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Champagne Bollinger partners with Curious Vines on female-focused award

Curious Vines founder Queena Wong is tackling the underrepresentation of women in leadership with the launch of an education award in collaboration with Champagne Bollinger. db finds out more.

The Champagne Bollinger Curious Vines Champagne Education Award is now open for applications, and aims to upskill Champagne knowledge for a woman or non-binary person working in the UK wine industry.

Queena Wong, founder of Curious Vines, tells db the award was conceived as a result to barriers preventing women from attaining knowledge about Champagne specifically. “It is far more complicated than just an aperitif and the bottles are more expensive making the cost prohibitive for many,” she said.

Wong is therefore partnering with Champagne house Bollinger to provide the education programme. “The combination of knowing organisations who wanted to provide better Champagne education and who wanted to support the ethos of Curious Vines enabled me to bring people together to collaborate on an Award to give the best foundations on Champagne out there – it gives theory and knowledge, access to back vintages to taste and the privilege to attain deep diving into a Champagne House,” Wong explained.

The Award comprises the following:

A Champagne Bollinger Tutored Tasting. A deep dive into the house’s expertise, focusing on ageing on the lees, the use of oak barrels, assemblage, and the significance of magnum reserve wines in maintaining quality standards. An in-person guided tasting, with expert insights, you will gain a profound understanding of Bollinger’s craftsmanship, tradition, and commitment to producing the finest Champagne.

Wine Scholar Guild’s Champagne Masters Program enrolment. This course is the most in-depth and up-to-date certificate programme on the wines of Champagne and is led by industry-recognised experts, such as Peter Liem and Essi Avellan MW. From an in-depth study manual, live online classes and on-demand videos, every aspect is thoughtfully designed for a flexible and comprehensive learning experience. The programme culminates with a final exam and WSG Champagne Masters designation.

Bordeaux Index 20 Years On Vintage Champagne Tasting attendance. Bordeaux Index is providing access to this exclusive event to give the winner palate experience of a special vintage champagne horizontal line up.

Travel Cost Assistance. For those living outside of the M25 to ensure UK-wide inclusivity.

Women and non-binary people hoping to apply will be asked about their motivation to get into the wine industry in the first place, and told to give detail of their first Champagne ‘moment’ as part of the application.

Applicants will also be asked to indicate their prior knowledge of Champagne, exposure to tasting, and what they plan to do with the knowledge following completion of the programme.

Wong’s motivation is to combat the “underrepresentation in leadership” women and non-binary people face in the UK wine industry today.

In October 2023, Curious Vines partnered with market researcher Proof Insight to undertake the research, which surveyed 726 respondents to investigate the experiences of women in the wine industry.

Sexism, gender bias and harassment were considered the top issue faced by women in the UK wine industry, with 78% of survey respondents acknowledging sexism and gender bias as a key issue to tackle.

A lack of women in leadership roles and discriminatory pay and conditions were also some of the key issues outlined by women taking part in the research.

“Strong gender bias at leadership is not intentional – much is legacy,” Wong says, but the challenge is in shifting the dial in the modern world.

And once the status quo is more balanced, initiatives like this, she says, will become obsolete. “It needs a bit of help to get women into senior roles. I feel that once there is a critical mass of diversity then initiatives like these will be needed less,” she says.

Wong concludes: “Education and development is one way to give women the confidence, skills and knowledge to hopefully open doors to advance their careers. Hopefully my support of education will create a new generation who will be better equipped and more successful at entering leadership arenas.

“Research shows that having women in leadership roles can ensure that companies perform better. Those with more than 30 per cent female executives are more likely to outperform organisations with a lower gender balance. I want the wine industry to thrive.”

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