How did The Wine Bible get its name? How was it unlike any wine book of its time? What was it like as a young woman trying to break into the male-dominated New York wine scene in the 1970s? Why are there significantly fewer women than men with the Master Sommelier designation? How does wine help you to immerse yourself in other cultures?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, former wine correspondent for the Today Show, the first Food and Wine Editor of USA Today, and creator and Chairman Emeritus of the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- Where did the idea to write The Wine Bible come from?
- How is The Wine Bible different for you, as a reader, from other comprehensive wine books?
- How does wine help you to immerse yourself in other cultures?
- Why does hearing the story behind a wine create a more enjoyable experience for you?
- What was it like to try to break into the male-dominated New York wine scene in the 1970s?
- How can you confidently charge your worth?
- Why do you see significantly fewer women than men with the Master Sommelier designation in the US?
- What types of roles would you see typically filled by women in the wine industry?
- How does the proportion of female executives in the wine industry compare to corporate America?
- How has the “Me Too” movement impacted the wine industry?
- Why was the naming of Karen’s book so emotional?
- What hurdle was Karen able to overcome with 8 years of silence?
- How does Karen believe some women in the wine world are downplaying themselves?
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I really believe that wine is a lens into the culture of a place and the more you fully immerse yourself in that culture, the more the wine makes sense as part of that tapestry. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
People want a story. They want to hear about other people, not just the cold analytics. - Natalie MacLean Click to tweet
I so clearly knew what all my questions were and all the things that were confusing to me and everything I didn’t understand and, years later, those questions became the basis for The Wine Bible. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
There are external issues that women have to deal with, overt discrimination and things like that. But then there are more subtle, internal ways that I think we might hold ourselves back and they are in some ways even more dangerous because they’re often subconscious. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
Only 4% of all the corporate CEOs in America are women. So for 13% of the wine industry, we’re actually ahead of the game there. - Karen MacNeil Click to tweet
About Karen MacNeil
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- Ann Hui & Ivy Knight’s Globe and Mail Article | Canadian winemaker Norman Hardie accused of sexual misconduct
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Transcript & Takeaways
Welcome to episode 91!
How did The Wine Bible get its name? How was it unlike any wine book of its time? What was it like as a young woman trying to break into the male-dominated New York wine scene in the 1970s? Why are there significantly fewer women than men with the Master Sommelier designation? How does wine help you to immerse yourself in other cultures?
That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m chatting with Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, which has sold more than one million copies worldwide. She joins me from her home in Napa Valley.
I’ll include links to Karen’s books and newsletter, the wines we tasted, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and how you can join me on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern, including this evening if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published — that’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/91.
Before we dive in, I wanted to share a little story about tomatoes since they’re coming into season now.
As Miles was setting down a tomato plant on the patio last June, I asked him: “Are you going to water it regularly?”
“Of course,” he said smiling.
He’s so good-natured that it’s hard to give him that you-better-do-it look.
Last year’s vine was very sad and shriveled by the fall.
The difference this year is that when I hear it gasping, I give it some moisture and encouraging words.
However, the only thing I seem to grow well is impatience.
How about you, have you tried to grow anything this year? Let me know via email or on social media.
Speaking of tomatoes, on CTV News, we chat about pairing them with different varieties, from heirloom to vine-ripened.
You find that video clip in the show notes as well.
Okay, on with the show!
You can also watch the video interview with Karen that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my chat with Karen MacNeil. The audio ended abruptly due to technical difficulties on Facebook. However, I’ll pick it up here.
On June 19th, 2018, Ann Hui and Ivy Knight of The Globe and Mail reported 21 allegations of sexual misconduct against Norman Hardie, arguably Canada’s most famous winemaker. As the journalists observed, his winery was a hub for celebrity chefs and industry power-players in the posh, pastoral enclave of Prince Edward County, the budding Hamptons for Toronto, just two hours north of the city.
Prince Charles and wife Camilla, as well Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie had visited Hardie’s winery. The New York Times, Wine Spectator and Vogue had all written about Hardie’s wines.
Hui and Knight interviewed more than fifty people in a six-month investigation to report that 21 women were willing to come forward with sexual allegations against Hardie. Three women said Hardie had groped or kissed them against their will, and, they wrote, “18 others described requests for sex by Mr. Hardie, and deliberately being exposed to pornography.”
The Globe had contacted Hardie about the investigation several months before publishing the piece to give him fair opportunity to comment. At first Hardie denied the allegations in a letter, but after the story was published, he posted an apology on his website, saying that he was “approached several years ago by trusted colleagues who expressed concern about our work environment becoming too familiar and, specifically, with my behaviour and language. I was also told that the socializing and overly-familiar bantering with colleagues needed to stop… some of the allegations made against me are not true, but many are.”
