On 22nd May, Women in Wine LDN hosted a panel discussion at the London Wine Fair’s Industry Briefing area.
We were invited by Hannah Tovey, the first female director of the London Wine Fair, who joined us on stage to give an inspiration introduction about her own journey through the industry.
Titled ‘Diversifying Thought Leadership’. The aim was to discuss whether the wine industry is reaching its female wine consumers effectively and creatively – a burgeoning topic in the UK, given that over 55% of consumers are female.
We were incredibly pleased to have such a notable line-up of panellists, as follows:
Managing Partner, Strategic Development at Coley Porter Bell / Ogilvy, UK member of the WSET Alumni Advisory Board
Wine expert, writer and presenter of “The Wine Show”
Waitrose Category Manager, Wines, Beers and Spirits
Chaired by Regine Lee, co-founder of Women in Wine LDN
We talked about a range of topics including consumer research into preferences by gender, wine marketing, and flexible working and gender diversity in the workplace.
The success of Prosecco among female wine consumers was considered and debated as a barometer of larger themes around gender and wine marketing and producer development. Alex mentioned that so much of Prosecco’s success is about the framing; it has become the go-to for everything from just a ‘treat’ to a ‘special occasion’ wine. Yet, it was a need that was filled – and any other drink could be a strong competitor with the right frame. Anne commented that, although Prosecco is seen as a ‘wine for women’ it is a more nuanced view of the statistics is required in terms of understanding.
We had some fantastic questions from the audience ranging from the relative importance of educating the consumer, ‘gendered’ tasting notes, and whether boosting female consumers’ confidence in wine should be focussed on food/wine matching.
General consensus was that and inclusive, diverse industry was not just better for the structure of companies but would also improve the relevance to the consumer.
In November WIW LDN hosted our Industry Mavericks and Creative Entrepreneurs panel discussion with speakers Charlotte Wilde (formerly of Sager + Wilde), Corinna Pyke (Borough Wines) and Maggie Campbell (Privateer Rum) at SW4 wine bar in Clapham.
The evening offered an informal conversation about what led to success, the challenges they faced, their career progression and their businesses. "'Entrepreneur' wasn't a word association I ever expected, but I was always trying to increase my value as I progressed [through my career and my studies]' says Maggie Campbell, Head Distiller and Vice President at Privateer Rum, Director of the American Craft Spirit Association and Master of Wine Student. This was certainly one of the themes that resonated throughout the evening: Find your niche and develop your offering. As Charlotte explained of Sager + Wilde, arguably one of London's first and most successful modern fine wine bars, 'No one was doing it. And we thought, there's demand here. We just need to do it right'.
They also spoke in depth about the dedication of the teams around them, the importance of hiring - and keeping - individuals who believed in the value of the business. 'It's so important to us that our sales team is on board with the buying decisions we make' commented Corinna, who is a partner and Marketing Director at Borough Wines. Aligning their product with customer feedback and their sales teams knowledge has been imperative to growth. Charlotte echoed this sentiment saying that for her, it was the people who worked at Sager + Wilde and the customers that shaped the business to be what it is. She learned quickly that the decisions they made had to have a net positive impact: 'from the wine list to the type of loo roll we had, any decision to spend an extra pound had to benefit the customer'.
Each highlighted key aspects for success in their business: the importance of strong distribution in the US (Maggie), the need for great communication to customers to make wine accessible (Corinna), and growing in a sustainable way (Charlotte).
They also spoke about how influenced they were by colleagues, friends and peers and how this now shaped their careers and professional outlook. Maggie spoke about a decision made by Privateer's president to delay building a tasting room at the distillery until they had stronger distribution across restaurant/bar customers. As the tasting room would have been an easy and quick revenue channel to set up, '[Everyone said] he was wrong and it was crazy and in actual fact, it was one of the soundest decisions we made. You can't grow that much in sales volume with a tasting room, but you can with better distribution; that was the important thing to focus on first. It was a learning experience [for me]'.
Thank you once more to our panellists and to SW4 for hosting us. Please watch this space - 2018 events are in the works.
On 10th August, we held a multi-faceted summer social, combining a talk on ‘Is Wine Gendered?’ followed by our first speed networking session. Over 40 women working in the London wine industry joined us at the Liberty Wines office in Clapham for a very successful and inspiring session.
Sula Richardson (WSET) and Clara Rubin (Veraison Wine Education) kicked off the evening with a reprisal of their P(our) Symposium lecture, which explored the ways in which wine marketing, communication and tasting are influenced by our conceptions of gender. They argued that a more nuanced approach is needed, taking into account the realities of both people consuming wine and working in the wine industry. View their P(our) talk here.
Networking for people who hate networking
The speed networking section of the evening was introduced to Women in Wine LDN leader, Hannah Van Susteren, as the ‘We hate networking’ portion. Recognising that ‘networking’ is usually cringe-worthy and often feels artificial, we sought to do something different. After selecting a playing card randomly from a deck, people found the three others with their same card number and practised their elevator pitch and engaged in conversation to get to know each other.
