My aunt forwarded this article from the London Telegraph entitled, “Wine: grape leaps for womankind.” It discusses, briefly, the infiltration (in nicer words) of women into the “boys club” of wine making and selling.
Here is one part that stood out to me: Dee Blackstock, one of Waitrose’s team of buyers, thinks that women have a slightly different take on describing wine. ‘We often learn to taste from a very early age, usually at our mother’s side,’ she says. ‘As a result, we tend to compare wine to fruit and vegetables – real things you would find in the kitchen. Men are good at describing what I call the “bones” of a wine – body, tannin, structure and length. Women talk about real flavours and aroma, so we help to put flesh on those bones. We evolved this way; hundreds and thousands of years ago the women were the ones who learnt to taste in a sensitive way, making sure we weren’t going to poison the village.’
I’m not sure if I believe this, but with some supporting research, I definitely could. I’ve found that I, rather frustratingly, have great smell-identification abilities when it comes to food and other materials, but I have a very difficult time placing aromas in wine. I wonder if this has more to do with building up olfactory memories or smell experiences than it has to do with gender.
And here’s another bit that I liked: Very occasionally, she concedes, it takes a little longer for a diner to trust a female sommelier, but after they taste along with her, they never have any doubts. Naoko Tomita, 26, the assistant head sommelier at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, agrees. ‘Some of the guests used to react a little differently because I was female, but then that was sometimes a positive thing. Several said they felt less intimidated, that I was a bit easier to talk to. Now there are more and more of us, and when I go to wine tastings I see quite a few girls. But restaurants have been the last area of the wine world to catch up, and I still only see 10 to 20 per cent of the women actually ordering.’
I never really gave it any thought, but I’ve actually had surprisingly few female sommeliers in all of my restaurant experiences. I’ve never been offended by this (and I think that part what makes a sommelier stand out is if he/she is able to make me feel comfortable about ordering), but I wonder how I would feel and act differently if it were a woman serving me.
A little message to all the women out there: Courage! Order wine off the list! It’s really very empowering, and I guarantee you that 90% of the time your dining companions will think you’ve made an excellent choice. After all, the wine list is not trying to trick you. And if they’re men, they probably won’t be able to smell the difference, anyway. 🙂