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More women signing up to be sommeliers

A new generation of female sommeliers is rising up through the ranks in London, highlighting that the industry is becoming less male dominated in the UK by the year.

Julia Oudill of CVS in Covent Garden

Leading the charge are Julia Oudill of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels wine bar in Covent Garden, Sandia Chang of Bubbledogs and Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia and Sunaina Sethi, co-owner and wine buyer for Michelin-starred Indian restaurants Trishna and Gymkhana.

At the same time, the median age of wine drinkers is dropping as Oz Clarke revealed last week that young people in London are more discerning about wine that older people and are more likely to splash out on a bottle of wine.

“Customers are getting younger and younger. Before, wine was only for older people who knew, or thought they knew, about wine,” Oudill told the Evening Standard.

“Now there is this new generation of sommeliers and the customers think, ‘you are basically like me’. It’s much easier for them to talk to us because we are younger and female. There is less intimidation,” she added.

Chang, who runs hotdog and grower Champagne venue Bubbledogs and the Michelin-starred Kitchen Table with her chef husband James Knappett, has also noticed that young diners are increasingly interested in and knowledgeable about wine.

“Young people are eating out more often. They’ve travelled more, they are not as traditional, and they are more open to having a younger crowd waiting on them,” she told the Standard.

Chang put the balance between “carrying boxes and stocking wines” versus “tasting and selling wine” at 80% to 20%, describing sommelier training as “hard”.

“Traditionally it has been a male-orientated industry. Recently it has become more humane and the hours are more accessible,” she added.

Chang is hosting an event on 1 June with Sunaina Sethi at Gymkhana to shine a light on ones to watch in the industry and exchange ideas on food and wine matching.

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