The groups switched every 15 minutes as everyone selected new playing cards and arranged themselves into new groups. Although we had questions to prompt the groups – e.g., “What are the biggest challenges in your job?”, “Whose job in the wine industry would you most like to steal?” – we found that by just by putting engaged, interesting and career-minded people together was a conversation starter in itself. Women in Wine LDN organiser Regine Lee said, “The true gauge that our speed networking session was successful was that even after I literally kept hitting a gong to get the groups to finish their conversations, pretty much all of them ignored me and continued talking to each other!”
As we received fantastic feedback, we anticipate that we’ll do another speed networking session later on, and some further events focussing specifically on professional development.
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.
The Women in Wine LDN group met at Liberty Wines October 19th, where we held a panel discussion on wine buying. We had an amazing set of panellists who talked about different aspects of the role of being a wine buyer as well as the challenges they face across different sectors of the trade:
When asked about what wine buying entailed, several common themes emerged from all the panellists. They work closely with their counterparts in forecasting and sales to source the right wine that will not only work from a price point of view, but will also give the consumers value, or as Vicki put it aptly, “relevancy to their lives”. Buyers are no longer bringing in wine and relying on consumers to just accept their selling points, instead they are focused on what consumers want from the product. Another similarity is their heavy involvement in forecasting and quality control. On top of this, they firefight supply chain problems and currency fluctuations; juggle the constant priorities of working with stores, consumers and dealing with producers, as well as the added pressure to be on top of market trends.
Emma discussed the approach that Marks & Spencer has in creating their range;
“If we are doing the same thing as all the other supermarket retailers, there would be no point in us existing. We need to go above and beyond and offering customers something that much more special and exiting. I like being a maverick sometimes.”
She then spoke about how she sources wine from far flung places like Japan and Brazil, finding the 'sweet spot' when tapping into consumers’ interest in taking a punt on something new and carefully balancing the right price and intrigue to get the sale.
Jennifer provided some key insights in to building Liberty Wines’ range, with their ultimate goal being to bring the best producers from a region on-board. She highlighted the ethos of the teams is to find wines that the sales team are also passionate about - inspiring them to connect new wines with their customers. The importance of quality control was discussed a great deal. It was clear from the discussion that buyers are not only accountable to the bottom line, but also to the consumers who need to be reassured that they will get a product that is not faulty and can be consistently relied upon.
Beth provided insights into the important aspects of buying wine for a pioneering on-trade channel of street food markets. The varied customers who eat at Street Feast are now people who are extremely knowledgeable about food and want the wines on offer to compliment this style of food.
She highlighted that following the trend of organic and biodynamic wine, people are “now looking for wine from unusual and from non-traditional winemaking countries like Turkey and Lebanon, which is also a reflection on how people are becoming more adventurous with food.”
Vicki gave a fantastic overview of buying wine for the fine wine market and its challenges: limited supply, the need to be reactive to consumer trends and demand, stiff competition from UK brokerages and international fine wine marketplaces. She also discussed the need to ensure that in the age of technology and emergence of online competitors such as Vivino, fine wine merchants need to make sure they add value to the consumers’ purchasing experience by providing spot on advisory assistance as well.
The discussion then turned to topical themes and what is making wine buying challenging today. Not surprisingly, Brexit was discussed in detail.
Other very juicy topics in our Q&A covered changing role of the La Place de Bordeaux on international markets, climate change’s impact on vintage variation and the long-term sustainability of winemaking and the competition wine has from craft beer.
It was clear from all of the panellists that in the world of wine buying, relationships are key. The supplier must understand the business and really get your customer for the chain of supply and demand to be successful - whether you are a huge supermarket or a street food specialist.
All in all, it was a very informative evening with a fantastic group discussion.
Special thanks... to Liberty Wines for hosting Women in Wine LDN and to our wonderful panellists. Cheers!
Up Next... We have an events lined up for December and January. Location and further details will follow shortly.
What are we now... In just a year we are 160 women strong representing over 50 companies within the industry. Please do extend invitations to your colleagues, contacts and friends; it has been incredible to see this community take shape and we want it to continue to grow.
Go on and… Chat to us on Twitter.
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 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.
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.”
We were incredibly pleased that Kathy Jordan was able to join us for an evening at High Timber restaurant to discuss her inspiring journey and dedication to her family’s business, Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Kathy spoke to a packed room, with over 40 women from the Women in Wine LDN group.
What began as a small, grape farm in 1990 run by her father-in-law, and “me, my husband Gary and a tractor driver” Kathy says, has grown 10 times in production to become a nearly 1,000 ton cellar winery which still maintains its family feel. Kathy spoke fervently about the business side of the estate. She described the transition from growing grapes to be delivered wholesale to a co-operative to making estate wine, largely driven by their confidence in the quality of the fruit. As their business expanded, so did their roles and management of the farm. Gary, a trained geologist, focuses the vineyard, while Kathy is involved in winemaking and business side of the estate.
A highlight was her discussion about their growth: “The reason that we grew is that we brought land from a neighbouring vineyard. That uniquely gave us every slope aspect on one property.” As a result, they were able to diversify the grape varieties planted, and expand their cellar and range. However with growth comes the need to regroup and make sure it’s sustainable.
