Rosa Lyn Joy Way Bueno, pictured above in Ribera del Duero, embodies the spirit of career switching. She has no shortage of talent and ambition but found herself in an inconvenient place, her native Peru, when offered a senior job in the US and when applying for a Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship.
Five years ago, I realised I was successful but unhappy. I had lived and worked in North and South America as a management and IT consultant for large multinationals such as McKinsey & Co and Cisco Systems Inc, but something was missing. In 2016, my family’s company went into a crisis, so I left my high-paying corporate job to help.
Having more time for myself, I rediscovered wine, my nirvana, and figured it is an area where I can work with passion, use my business and interpersonal skills, and awaken all my senses. I had taken many classes on wine and visited wine regions in North and South America, Europe and Africa, but I needed proper education. I enrolled in WSET and Wine Business Management classes. A few months later, I sold my car and enrolled at INSEEC Bordeaux’s Wine MBA.
I decided to stay in Europe after graduation to continue learning. I started as a purchasing intern at Vins du Monde, France’s (unusual) importer of foreign wines. My salary was just enough to live, but I decided to keep using my personal funds to make the most out of my time in Europe. My WSET Level 3 teacher, Tracey Dobbin MW, encouraged me to pursue the Diploma. I enrolled at WSPC Greece. A year later, my teacher and mentor, Konstantinos Lazarakis MW, called to congratulate me on obtaining the Diploma. It was a bitter-sweet moment, because if I couldn’t find a better-paying job, I couldn’t stay in Europe anymore.
I came back to Peru and started building a business plan to create a WSET school here – and then COVID-19 happened. I had to keep pushing, so I became a French Wine Scholar. I also applied for jobs similar to my old ones. Luckily, I ended up as Total Wine & More USA buyer and category manager for Bordeaux and Burgundy. I started as an independent consultant, working from Peru while waiting for a full-time work visa. Unfortunately, this time my lucky stars weren’t enough to win the visa lottery.
Here I am, far away from the traditional wine markets for the foreseeable future. This only means that I will have to leap forward to my goal of becoming, as the Indian MW Sonal Holland would say, a ‘winetrepreneur’ in three areas:
Consulting – as a bridge between wineries and distributors/retailers. Supporting retailers in portfolio analysis and sourcing. Advising wineries on creating competitive advantages using pricing, brand image, packaging, logistics, etc.
Education – bringing formal wine education to more people in Latin America, especially to those in luxury tourism. Generating more academic content in Spanish.
Advocacy – promoting wine by proving to people from all walks of life that wine can awaken their senses, using their own experiences and memories. I will promote Peruvian wines as the rightful companion to our now world-renowned gastronomy.
I am used to breaking glass ceilings. Now I want to break the highest one in my career: becoming an MW. I am also used to studying under the highest academic standards, working in international settings, etc. There is only one Latina MW, Marina Gayan, which means it is an enormous but reachable challenge. Similarly, listening to interviews with ground-breaking women such as Sonal Holland MW and Jeannie Cho Lee MW motivates me to follow in their footsteps. It proves it is valuable to be a dreamer and a pioneer.
Some thoughts on tasting
Tasting wine can be a daunting challenge but using our sensory memory and frequent practice paid off for me. At my first WSET Diploma programme tasting, I couldn't figure out why everybody but me could smell cassis. Then I realised I had never tasted or smelled cassis, so instead of being frustrated, I went and bought all these fruits and spices I didn't know before. I even carried a piece of liquorice root in my pencil case. At the same time, I made fun of my classmates when they found papaya aromas and I didn't, since I had papaya juice for breakfast every day during my childhood.
I realised we all had strengths and weaknesses when tasting, so the best way to improve was by leveraging my own memories and experiences. Then I finally developed associations to certain aromas and linked them to naming conventions to write professional tasting notes. Beyond the classroom, I had access to fantastic tastings while living in France. At INSEEC, iconic wineries such as Chx Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Figeac, La Lagune and others offered free tastings and visits. In Paris, I belonged to a wine club that tasted every week back vintages of top regions and producers.
Here in Peru, finding wines from classic regions is not only hard but expensive. However, I stretch my samples using Coravin and keep using my aroma kit to train. Moreover, I am discovering new wineries from Peru and the rest of South America that are doing an excellent job. After all, when life gives Peruvians lemons, Peruvians not only make lemonade, we also make the best ceviche in the world.
Unfortunately, since I didn’t win the visa lottery (a step prior to even filing my application), I had to stop working for Total Wine when my independent consultant contract expired a couple of weeks ago. I have been focusing on protecting my assets and my family’s under the enormous political uncertainty here in Peru. This task led me to count every penny I have, which is why I ended up not applying for the MW.
Uncertainty here nowadays is huge but I can’t give up. This crazy country gives me headaches sometimes, but it also gives me resilience. I have re-started the Italian Wine Scholar (I had started it last year and took a break when I joined Total) and started working on creating my professional social media presence. The idea for now is to build something that I can do regardless of location.