The Wine Council of Ontario, which represents more than 300 wineries in the province, suspended Hardie’s membership. The Ontario Wine Awards organization stripped Hardie of the 2018 Winemaker of the Year title. The award, whose mission statement is to recognize and celebrate the excellence of the province’s Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) wines, also included the need to provide a safe and respectful working environment.
Personally, I decided not to review his wines going forward, and to remove his wines from my website, even though I believe they’re well-made. Blood diamonds are beautiful, but we don’t buy because of the unethical practices used to mine them. That’s why fair-trade, cruelty-free and sustainably produced food and drink are on the rise. There’s more to a product than the product itself, especially if we believe that every bottle of wine tells a story.
I’d been reviewing the wines since he launched the winery in 2004, as had many of my team of writers. In total, I removed more than 500 reviews.
Before doing so, I shared my decision with my team so that they could save their reviews elsewhere if they wished. I also sent the following note to my 270,000 subscribers as many of them had saved these wines in their virtual cellar accounts on the site:
In light of the recent allegations of sexual harassment levelled at Norman Hardie, winemaker and owner of Norman Hardie Wines, reported in The Globe and Mail this week, I will be removing all listings and reviews of these wines from our website and mobile apps.
I believe in the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, however Norman Hardie has subsequently published a statement confirming that many of the allegations are true.
Immediately thereafter I started determining how to do this quickly and effectively within our database, which contains hundreds of reviews of these wines from our team of writers.
As well, there are thousands of listings from those of our members who keep cellar journals on our site.
Therefore, I wanted to let you know that these listings will be deleted to give you a heads up in case you’d like to save your cellar notes or wine reviews elsewhere.
Actions speak louder than words, so I’ll keep my own words focused on this action, and leave the excellent editorial and reporting to Ann Hui and Ivy Knight of The Globe and Mail.
More than three thousand replies flooded my inbox, most endorsing my decision. There were a dozen angry comments and people choosing to unsubscribe. #GoodRiddance
Despite 21 victims coming forward to report a wide-ranging pattern of unwanted sexual contact, groping, lewd comments and requests for sex, and despite Hardie’s own admission that many of these allegations were true, no charges were ever laid. His wines remain on the shelves of the LCBO. Hardie has kept his position as owner of the company. And, according to the Globe, his victims received no amends. Personally, I had hoped that Hardie would set up a fund for women in the industry or donated a portion of the proceeds from his wines to a similar cause.
If you know of any updates to this case, please contact me at email@example.com. I’d really appreciate it!
You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Laura Werlin, one of the planet’s most authoritative writers on cheese, and cheese and wine pairings. She’s won six James Beard awards, that’s like the Oscars for the Food and Wine world, for her books and she also was a regular instructor at the Cheese School of San Francisco. She joins me from her home in San Francisco next week.
In the meantime, if you missed episode 23 with Randall Graham of California’s Bonny Doon winery, go back and take a listen. Randall is a winemaker and visionary for whom I have deep respect. He’s also hilarious with a razor wit. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the wine tips I shared.
You’ll find links to Karen’s books and newsletter, the wines we tasted, a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find us on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, including this evening — that’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/91.
Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine you pair with reading some of the terrific stories in The Wine Bible!
Karen MacNeil 0:00
A couple of things that I noticed are a proliferation now of business cards and organisations that are things like wine goddesses, wine chicks, wine, which is the most recent one, which I don’t think I shared with you, but just stopped me in my tracks said wine. Whoa. I mean, I didn’t. I felt like my whole body just crumbled when I saw that and have thought, language is very powerful language marginalises why anyone would demean themselves by using these kinds of terms. I don’t know. Can you ever become the CEO of a wine company? If you’re a wine chip? Maybe, but I wouldn’t vote yes.
