We're proud to have sponsored a completely independent initiative designed to encourage diversity.
Bamewineprofessionals.co.uk is launched today, with the aim of shining a light on the talents and achievements of wine professionals in the UK wine trade from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities – and encouraging a wider spectrum of individuals into the wine world.
As I wrote in The many hues of wine talent, the wine trade has, up to now, been overwhelmingly white. For many years it was overwhelmingly male but that has been changing. Now it’s time to encourage much more ethnic diversity in the wine business. In the US numerous initiatives have been springing up, encouraged by the Black Lives Matter movement, and there are now several such as Drinklusive in the UK too. We provide links to the most important in the Opportunities section of this new website.
It’s important not just to discourage the sort of discrimination, conscious and unconscious, that so many non-white participants in the world of wine have felt, but also because there is absolutely no reason why wine drinking and working in wine should be a white person’s prerogative. (See, for example, our early account of the Zim somms way back, and our current series of personal accounts of working in wine in South Africa.)
When I tweeted a week or two ago to encourage BAME wine professionals to sign up for our (free) listing, one or two people commented that this was divisive and that there was no need for a special place for them to be celebrated and to swap information and views with each other. Alas, that is far from true. Tales of myriad micro-aggressions alone are sufficient to justify the existence of the BAME Wine Professionals website. Julia Coney’s widely celebrated Black Wine Professionals site in the US inspired us to create something like it in the UK.
My colleague in establishing this website is wine educator and consultant Mags Janjo, who recently left his job as senior account manager at Roberson to set up his own company MJ Wine Cellars. As he knows only too well, the mainstream wine trade needs encouragement to recruit BAME individuals and to include them on their invitation and contact lists.
At JancisRobinson.com we are proud to have sponsored the setting up of bamewineprofessionals.co.uk but this is just a start. There will, I hope, be long-term effects brought about by the site’s existence, but there will also be running costs. We know that, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, there has been a massive change worldwide in awareness of the issues involved. Many individuals and organisations want to help but are not quite sure how. We are encouraging donations, however small, to help Mags keep the site up to scratch, and the mainstream wine trade is actively encouraged to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with offers of mentorships, work experience, scholarships and work placements. These will be publicised on the website, if appropriate.
One major way to advance within the wine trade is, of course, via the WSET, and we are delighted to have the support of Ian Harris MBE, CEO of the WSET, who is currently hard at work fine-tuning the global education leader in order to improve diversity and inclusion in the trade. Kirsten MacLeod (email@example.com), a management consultant specialising in diversity and inclusion, has joined one of the WSET’s diversity committees and is talking to other wine-trade organisations currently struggling to know where to begin. The Institute of Masters of Wine is also taking the issue seriously.
We’re pleased to also have the support of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Regine Lee MW of Liberty Wines and Women in Wine LDN, managing director of Oddbins Ayo Akintola, Michael Saunders of Bibendum and The Drinks Trust, and Sukhinder Singh who has built Speciality Drinks and The Whisky Exchange into one of the most successful wine and spirits merchants.
Onwards! We’re hoping for a dramatic increase in the number of individuals in our listing of BAME professionals in the UK wine trade.