Women smashing wine’s glass ceiling

9th June, 2014 by Lucy Shaw

In an industry historically dominated by men, women are increasingly smashing through wine’s glass ceiling with the number of female Master of Wine students now surpassing that of male hopefuls.

Kathrine Larson, Young Sommelier of the Year 2013

Kathrine Larson, Young Sommelier of the Year 2013

As reported by The Times, this year’s intake of Master of Wine students was made up of 171 women and 131 men.

Though women still have a way to go before the balance is redressed as 220 of the world’s 313 Masters of Wine are men, while just 93 are women.

While the London-based IMW has been open to both men and women since it was founded in 1953, the first woman to achieve the accolade of becoming a Master of Wine was Sarah Morphew Stephen MW in 1970.

“At school she wrote a letter to a prestigious producer in Portugal asking about a career. They wrote back and said, ‘No, we don’t think it’s a place for women’,” the IMW’s executive director, Penny Richards, told The Times.

Despite old fashioned attitudes persisting in the wine world, an increasing number of women are choosing to become sommeliers – an arena dominated by men.

“There have always been a lot of women in the wine industry, but it is starting to be picked up now.

“That could be because the ‘old world’ attitude is evolving and drawing in a far younger crowd,” Paisley Tara Kennett, general manager at trendy wine bar Sager + Wilde in Hoxton, told The Times.

Last year’s Young Sommelier of the Year award was won by Kathrine Larson, head sommelier at Zuma, while Emily O’Hare has worked as a sommelier at The River Café in Hammersmith for the past seven years.

The inaugural London Wine Week meanwhile, which took place last week, was organised by Emma Murphy, with the week’s final event, Wine Car Boot, headed up by former model Ruth Spivey.

3 Responses to “Women smashing wine’s glass ceiling”

  1. Jacques Hughes says:

    Once the old brigade of MWs start to retire and die off, you’ll probably find that the modern generation of MWs will become more female dominated – they’ll also be much more relevant to the industry as many ‘old’ MWs simply had to learn about classic wine regions in great detail. Somebody who has recently passed the WSET Diploma probably knows as much as many of the ‘old’ MW gentlemen who passed their exams in the 1950s. 60s and 70s. Its now just a matter of waiting!
    Also, in the UK many of the key buyers are now female, which is great to see.
    If the IMW had an ‘age of retirement’ or measurement of usefulness, the Institute would end off with about 200 members and this would greatly enhance the proportion of females.

  2. Matthew Kirk says:

    It was all reading nicely until the last sentence where the insertion of “former model’ to describe Ruth Spivey seemed to undermine the good words.

  3. Stan Brody says:

    Why the surprise…. it has been known forever that women have a more accute sense of smell… where the wine tasting experience commences… and tast… here in Napa Valley, several female winemakers are diva’s … mention Heidi oiir Helen and we all know who you are speaking of… not only that a great female somm, makes much of the austere attitudes about wine dissapear…

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