016 has proven to be a year that the world will never forget. Whether due to social, political or economic factors, we are yet to see the true effects on the wine industry. Price lists are already beginning to be adjusted and some producers are becoming nervous.

In our small corner of the world, one thing we can definitely celebrate is our first Birthday! We are incredibly proud and humbled to have received such industry support and hope that we can continue to make a positive contribution to the trade.

We are still finding out what works for the group and we’ll be sure to keep building on what we have learned over the last 12 months. Our aim has always been to help foster better relationships and enhance industry knowledge. We will continue to have this at the forefront of our minds, in everything we do, for 2017.

At each event it is clear that we are slowly but surely filling a gap that has long needed to be filled. The chance to meet peers and learn about the industry we work in from other women in the group has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring for many, ourselves included.

Professional Networking Without the Awkwardness

The word ‘networking’ often makes us cringe and in itself, is an activity that the majority of people find hard. It brings to mind cheesy slogans and awkward half-full rooms of people exchanging business cards. We set out to ensure that our events were professional, social and informative and we always tried our up-most to remove the cringe-factor. #ick

All those who have been to an event this year took a chance on something new. We especially want to thank those women who came to an event on their own, you are who we aspire to be! And to those of you who brought along a colleague or forwarded an invite to a friend in the industry, without you, the group wouldn’t have grown the way it has. A huge thank you to all for making this year a great success. 

WSTA Parliamentary Event : Women with Bottle, The women behind the wine & spirit industry

The Women in Wine LDN team attended the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s Parliamentary event which brought together MPs and wine and spirit industry professionals. The theme of the evening was particularly close to our heart, as the focus was "Women in the Wine and Spirits Industry". Among the large crowd there were a number of prominent women in the industry, from educators, consultants, importers, journalists and media personalities and English wine producers. We were incredibly excited to see so many familiar faces of those who are also Women in Wine London panellists and current members.

Tim Loughton MP (East Worthing and Shoreham) gave the introductory speech, as he was the event’s co-host and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Wine & Spirit Group. He talked about the historic and current importance of our industry to the UK economy and of the key role women have played in it. Co-host Flick Drummond MP (Portsmouth South) is Co-Chair for the Women for Work APPG and spoke passionately about her work trying to bring the challenges that women face in the workplace to the forefront, including structural challenges in our current society such as affordable childcare and the difficulties returning to work after maternity leave. 

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the speech of Sarah Morphew Stephen MW, the first female Master of Wine, who passed the exam in 1970. She recounted how she first became passionate about wine as a child growing up in Portugal, where she helped to pick grapes for harvest. Determined to join the wine industry, she persevered in landing a job at Ramos Pintos – despite the fact that several other Port houses had bluntly told her that women have no place in the cellar. Her natural talent and hard work resulted in her gaining a scholarship to study winemaking in France, where she did ‘genteel’ tasks like labelling bottles, but also allowed her to eventually work in Germany where she got hands-on winemaking experience mentored by a woman winemaker. There, Sarah spent two months in the thick of it; getting her hands dirty and scrubbing vats which, in hindsight, was an auspicious start to a winemaking career spanning Jerez to South America.

Sarah Morphew Stephen MW, the first female Master of Wine, giving a speech at the WSTA Parliamentary event. The crowd hung on to every word. 

Sarah Morphew Stephen MW, the first female Master of Wine, giving a speech at the WSTA Parliamentary event. The crowd hung on to every word. 

Sarah gained her MW title six years before the second female to do so (the equally indomitable Serena Sutcliffe), which illustrates the male-dominated bent of the wine industry forty years ago. She continued to burst through glass ceilings as she steered her career towards  technical analysis with a Bermondsey Street-based bottling plant where she rose up to become a technical manager and then as the first female buyer at a Yorkshire-based brewery. She also eventually became Asda first beer/cider/spirits/wine controller working with very good quality, every day drinking wine – a pursuit which she says was, in many ways, even more difficult than making boutique fine wine. 

It was an inspiring and empowering speech, culminating in the advice she once received from Madame Lilly Bollinger many years ago. Mme Bollinger, who was then in her 90s and still cycling vigorously around her vineyards, stopped to chat to Sarah and told her the secret of her own success: "My dear, never try to emulate a man. Always remain feminine". As Sarah noted, many of the women in that very room at Parliament – without any prompting or ceremony – had done exactly that and have been very successful. 

Miles Beale CEO of WSTA, Flick Drummond MP, Sarah Morphew Stephen MW and Tim Loughton MP. Photo courtesy of WSTA via Twitter @WSTAUK

Miles Beale CEO of WSTA, Flick Drummond MP, Sarah Morphew Stephen MW and Tim Loughton MP. Photo courtesy of WSTA via Twitter @WSTAUK

Special thanks... to Rebekah Kendrick, WSTA’s Parliamentary Affairs Manager, for the invite and for creating such a great event. Reflecting on the evening, Rebekah said,

“There are so many inspiring women in wine and spirits and this event was the perfect way to bring the industry together with Members of Parliament, to celebrate the incredible achievements that female distillers, winemakers, CEOs and MWs have made and are still making today. Working with the Women and Work APPG, as well as the Wine and Spirit APPG, really did show the support Parliament does have for women in business, and we look forward to their continued support.”