Natalie MacLean 1:01
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 91. How did the wine Bible get its name? How is it unlike any wine book of its time? What was it like as a young woman trying to break into the male dominated New York wine scene in the 1970s. Why are there significantly fewer women than men with the master sommelier designation? And how does wine help you immerse yourself in other cultures? That’s exactly what you’ll discover. In this episode of The unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m chatting with Karen MacNeil, author of the wine Bible, which is sold more than a million copies worldwide. She joins me from her home in Napa Valley. I’ll include links to Karen’s books and newsletter, the wines we tasted, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and how you can also join me on facebook live every second Wednesday at 7pm. Eastern, including this evening if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie MacLean comm forward slash 91 Before we dive in, I wanted to share a little story about tomatoes since they’re coming into season right now, as Myles was setting down a tomato plant on the patio last June, I asked him, Are you going to water that regularly? Of course, he said smiling. He’s so good natured. It’s so hard to give them that you better do that. Look. Last year’s vine was very sad and tripled by the fall. The difference this year is that when I hear gasping out there, I give it some moisture encouraging words. However, the only thing I seem to grow well is impatience. How would you have you tried to grow anything this year? Let me know via email or on social media. And speaking of tomatoes, and CTV News recently we chatted about pairing them with different varieties from heirloom to vine ripened. You’ll find that video clip in the show notes as well. Okay, on with the show. Our guest is the former correspondent for The Today Show. She is the first food and wine editor of USA Today newspaper and she has been published in more than 50 newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Town and Country and worth. She is the author of the seminal book the wind Bible, and is the creator of the digital wind newsletter wind speed. She also created and is now the chairman emeritus of the red Centre for professional wind studies at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. And she joins me from her home in Napa Valley. Welcome Karen MacNeil. So good to have you here. And so many people have been anticipating this chat tonight, Karen, we’re all big fans of yours and the work you’ve done in the wine industry. Not to mention the fact that you’re or to mention the fact that the wines Bible has sold more than a million copies. Congratulations on that. Thank you. Thank you. So amazing. Tell us about the backstory about how the book first of all got its name.
Karen MacNeil 5:12
Well, you know, it’s the big name right, the wine Bible. And it’s not really my name, because after I finished the first edition, which took eight years, I brought it in to Peter workman at workman publishing. And he looked at it, you know, it’s 5000 pages. It was a big manuscript. And he lived through it very quickly. And he said, Oh, my God, this is fantastic. We’re going to call it the wine Bible. And I said, Absolutely not. Absolutely not appear that’s too big of a statement. I mean, that’s a pretty big statement. And he said, Well, apparently you didn’t really read your contract that well because if you did, You would know that while you’re a subject expert, you’re not a marketing expert. And the title of a book is considered part of the books marketing, not part of the books content. So you actually don’t get a say, I think I started crying or something, right. I was like, Oh, no, you’re kidding. Anyway, he said, so we are named to get the wind Bible. And he did. He was right, though, and I’m forever grateful.
Natalie MacLean 6:29
So how did you come up with the idea for the book itself? Did you set out to want to write something definitive and comprehensive or where did this come from the notion for this book?
Karen MacNeil 6:41
Yeah, actually, I had written a piece on food in the New York Times Magazine section. Of course, that was on a Sunday. And on Monday morning, this is when I lived in New York. I got a call from Peter workman. Of course, I was shocked because he’s a legendary publisher in New York. He simply said, Do you want to have lunch? And I said, Yes, of course. And he said, Okay, good. take a cab Meet me at this restaurant downtown at noon. So I went down and met him. And he said, so what book Have you always wanted to write? At first, I thought, this isn’t happening to me, right? This is the equivalent of being an actress and sitting on the drugstore stool and getting discovered. stupidly, I said, I don’t want to write a book. And he looked at me and he said, wrong answer. Again. And so I thought, all right. All right. So I said to him, okay, okay. I do want to write a book. But let’s see if I wanted to write a book. What would it be about? Why? And he said, wine, because workman at the time was famous for the silver powered cookbooks and the piece that I had written that he really loved in the New York Times. was on food. And he thought I was going to say, whatever rizona or something. But of course, he just looked at me and he said wine. Okay, wine it is and can you have it done in a year. And that’s how it started. But seriously, in all honesty, though, when the gravity of that really settled in for me, I realised that what I did want to write was the book that I always wished that I had had. And at the time, I mean, that first contract was in 1991, there weren’t a lot of very good wine books. And most of what there was, were written by British authors. They were very different in style and in tone than what I wanted to write.
Natalie MacLean 8:49
Right. And so just to make a point of that, some people will be familiar with the Oxford Companion to wine by jancis Robinson, how would you differentiate apart from of course, she takes it from a British point of view. But her book is very comprehensive as well. How would you differentiate the two?
