The Times They are a Changin’
This song title by Bob Dylan is fitting for the new direction that wine programs are taking across America. For decades, men have managed the beverage programs at restaurants. During this period, the number of women sommeliers has been miniscule. Finally, women are getting their chance to join the “good old boy’s club”. According to an article from Time magazine, a “Growing Number of Women Filling Sommelier Ranks”, more women are breaking the sex barrier and it is long overdue.
In North America, there are 135 wine professionals who have earned the privilege to be called Master Sommelier, a designation issued by the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers. Currently, only 13 women have earned this title. Obviously, not everyone who works in the wine business has this credential. However, most have earned some form of Sommelier Certification. Of late, more women have embraced a career in wine, along with the long hours.
Restaurants have a variety of employees. Job titles range from busboy to wait staff to wine director. The wine director is responsible for the beverage program, staff management and training. This position commands a high income. Seldom are women employed in this higher capacity, as men were automatically given the role, regardless of experience or training. But thankfully, the (wine) glass ceiling is being cracked by capable women.
There has also been a paradigm shift among restaurant goers. Diner patrons no longer are surprised to when “the wine guy” turns out to be a “wine woman”. It seems silly to think that only a man could recommend a wine with dinner. But that’s pretty much how our culture and the hiring managers at restaurants have behaved over the years. There has also been an increase in the number female bartenders heading back to the classroom as students in wine certification programs. So, as more women enter the industry, they will undoubtedly rise to the ranks of Head Sommelier or Wine Director.
And just like women chefs had to kick down the kitchen door, women sommeliers have started doing the same. And given women have a better sense of smell and taste, this can only be good for the industry, as well as the food and wine enthusiast.