The SW Summary: A call to increase diversity and inclusion in the wine industry, the future of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Scottish retailer WoodWinters is first to sell wine in paper bottles, and the upcoming Future of Wine Forum 2020

By Hanna Halmari

A call to increase diversity and inclusion in the wine industry

In Amelia Singer’s article for The Buyer, she examines the lack of diversity in the drinks industry and proposes solutions to improve diversity and inclusion. Singer begins by discussing the key reasons behind the “bullying and unethical behaviour [that] occurs internationally in the booze trade.” She identifies the “industry’s lack of boundaries” as a leading cause. By working together and drinking together, Singer says, there is increased risk of “untoward behaviour and harassment.” 

Another flaw in the UK’s drinks industry is its resemblance to an “‘old boys’ club.’” Although we see an increasing number of women in senior positions, the majority of “the most powerful importers, distributors and trade associations” have male leaders.  Commenting on the structural barriers to entry in the drinks industry, Singer asks, “How can we progress as a trade if we narrow the point of entry and then don’t provide an empowering space for the person who challenges yet enhances the woefully linear status quo?” 

The article proceeds to discuss the numerous recent initiatives in the global wine industry, sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, to “encourage [and empower] more people of colour to enter the trade.” In order for these initiatives to “professionalise” and bring together the “fractured industry,” Singer emphasises the importance of and need for collaboration, partnerships and an open-minded approach. 

Read more here.

The future of the Court of Master Sommeliers 

In The San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley continues to report on the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) sexual misconduct scandal in America. A few weeks ago The New York Times published Julia Moskin’s article in which she exposed the sexual harassment charges within the Americas chapter of the CMS, the examination body that awards the prestigious master sommelier title. Since then, “all 15 board members of the [CMS] American chapter have stepped down, in response to many public calls for their resignation.”  Mobley also notes how Alpana Singh, Laura Maniec Fiorvanti and Pascaline Lepeltier, three highly regarded female master sommeliers in the US, have “[relinquished] the titles they fought so hard to earn.”

In light of the ongoing resignations within the CMS, Mobley questions the organisation’s future, asking, “If more of its own members continue to denounce it, can it remain relevant in the world of wine?” 

Many enraged (and rightly so) actors in the US wine industry demanded for the CMS to be dismantled, whilst others called “for reformation within the board of directors.” According to the article, the CMS agreed to the demands of the latter and will elect a new board of directors. The new board will consist of 11 master sommeliers and four non-master sommelier members and will come into effect in December. Mobley points out how whilst this is a great starting point, an “overwhelming focus on the board” may result in the underlying issues being overlooked, referring to the fact that the CMS “is an agent of a larger wine culture that often promotes not only outdated gender norms but also racial disparities and classism.”

She further contemplates the future of the highly prestigious master sommelier credentials. Given the fact that the master sommelier “pin is only as powerful as others perceive it to be,” it is possible that the credentials will hold less value in the future. 

For now,  it seems that the CMS will remain in place.  As such, the industry should focus on “how it can promote different sorts of values for the wine world at large,” and strive to become more equal, diverse and inclusive as an industry.

Read more here.

Scottish retailer becomes first to stock paper wine bottle 

Writing for the drinks business, Arabella Mileham reports how WoodWinters, a Scottish independent wine merchant, “has become the first retailer in the world to sell wine in a paper bottle.” The wine, a Sangiovese with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is produced by Cantina Goccia in Italy. It comes in Frugalpac’s ‘Frugal Bottle,’ which the sustainable packaging company launched earlier in July this year.

The Frugal Bottle is made from “94% recycled paperboard that contains a food-grade pouch that can hold wine or spirit.” Weighing just 83g per bottle, the Frugal Bottle is five times lighter than a normal glass wine bottle. According to the article, this makes “its carbon footprint up to six times lower than a regular 75cl bottle.” Mileham highlights how the paper bottle is easy to recycle at home, sharing how consumers “only need to separate the plastic food-grade pouch from the paper bottle before recycling” as normal. 

The Cantina Goccia 3Q Frugalpac 2017 is the first wine to be bottled in the Frugal Bottle. It is now available in WoodWinter’s three stores in Scotland (RRP: £12.50), after a successful online trial on WoodWinter’s website, “which saw it sell out completely in four weeks.” 

Mileham quotes founder of WoodWinters Wines and Whiskies, Douglas Wood, who comments, “WoodWinters has always been keen on promoting innovation in sustainability so we’re very excited to offer one of our favourite wines in such an environmentally friendly bottle. We think it’s going to be hugely popular with our customers.” WoodWinters also plans to stock Cantina Goccia’s white Grechetto in the same paper packaging next year.  

Read more here

Sustainable Wine presents The Future of Wine Forum 2020 on Nov 26-27

The virtual Future of Wine Forum 2020 is just around the corner, taking place on 26-27 November. With more than 500 attendees already signed up, we’re excited to host a global discussion on the key sustainability issues facing the wine industry at this crucial time. We want to extend a big thank you to our sponsors, the British Standards Institution, Château Léoube, Concha y Toro UK, Control Union and Diam for making this important conference possible.

Join us for a debate-driven online conference where you’ll have the chance to hear from and ask questions to more than 50 speakers. These include CEOs of some of the world’s biggest wine companies and some of the smaller sustainable vineyard firms too. To see the full list of speakers, click here

The focus of the forum is on how the wine industry can respond to sustainability pressures, whilst making a business case at the same time. To facilitate the discovery and sharing of practical solutions and best practices to the key challenges, the agenda is packed with interactive sessions covering key topics such as:

  • How Covid-19 has changed the wine industry;
  • Wine sustainability definitions, standards and certifications;
  • Labels, transparency and wine marketing;
  • The future of wine packaging, logistics and shipping
  • Circular approaches and profitability;
  • Social sustainability, and;
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion in the wine industry. 

See the full agenda here and read Adam Lechmere’s fantastic coverage of the upcoming event in Club Oenologique here.

We look forward to two days of insightful debate and candid discussion on the future of wine.

Places are limited so make sure to secure your spot now by registering for free here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.