Karen MacNeil 9:07
Yeah, well, you know, when you think about all those, the great British critics, right, for many of them, wine was very much a part of even their college education. They went to Cambridge or Oxford or a place that had a big seller. And that’s not the case for most Americans. Also for a lot of Brits, they assume a familiarity with European geography that is just completely not the case. I mean, I remember as a young woman thinking, hmm, narrow so and may con is one inside the other, are they beside each other, like where are these places? And then there is the tone of a lot of British books historically was a very sort of upper crust, dry academic writing, you know, history, culture, food or All of that stuff was just stripped out of those books. And they were really hard to read. I mean, they had very narrow audiences. Admittedly, they were the only great books. I mean, I read Hugh Johnson religiously, in particular, when I was a young woman, but I wanted to write a book that was very American in its viewpoint. And that was conversational in its tone. In fact, I get letters all over the world, people write me saying, I just love this style of writing, because I feel like you’re sitting there with me talking to me. It was, by definition, a more casual tone, I think, because Americans do have a more casual tone. And also it was written by a woman, an American woman, and that was already very different in the 1990s than what existed then. And the other thing I suppose to answer your question specifically, I know Chances are very well, and she’s a friend. But the Oxford Companion is so good if you have a specific question, but as you know, you know, you look up who knows what, micro oxygenation, and then you have to flip back to sulphur. And then you have to flip back to micropore filters or something, right? You’re going back and forth. It’s not a narrative. It’s not story, and so much of what makes wine compelling. I think it’s a story that holds you captivated. Absolutely. So tell us then from the book, what would be one of the more surprising insights that you discovered or stories that came from researching and writing the wine Bible? We think of ourselves, I say we because I have a office and so I think everyone in my office feels this way now, as really good researchers and really people who work hard to discover The fascinating elements of wine. And I’ve always believed that what makes wine compelling is the way it’s woven into the tapestry of culture and history and food and religion and philosophy. I will never forget that when I was working on the second edition, I was researching the Argentina chapter. And my editors Suzanne Rafer called me and she said, Where are you? And I said, I’m in Argentina. She said, What are you doing? And I said, Well, at the moment, I’m learning the tango. And she said, Karen, it’s a wine book. And I said, I’m pretty sure that you have to understand the tango in order to really get Mel back. She laughed, and I love to but you know, I really do believe that I really believe that wine is a lens into the culture of a place And the more you fully immerse yourself in that culture, the more in a way the wind makes sense as part of that tapestry. So I’ve had great experiences doing crazy things all over the world, because I think they do connect back to why
Natalie MacLean 13:19
I have to hundred percent underscore that I mean, when I travelled to Argentina, you know, I would read fictional books by famous authors there I went to visit the tomb of Ava and yes, I did take a tango lesson to Karen. So I am with you. I just love that intertwining of the culture, and the wine because wine is culture, which I think you often comment on. So I love that you take that approach. And it does lead to more storytelling if you do that.
Karen MacNeil 13:47
Definitely. And you know, you can sometimes see something about a wine when you’re consuming it in its culture that you can’t see in the kind of cold light of morning. In your own office or something, it’s why I would never want to be a critic. I consider myself a writer but not a critic. I mean, we taste about 3000 wines a year in my office. But the idea that every morning, you sat down in an office building and just tasted whatever, you know, 50 Chardonnays every day and tried to write a tasting note about them. That seems to me not only very difficult, but I myself would really miss the richness that surrounds wine.
Natalie MacLean 14:34
I am so with you on that I resonate with what you’re saying, because I think it’s the narrative, the story that compels me to wine as well. And not to dismiss wine reviews, they are a service, but for me, they are like the recipes of the wine world. So they are a great service. You need to know how to cook your steak or which mirlo to buy. But the real compelling notion is the story you can wrap around it. I think we see that happening with cookbooks in that the ones that are memoir driven, have the best sales potential. People want to story. They want to hear about other people, not just the cold analytics, as you say. Right. So let’s turn out to the hard hitting speech that you delivered at the women on wine conference, some incredibly great insights and observations there. Maybe we could start though with a story that you shared about tasting regularly with five of the leading critics in New York City in the 1970s. What was that
Karen MacNeil 15:34
about? When I started in New York in the 70s, it was a city of 7 million people. And there were maybe 10 women in the wine business, or maybe nine. I shouldn’t put myself in there because I was only a wannabe in the wine business at the time. You know, I was writing primarily about food at that time, and I really wanted to learn about that. Because I wanted to understand the whole world of gastronomy. And wine, of course is critical to gastronomy. So I couldn’t figure out how to do this because there were no classes. Retailers didn’t serve wine. There was really no way into the business. And in the 70s, there were magazine articles written by some new york based men, but there weren’t barely any American books. Alex Bessel off was one of those men and he had written a couple of books. For him prior, it was at the New York Times, but there was no way to get into the industry. And for me, as a young woman, there was no way to taste important wines, right? Because as a food writer, you don’t have a lot of money. And I had no idea how I could ever even begin nevermind master the subject, how I could even put my toe in the pool, so to speak. So the wine world in New York was controlled by these five Gentlemen, and they wrote for all the national magazines, all of which were headquartered in New York. So they effectively controlled wine journalism in the entire United States. And one of these guys was a friend of mine. And he knew I really wanted to learn about wine. And he approached the others. And he asked if I could taste with them, because every week, they tasted the great Wines of the World, you know, the kiante, producers would fly into New York or the port producers or whatever. And they would put on elaborate, fantastic tastings just for these five guys. He posed this as a question to the others. And they agreed to let me taste with them on one condition that was that, that I’m not talk Oh my gosh. And I didn’t talk for the next eight years. I tasted with those guys, every week, and didn’t say a word.