“The most important thing to remember is that you will have a growth spurt, but then you have to consolidate. You and especially your staff may feel stretched at this time, so then you look at hiring more people and changing your processes. You have to be sustainable and look at what your growth is doing and the positives to make good of it.”
When asked about what has attributed to the success of the company she sites this type of strategic growth which she has applied to Jordan’s exports and channel strategy.
“It’s very important for a winery to have your wines available in the market where they are produced. If you export too much, people who tried your wines at your estate can’t find them nearby and then look for something else.”
Kathy emphasised the importance of having visibility on a restaurant list and staff recommendations in a very competitive market. They remain adamant that their wines are available on restaurants lists close to home –around 50% of their wine is still purchasable in South Africa and its neighbouring countries. This point in the evening provided a great opportunity for questions about building a brand and personal growth vs business growth.
Kathy also highlighted the importance of tourism to the South African wine industry and their efforts in this vein: a premium restaurant, bakery and luxury guesthouses on their Stellenbosch estate, as well as co-owning High Timber restaurant in London with their good friend, Neleen Strauss. Their success in diversifying their business is also due to the fact that they’ve remained focussed on wine. As Kathy says, “We’ve grown in many ways in different aspects. All of them are complimentary to winemaking, which is our main function.”
Kathy also spoke passionately about the evolution of the Jordan Women in Wine Initiative, a two-fold mentoring programmed dedicated to giving women from all over the globe with no prior experience in winemaking the opportunity to work a vintage, and supporting wine education and mentorship for disadvantaged women working in wine and hospitality in South Africa.
The programme has been an incredible success, and has expanded to other members of the PIWOSA (Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa) group in 2013, a collective of like-minded, premium, independent wine producers from across the diverse wine regions of South Africa’s Western Cape. As of now, the Women in Wine in South Africa has had 15 women in the international scheme and over 30 women in the South Africa one.
It was a great privilege to hear Kathy speak about her amazing experience in not only making Jordan Wine Estate at the forefront of producing and promoting quality wines in the region but also furthering women working in the wine industry globally as well.
Thanks so much to those of you were able to join us for Women in Wine LDN panel discussion: ‘Message in a Bottle.’ We were really pleased to have so many of you there and thought that the panelists offered great insight into communications from industry to consumer.
For those of you who missed it, we went to Liberty Wines on Tuesday evening, where our panel of speakers Nicky Forrest (Managing Director of Phipps PR), Abigail Barlow (Director, BD Creative) and Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW (Educator and international Wine Judge) discussed effective communication in the wine trade; they highlighted obstacles faced when developing a style of language, design and platforms for engagement that are relevant to the consumer and key to success. We include their bios at the bottom of the page.
The evening highlighted the cross pollination of education, visual design and public relations; it was clear that each sector faces similar challenges in navigating between under or over communicating wine to the consumer. Among discussion points were the power of the on-trade in communicating and hand-selling wines, and the importance of telling a story.
Forrest spoke in depth about the changing landscape of public relations in the wine industry, the growing necessity of community management (focusing on social media channels) and the influence of large, multiple retailers. The sentiment was echoed by Cherutti-Kowal who believes that the power of creating opportunities for consumers to taste different styles of wine especially through by-the-glass listings in the on-trade, is huge. She commented that it’s key for waitstaff to be engaged and trained, as they're the gatekeepers to effective sales.
Barlow led the discussion on story-telling, commenting on the influence of label design and the importance of winemakers themselves understanding the end consumer in order to sell the wine at the end of the day. She also provided key insights in to how design affects shopper buying habits and the generational and cultural differences she takes in to account when designing labels for clients.
Special thanks… to Liberty Wines for hosting Women in Wine LDN, to Charles Heidsick for donating their NV to our Champagne hour and to our panelists. Cheers!
Up Next... We have a social organised for Monday 15th August so make sure to get it in your diary. Location details will follow shortly. Please also watch this space for autumn events that are currently in the pipeline.
What are we now... In just a few short months we 135 women strong representing over 50 companies within the industry. Please do extend invitations to your colleagues, contacts and friends; it has been incredible to see this community take shape and we want it to continue to grow.
Go on and… Follow us on Twitter.
Michelle Cherutti MW
Michelle is a Master of Wine and highly-respected wine lecturer, having taught at the WSET since 2004. She is a chair judge for the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) and a frequent wine expert at major wine shows including Vinitaly, The London Wine Fair, The France Show and Taste of London.
Nicky is one of the leading wine communicators in the UK and lectures at the WSET on PR and social media. Her agency Phipps Relations is Drinks International agency of the Year 2015 and 2016 and has been Drinks Business PR agency of the Year twice in the last four years. She has just planted her own micro vineyard in Kent.
As Director of the award-winning creative agency, BD Creative, Abigail's portfolio includes a 2015 Drinks Business Award in Best Design and Packaging in Wine for 'The Wine Atlas' for ASDA. With 25 years experience, including brand management for Blossom Hill, retail for Oddbins and various buying roles, she really does know her way around a wine list. @BDCreativeUK