Some 2023 Golden Vines applicants – part 3

Isabella Rutayungwa

The last of our three collections of profiles of some of this year's applicants for the three Taylor's Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, winners to be announced in September. They have been written by Romané Basset of the foundation named after his father Gérard. See also part 1 and part 2.

Isabella Rutayungwa, pictured above, is a German wine professional based in Rheinland-Pfalz. She undertook a university preparation programme in Cambridge and went on to study business at EBS University in Germany and at KEDGE in Bordeaux. She came into contact with wine through her extra-curricular activities while at university, participating for example in the team which created the EBS student body’s own wine. As her studies continued, Rutayungwa says she ‘developed a love for the culture and the complexities of the wine industry’, which led her to begin undertaking wine certifications and gaining work experience in the wine trade with various companies. 

Growing up in Germany with a Ugandan father made her acutely aware of not only the challenges which individuals from historically marginalised groups face in the wine industry, but also of the importance of promoting diversity to create ‘an opportunity for BIPOC and BAME students to make their mark’ in the trade.

Rutayungwa says she is determined to undertake the MW programme as she feels that it will help to strengthen her voice in the industry while also allowing her to mentor and inspire others entering the sector. She found teaching a course at Geisenheim University in 2019/20 particularly rewarding. Her work ethic and knowledge, combined with her multicultural awareness, should stand her in good stead as she progresses.

Lele Ma

Lele Ma, pictured above, is a Chinese wine professional working in oenotourism and wine exports while based in Saumur in the Loire Valley. After having moved from China, with a Masters in Management Culture, to France in 2015, ‘to find [her] purpose in life’, she tasted a 2005 Chambertin Clos-de-Bèze that changed her life. She says that in that wine she ‘found all the elements that [she] was looking for … history, culture, terroir, humanity, art of living, emotion’.

Ma then decided to put her skills and competencies to work in the wine sector, joining a domaine in the Loire Valley and developing both their tourism offering and the export side of their business over the past five years, with considerable commercial success. She has now completed WSET Certification all the way to Diploma, and is preparing to undertake the MW.

Having seen the power which wine has to connect people, Ma now wishes to spread wine culture further around the globe, through education and an e-platform, ‘building bridges between Europe, Asia and Africa’. To that end, Ma has been in contact with the Africa Wine Academy (a grantee of the Gérard Basset Foundation since 2021), and in collaboration with them will seek to bring her wine educational content (which will comprise an accessible mixture of ‘blogs, videos, podcasts, online and offline clubs, wine selections, live experiences of food pairing’) to wine students in West Africa.

As announced yesterday, Ma has been awarded a Wine Scholars Guild scholarship to help her continue her studies.

Nupur Gogia

Nupur Gogia, pictured above up a vine tree, is of South Asian descent and is currently a Canadian winemaker, wine agent and wine educator based in Toronto, Canada. Gogia initially started on an academic path (which left her ‘somewhat scathed’, in her own words), gaining a doctorate in sociology. She went on to found an organic grocery with an academic colleague before she ‘stumbled into a pile of grapes and found [her] calling with wine’.

In 2013 Gogia enrolled on a WSET Level 1 course, after which she progressed through Levels 2 and 3 at a blistering pace, starting her Diploma studies in the autumn of 2013 and graduating in 2016. While studying she sold her business and began working for a small import agency, her entry into the wine trade. Enjoying a challenge and passionate about growing her skill set, Gogia then set her sights on the MW qualification, entering the programme in 2017 and continuing to push herself and study hard.

Gogia spent most of [her] WSET education as ‘one of the only BIPOC students in class’, which left her often ‘too intimidated to say anything or ask questions’. As a result of these experiences, driven by her longstanding commitment to all causes involving social justice, Gogia has become an especially active champion for the representation of people of colour in the wine industry. She is one of the co-founders of Vinequity (alongside 2022 Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholar Carrie Rau), the Canadian non-profit providing mentorship, scholarships and advocacy for BAME/BIPOC individuals working in wine, which has so far awarded over CA$50,000 in scholarships and bursaries. Gogia’s aim is to develop an MW research project to advocate for the rights of workers of colour in Canada’s vineyards.