Natalie MacLean 18:00
behind that, did they just not want to interrupt their camaraderie? Did they not feel your expert enough? I think they didn’t feel I
Karen MacNeil 18:07
was expert enough, which was right. You know, it’s kind of a thinkable today, you would never do that. But it didn’t offend me. I mean, I took that deal immediately and happily, because a, I knew the exposure I would have to these great wines was going to be phenomenal. But be I would have listened to anyway, I probably wouldn’t have said very much, although I was desperate to ask them questions, because they were so knowledgeable, and I did have so many questions. You know, they didn’t want to be pestered, and they didn’t want to be bothered by a young woman who I don’t know if they imagined that I would be chatty or somehow take up their time or interfere with their concentration. In any case, I did learn from them though. I of course tasted with them and I modelled them. behaviour. I mean, they were very serious. They took notes quietly, they concentrated, they were really, really professional in their approach. And so I’m very grateful. I mean, I still it still drove me crazy that I couldn’t interrupt them and say, Hey, wait a minute, you know, describe to me how tanan works. But they taught me things in a sense silently, that I am still grateful for and, and the best part is, in a way, there’s a silver lining to the story. Because, you know, I so clearly knew what all my questions were at all the things that were confusing to me and everything I didn’t understand. I mean, I had lists of things I didn’t understand. And years later, those questions became the basis for the wine Bible.
Natalie MacLean 19:49
There is the silver lining quite a thick one at that. We are but that’s fantastic, Karen. So let’s jump ahead now because you have another great story about You were discussing hosting a wine tasting for 150 lawyers in Philadelphia. And you’re on the phone. Now talking terms with one of the women at the firm, about fees and everything else. What happened?
Karen MacNeil 20:16
Yeah, yeah, this happened actually very recently. And it’s a story I tell as part of what is now an annual piece that I write on the status of women in the wine industry. So I do a lot of corporate seminars for biotech firms and law firms and insurance firms. And I had been asked by the managing partner of a law firm headquartered in Philadelphia, to do a seminar for 150 of their lawyers. I agreed to do it and he passed this off to a colleague of his and to work through the details. And so you know, we were talking about all the details, how many ones Are all of the logical details. And after about a half an hour of this conversation, she said to me, by the way, what’s your fee? So I told her and she said, Why would I pay you that that’s really high. I mean, I could get a local guy to do this for a fraction of that. And I thought, Oh, you know, I mean, for every woman has this moment, right where every insecurity runs through your head. I immediately wanted to defend my fee. I wanted to recite my accomplishments. I wanted to innocence prove to her my worth. But luckily, I had the good sense to remain quiet for a minute. And then I just said to her, you know, I guess there’s a real good parallel here. If I had a legal problem, I’m sure there’s some local guy here in the Napa Valley. I could get to handle it or I could go to the best and hire your law firm. Just let it sit there for a minute. And then I said, and please allow me to give you the names of some very cheap guys.
Unknown Speaker 22:15
Oh my goodness, gracious.
Karen MacNeil 22:16
I was I was infuriated though because I mean, it may be it was naive on my part to imagine that a woman would immediately not question the worth of another woman. But I found it in particular very offensive that She challenged me in this way and specifically that She challenged my innocence right to have the fee that I do. Anyway, she was quiet and I didn’t do the seminar for them. And she later told me it was one of the highest rated seminars they’ve ever had.
Natalie MacLean 22:54
All right. Wow. I want to say You go girl, but I don’t know if that’s the right response. But that is so inspiring Karen Really? Wish things like that didn’t happen, actually. Yeah, I know, I’m recently too. So tell me again, I’m drawing from this speech that you gave, which was inspiring to me. How do you see women in the wine industry? Because I think we’re talking about women in the wine industry. But I think people can find parallels in any industry. How do you see them, belittling themselves their own skills and experience? You talked about the kinds of business cards you get?
