Richard Hemming MW: Improving diversity in wine

It’s painfully ironic that, for a product we value above all for its diversity, most of us who sell wine in Britain look unfortunately similar.

Over the past few months, the Black Lives Matter movement has resonated through our industry, as it has around the world, bringing long-overdue attention to the lack of diversity among wine professionals.

Considering that our business celebrates conviviality and sharing, I’d like to think overt racism within British wine retail is minimal
– although even the smallest amount is unacceptable, of course. Yet it has become abundantly clear from hearing the experiences of black wine professionals that apathy or inaction from any arena with a white majority is equally unacceptable.

Many of us might think we are blameless in this regard – I certainly did. But, in fact, that attitude epitomises white privilege – the obliviousness to how much harder it is for other ethnicities to reach the positions we occupy.

TAKING ACTION

Most wine retailers around the UK have a small team and minimal resources. It is rarely an easy way to make money, and our motivation is often more related to passion than profit. On the other hand, let’s be honest, working with wine brings huge pleasure, giving us access to tastings, dinners and trips that are the envy of those outside the industry.

The point is none of us have an excuse not to respond to any inequality that manifests itself in our Improving diversity in wine
Some actions are straightforward. If recruiting, ensure you don’t discriminate by race or any other factor industry. So, in practical terms, what can be done?

Some actions are straightforward. If recruiting, ensure you don’t discriminate by race or any other factor. Advertise in places that reach a wide section of society. Be proactive and check blackwineprofessionals.com when seeking candidates.

If you are planning events and working with your local community, reach out to organisations based on race – just as you would approach women’s groups. When interacting with suppliers and event organisers, ask them what they are doing to improve diversity. Find black and ethnic minority wine people on social media and don’t simply follow them, start a conversation.

For more ways to take action, see wineunify.com.

TAKING STOCK

Another way wine retailers can support diversity is through the wine we are selling. If all the bottles in your shop were represented by their makers, what percentage of white males would be on your shelves? It’s bound to be a majority, and 100% wouldn’t be surprising. The easiest explanation is to say that each wine is selected on its individual, objective merit. But if we can campaign in support of female winemakers, then surely every wine retailer should be able to find great wine from non-white producers too.

They needn’t be promoted or merchandised separately – indeed, such segregation is exactly the opposite to what’s required. Instead, they should be included as an integral part of the range, championing the cause of equality both for wine itself, and for the people who work with it.

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