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The International Sommelier Guild examines the importance of diversity and inclusion in the wine industry

The topic of how the wine industry can adapt to enable more widespread diversity, equity and inclusion has been a topic of conversation among industry leaders for years. Not only is rethinking the way the wine industry represents the world today crucial to its success and popularity, but supporting initiatives is also essential to improving our communities’ access to great wines and opportunities in within the industry.

As a recent recipient of the Gérard Basset Foundation Scholarship, the International Guild of Sommeliers knows the inherent importance of fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment in the wine sector.

Here, the International Sommelier Guild reviews what Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) means and why a commitment to this philosophy is vital to the industry.

What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) mean?

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are essential factors in creating and sustaining high-performing workspaces in all sectors.

Diversity refers to the demographic differences in a context, whether it be ethnicity, race, gender, gender identity, socio-economic class or sexual orientation. Equity is the presence of fairness, justice and fairness in an environment that promotes outcomes for individuals equally. Finally, inclusion ensures that diverse individuals are welcomed and feel welcome in their environment. Inclusive practices can empower them to participate in decision-making processes and contribute to development opportunities within the group.

These factors contribute to a workforce containing different perspectives that are valued in the decision-making process. These perspectives combine to work towards an industry that fosters innovation, creativity and stronger decision-making capabilities within wine.

About the Gérard Basset Foundation

The Gérard Basset Foundation was created in honor of the memory and legacy of Gérard Basset OBE MW MS MBA OIV MSc ASI World Champion. To support what Basset stood for, the organization notably tackles fundamental issues impacting training, mentoring and education in the wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

The Gérard Basset Foundation funds education, career opportunities and apprenticeships for the benefit of young wine professionals, with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion through wine education programs. global scale. Programs are funded based on several criteria, including support for Black and ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, students facing gender discrimination, Indigenous students, students of lower socioeconomic status, and those involved in research supporting diversity and inclusion in the wine sector.

The International Sommelier Guild’s status as the only North American sommelier training program to receive the Gerard Basset Foundation Fellowship in 2022 is representative of the organization’s commitment to educating diverse groups on the subject of wine. . This is in direct contrast to competitors in the space such as CMS who have had serious faults with how they handle DEI.

Why is a commitment to DEI important in the wine industry?

As a supporter of diversity, equity and inclusion in the wine industry, the International Sommelier Guild explains the various reasons why a commitment to these principles is so important. Below, the organization explores some of the ways DEI is contributing to innovations in the space to benefit consumers, talent and winemakers.

The potential for a better product

One of the obvious benefits of a more diverse and inclusive wine industry is the impact it can have on wine quality. Experts in the field suggest several reasons why this might be the case.

A commonly suggested way that diversity might affect products is by bringing new ideas and perspectives into the winemaking process. The diversity of perspectives in any industry is the cornerstone of creativity. A commitment to broadening the talent pool in wine can help launch the industry into the future.

Another way diversity and inclusivity can work together to improve wine quality is to attract a more diverse talent pool. As it stands, wine is an industry dominated mostly by white men. Using the United States as an example, experts find that 0.1% of wineries are black-owned or have black winemakers, while about 18% of winemakers are women. It is certainly possible that we are running out of potential minds in the wine industry simply because of its current lack of diversity.

Increase accessibility in the industry

Accessibility is a significant barrier to entry for people looking to break into the wine industry. If we’re not introduced to wine, it makes sense that we wouldn’t buy it or try to break into the industry ourselves. From there, a successful career in wine is not without obstacles either. Finances and access to quality programs can prevent those interested in the field from ever having the chance to participate and work on their professional development.

Part of this hurdle may be related to marketing. In the United States, the leader in volume of wine consumption, wine drinkers tend to be older and more affluent. This topic recently came to a head when experts acknowledged that the drop in wine sales in the United States (the first in 25 years) may be due to a drop in consumption in millennial communities. we market the wine and to whom naturally has a profound impact on communities’ interest in the products.

Increasing accessibility within the industry can be a powerful tool to help increase diversity in wine. By bringing wine to more communities, we can broaden the reach of wine talent acquisition while also working to build wine’s popularity across all demographics.

As the wine industry recognizes its reliance on an older, predominantly white demographic, there is a need to make the necessary changes to achieve a more diverse demographic where it is. This will involve changing the idea of ​​what a wine drinker or winemaker looks like as well as connecting with consumers on a deeper level. For example, many millennials tend to choose products on characteristics such as fair ride and durability. References to these practices could increase popularity in millennial circles while increasing a brand’s ability to do more good.

Start the conversation and push the wine into the future

Many industries have put their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion under the microscope in recent years. This prioritization is crucial for long-established industries such as wine, as it can have a huge impact on longevity and growth.

Communities, both rural and urban, are becoming more diverse over the years. Wine companies must recognize that there are pockets of opportunity within diverse communities to stimulate interest in wine and provide opportunities within the industry. Starting the conversation on how to contribute to DEI in wine is crucial for planning strategies and goals to reach new consumers and expand opportunities in the field through increased accessibility.

Pushing wine into the future will be a commitment to creating more profiles of the average wine drinker, both nationally and internationally. This will have a lasting impact on factors such as innovation in the field and the industry’s ability to connect with the many types of people who might want to gain a foothold.

What does DEI’s industry support look like?

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A huge barrier to change is the perception that it would be too difficult to facilitate. This results in many valuable players in the industry freezing up rather than making the necessary adaptations.

Wine industry experts wondered what steps could be taken to support DEI for a while. One of the most effective ways to do this is to take pages from organizations that have worked hard to bring important issues to light. For example, the mandate of the Gerard Basset Foundation is to “fund diversity and inclusiveness education programs in wine, spirits and hospitality globally.” Through its contributions to achieving these goals, the organization has highlighted several metrics to assess the steps that wine industry leaders have taken to show their dedication to diverse communities. Additionally, many existing groups working to achieve DEI goals have accessible resources that can help grape growers contextualize their efforts.

The International Sommelier Guild argues that much of what is needed to support DEI within the wine industry will involve companies deepening their practices. Factors such as the hiring process, training, and investments in the wine community can all play a significant role in how a commitment to fairness plays out in practice.