Karen MacNeil 23:30
Yeah, by the way, we should say that if anyone is interested in reading these two status reports, they are on wind speed.com. You can go there and look under the blogs and they’re both they are, but there’s external issues that women have to deal with, right? I mean, over discrimination and things like that. But then there are more subtle internal ways that I think we know hold ourselves back. And these are in some ways even more dangerous because they’re often subconscious. A couple of things that I notice are a proliferation really now of business cards and organisations that are things like wine goddesses, wine chicks, wine, which is the most recent one, which I don’t think I shared with you, but just stopped me in my tracks said wine Whoa, oh, I, I mean, I didn’t. I felt like my whole body just crumbled when I saw that. And I thought, you know, language is very powerful language marginalises why anyone would demean themselves by using these kinds of terms. I don’t know. Can you ever become the CEO of a wine company. If you’re a wine chip, maybe, but I wouldn’t vote yes,
Natalie MacLean 25:08
that is such a great point. And, you know, I totally subscribe to what you’re saying. And I would just ask you because I have to re examine my own assumptions after reading that caring because I have a little email thing that says chief of wind happiness, but it is a bit cutesy. And I just wonder, okay, so there are those women who are in the wine business in corporations or wineries or wine agencies. And then there are those who seek to entertain. I don’t know, do you think it applies across the board? I’m just trying to figure this out in my mind, you know what I mean? Like if someone’s trying to be at whatever TV personality or host doesn’t want to be CEO of a wine company. Is it the same? You know,
Karen MacNeil 25:50
it doesn’t brand you right, these terms do brand you and at some point, maybe if a young woman who has 25 then kind of hosts fun little get togethers among our friends could be the chief of wine happiness. But to me if you want to be known professionally and has to be careful about terms like that, and I know they do seem cute and casual and
Natalie MacLean 26:21
in an effort to make wine accessible, but
Karen MacNeil 26:24
But yeah, and then I wonder to myself, I say to myself, okay, would Michael Broadbent do this? I don’t think so. And I want to be as known to be as serious and expert as he is, right?
Natalie MacLean 26:39
Yes, I have not heard of why warlocks wine wizards.
Unknown Speaker 26:43
Natalie MacLean 26:44
no, it’s like Dude, well, maybe there are wine dudes. But anyway, yes, the proliferation isn’t there with the, the male
Karen MacNeil 26:52
men side of things. But you know, I also think there’s, I say these things with caution because I probably probably doesn’t help my popularity. But, you know, I also think that women sometimes hold themselves back in the wine industry, by the way they dress and this is a complicated one, because wine is in fact, social. And anyone in the wine business, women in the wine business have to go out, go out and go to restaurants, right? And we’re not only out, we’re out drinking wine, right? Wine plays a role in this. It’s a character and it’s a bit of a problem, right? Because here you are, it’s night, you’re at some glamorous restaurant, your social
Unknown Speaker 27:34
setting. It’s a social
Karen MacNeil 27:36
setting, you’re drinking wine. And so if you look at a lot of women in the industry, there’s a lot of short dresses, a lot of cleavage, a lot of heels, and I think to myself, hmm, can you become the CEO? If you become known to others, not in your own mind, maybe But to others if you’re perceived in this highly sexualized way or in any sexualized way, it’s unfair. I understand that it’s unfair. But women also live in a world that is unfair. I don’t know I see women coming and applying for jobs with me. And if you come in some little tank top and sandals, forget it. I mean, I’m certainly wouldn’t hire you because I feel like that’s not how you get ahead. How you get ahead is playing the part being the part, even if initially you have to play the part in order to be the part. It’s not by a little sexy girl book that you get ahead in the industry.
Natalie MacLean 28:45
It is and it is a double standard. men go out to these social situations as you’ve noticed, and they’re still pretty much dressing the same, maybe a fancier suit, but there’s no equivalent for a man to dress sexually at these events. It just reminds me of so many other industries. We have a terrific tennis player in Canada, Eugenie Bouchard, who won the Wimbledon girls championship when she was very young. And at Centre Court after winning the match, the first question the reporter asked her on all of this national television coverage was, who would you date? Like who would be your dream date and got her to talk about Justin Bieber? Not game strategy, not anything else. It was who would today? You know, it’s there. I think the response
Karen MacNeil 29:30
there should have been not you. And now we talk about something that I want to talk about,
Natalie MacLean 29:36
like my skills, my skills, my experience, my strategy. Yeah, it’s there. But yeah, it’s a dicey situation when you’ve got alcohol, late nights, the dress and so on. Alright, let’s come back to that, because that’s a hard hitting topic. But when we think about master sommeliers in the United States, there are 182 of them. Only 29 are women. Why do you think that is when it comes to this highly coveted professional designation?
