Saturday, October 27, 2007

Changing Views of Women in the Wine Industry

he feminism movement in the past century has been a tumultuous one in the opinion of many people. In the wine industry, the process of women coming into prominence has differed in ways that validates comparison. Is this a process of evolution of different regions of the world, or the cultural differences between two distinct regions of the world? While the wineries of the New World have worked to improve their wines to the level of prestige of Old World wines, the changing atmosphere in the sex of the winemakers and owners of wineries in the New World have been more progressive than those in the Old World which may have something to do with this evolution.

Attitudes toward women in Europe have changed little in the wine industry over the centuries. Although there have been and are still exceptions to the case, women are not prevalent in the wineries of Europe. Most of the women who become wine makers and vineyard owners in the Old World end up there generally because there is no male heir to the business. Without a male heir, these women have been able to become members of the wine community but not without issues. Many of the modern wine makers and owners there find that networking and associating with their male peers to be difficult or impossible. In a male dominated industry many of the clubs have remained male-only venues where the mere presence of women as spectators let alone participants is shunned. These Old World ideas lend to the "Old" in that phrase. They hark from a time when Greek symposiums and Roman convivium barred the presence of women for fear of reckless and immoral behavior of the women. A few women have made head-way into the social networks, but have found their way of tasting wine in the basements of the clubs rather than with their peers.

There are exceptions to the rule however. These exceptions seemed to have come from women in the Champagne regions with the Veuve Cliqout and Madam Pommery. These women were credited with turning their wineries into power houses of France. Proper marketing prowess and skillful manipulation of markets as well as management of their staff helped to make names for themselves and their wineries. Although the credits for their achievements are sometimes attributed to the men who worked in their cellars for them, it can still be said in these cases that these women were intelligent and forward thinking to hire and control these men to achieve their desired results. However, this shows the Old World stigma of trying to shoot down the achievements of women to promote their wineries. It should be noted however, even these two women were self driven to promote their own establishments and personal advancement as individuals, not just as women as many of the women have done in the New World which has seemed to work well for them.

In the New World, women are much more prevalent in control positions of ownership and winemaking. This is due in part to the shedding of the ancestral passing down of family businesses to male heirs there. The women's Suffrage movement is probably a large contributor to this. Although women have not been as readily willing to climb the corporate ladder, it is not uncommon to find a woman winemaker in the cellars of some of the great wineries in California. When women have been unable to find wineries to work in, they have taken the opportunity to open their own wineries. This trend can be seen in the wine drinkers of the United States as mentioned by Professor Robert Smiley of UC Davis who states that "Women buy 77 percent and consume 60 percent of the wine in America." when only ten percent of the United States drinks wine, this is a significant statistic that leads to the number of women as students at UC Davis where they make up over 40 percent of the student population in the enology department.

One can not tell what the future holds for women in the wine industry in either the New World or Old World. It seems until the culture changes significantly in Europe, the pattern will exist in its current pattern for some time. With the significant "flattening of the world" with globalization, it seems that these patterns will shift to model the New World way of thinking. This is the true irony of an industry that uses the Old World as its product model. These changes no matter how long they take to happen rely heavily on women to become interested in the idea and push themselves into the market if they truly desire to be there. If they do not do so, then they are telling the world that the norm is a proper representation of their desires. It is obvious though, that in the New World this is not the fact and if women want to make those strides the New World is the place for them to make a name for themselves in the wineries and vineyards that they may privately own in the highly capitalist based economies.

Currently reading :
My Life in France
By Julia Child
Release date: 04 April, 2006

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