Karen MacNeil 30:05
Those women by the way, make on average $4,000 less than males familia is even correcting for education level, location, years of experience, etc. It’s getting better though, because last year they made $7,000 less on average than males. So nowadays, that’s quite a jump. Do you see that
Natalie MacLean 30:27
gap closing then maybe
Karen MacNeil 30:29
you do. I do think it’s a bright spot in terms of the trend is moving in the right direction for female some le A’s. But you know, I too, was surprised that proportionately there are so few female smelly ways and I, I asked many women who had started out on that trajectory and then decided against it, why they decided against it. There seem to be two reasons. One is something we all know which is that restaurant work is really hard right? Every time Saturday night you’re not home and every holiday you’re working and you live at night for the most part, and it’s a difficult world. It has to be the world that you absolutely love. That’s just sort of restaurant work in general, I suppose. But a lot of women mentioned what they call this kind of pin kissing bro culture that Ms is now have. I’m not inside the master sommelier organisation. So I haven’t witnessed this myself. I’m just reporting it as it was reported to me. You know that it’s a boys kind of club. And it’s hard for women to feel really a part of that. And it’s a boys club where they drink a lot, right? So I don’t know. I can imagine it is tough, but a lot of the women I know who have become master sommeliers have been on the floor of restaurants for a while, but then move into The business world as corporate educators or in charge of marketing programmes or things like that, it does seem to be a logical off boarding kind of process for all kinds of Psalms, men and women.
Natalie MacLean 32:14
It just strikes me I was talking with previous guests about this. It just strikes me the low percentage of women and then layer on top of that the low pass rate, it just seems like the master sommelier, and to some extent, the master of wine or just private clubs to keep people out and especially women.
Karen MacNeil 32:32
Yeah, I don’t know that they intend to keep people out. But it does become a club a bit, I think, because in a logical, emotional way, because it’s so hard to do. I mean, it really is genuinely a hard hard exam. And as a result, you bond with the people around you. That seems to me a very human and understandable idea because it’s only the other people who have tried as you have tried and who understand how herculean kind of the task is. So it’s natural for it to become a bit of a club. I think I for one, though, I’m glad that we have masters familia is because you know, when you think about it, there were no master sommeliers in the United States before 1990. And they’ve been very much a part of raising the entire culture of wine in America and restaurant wine lists are light years light years ahead of where they used to be, thanks to Ms is, so I know that there are barriers for women there, but I hope women keep pressing and keep becoming a part of that world because it is an important world and it is helpful to the whole culture.
Natalie MacLean 33:53
Excellent. Well, all right, Karen. So wine is a $62 billion industry in the US Statistics aren’t available on the national level However, they are for California which produces most of the country’s wines. And you mentioned that the red cabinet an organisation of 100, female wine executives in California, found that women CEOs run just 13% of California’s wineries, making 10,000 cases or more because those that are less often don’t have those formal executive structures. Why is that especially when women are the majority entering programmes, like the enology programme at UC Davis,
Karen MacNeil 34:32
I think in part stems from the fact that within corporate structures, the CEO is often someone who came up through the sales and of the winery. And the red cabinet also looked at how women are dispersed in the wine industry, and they are disproportionately involved in human resources. Public Relations, and to some extent then also in marketing and communications,
Natalie MacLean 35:07
right, but they often call the velvet ghetto.
Karen MacNeil 35:09
Yeah, that’s right. But women don’t have such a strong presence in it, in sales and in finance, and sales and finance are usually the kinds of experience one needs to have in order to step up into the CEO role. What’s interesting, though, about the wine industry is that that figure of 13%, while it seems small, is more than twice three times the national average for CEOs generally only 4% of all the corporate CEOs in America are women. So for 13% of the wine industry, we’re actually ahead of the game there. And interestingly enough for wineries with between 100,000 and 500,000 cases So quite large wineries, 25% of the CEOs are women. You know, one has to look at this. I mean, those numbers 13% 25% seems small, but when you look at them comparatively, they’re actually quite high. And we’re not done yet. We’re not at 50%. But it’s pretty amazing relative to CEOs, generally nationally.
Natalie MacLean 36:25
Okay, well, that’s a good perspective to put on it. You have some provocative statements that I would love to dive into. What do you mean when you say we live among them, but some of them subconsciously hate us?
Karen MacNeil 36:40
That was a very hard sentence to write. And I had to think about it quite a lot. And actually, my editor wanted me to take it out. And we had a long conversation about that, too. But I think, you know, if you look at the past two years of how many men have either gone to jail or Or have been fired or disgraced via the meat to movement. And we know that the metoo movement is the people who have been revealed that it’s just the basic tip of the iceberg, right? And when you think about what is harassment, right, there’s overt sexual harassment. But there’s also a kind of ability to keep women in their place by keeping them down by looking over them talking past them, marginalising them in some kind of a way. And that’s a form of harassment to it’s just not overt. In fact, it’s almost a worse form of harassment because it keeps women in their place even when it’s not obvious. With all the me to stuff that came out though. I was just shocked to see that a lot of men responded by saying, Well, clearly the answer is we’ll have less women around us. You know, we don’t want to go out to a business dinner with a woman because maybe she’ll accuse us of something later. And I thought, Wait a minute, what about the idea of just behave appropriately? You know, that’s not so hard to do, guys. I realised, you know, this was a kind of a classic case of blaming the victim. Well, those women just by being around are somehow what tempting? I don’t know. So it’s hard to figure out psychologically, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of men don’t even realise that they underneath don’t really like women. Funnily enough, it’s often the men who are most sort of sexually provocative and come on to women alive. Men that sometimes really worry me.
Natalie MacLean 39:02
Wow, wow. some great insights there. And Karen, you may not be familiar with this case because it’s in Canada but we have one of the most renowned winemakers in Ontario. He was stripped of winemaker of the year last year for allegations made by 20 women. The Globe mail, our national newspaper published a report interviewed 50 people at the winery, or who had worked with him. And he admitted in a public statement saying many of the allegations were true. And so it just shook our wine world here in Canada. But what I found shocking it I don’t know if you have a view on what should be the repercussions of something like that is that the government agency wine retailers, essentially monopolies the lcbo, the saikyou pulled all his wines, and then six months later, they’re back on the shelves. I just found that appalling because one of their mandates is social responsibility, which of course means drinking in moderation, but it has a wider context. Next to wine culture, I actually love the wine. I never buy cases of wine. I bought three cases and I went to return it. The store manager gave me a tough time saying, Oh, it’s past 30 days. It’s like, Oh, I told him why I was returning. And he said, Oh, no, that issues been resolved. No, it’s not. And he goes on. It’s so blatant.
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Karen MacNeil. The audio ended abruptly due to technical difficulties on Facebook. However, I’ll pick it up here on June 19 2018, and he and Ivy Knight of the Globe and Mail newspaper reported 21 allegations of sexual misconduct against Norman Hardy. Arguably Canada’s most famous winemaker, as the journalists observed, his winery was the hub for celebrity chefs and industry power players in the posh pastoral enclave of Prince Edward County, the budding Hamptons for Toronto just two hours north of the city. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie had visited Hardee’s winery. The New York Times Wine Spectator and Vogue had all written about Hardee’s wines. We a night interviewed more than 50 people. In a six month investigation to report the 21 women were willing to come forward with sexual allegations against Hardy. Three women said hardy had groped to kiss them against their will. And the authors wrote, quote 18 others described requests for sex by Mr. Hardy and deliberately being exposed to pornography and quote, The Globe contacted hardy about the investigation several months before publishing the piece to give him fair opportunity to comment. At first hardy denied the allegations. In a letter, but after the story was published, he posted an apology on his website saying that he was quote, approached several years ago by trusted colleagues who expressed concern about our work environment becoming too familiar, and specifically with my behaviour and language. I was also told that the socialising and overly familiar bantering with colleagues needed to stop. Some of the allegations made against me aren’t true that many are, in quote. The wine Council of Ontario, which represents more than 300 wineries in the province, suspended Hardy’s membership. The Ontario wine awards organisation strict hearty of the 2018 winemaker of the year title, the award, whose mission statement is to recognise and celebrate the excellence of the provinces vintners, quality Alliance v QA wines also included the need for provide a safe and respectful working environment. Personally, I decided not to review Hardee’s wines going forward, and to remove his wines from my website, even though I still believe they’re well made. blood diamonds are beautiful, but we don’t buy them because of the unethical practices used to mine them. That’s why Fairtrade, cruelty free and sustainably produced food and drink are on the rise. There’s more to a product than the product itself, especially if we believe that every bottle of wine tells a story. I’ve been reviewing the wines since he launched the winery in 2004, as had many of my team of writers. In total, I removed more than 500 reviews from the site. Before doing so I shared my decision with my team so that they could save their reviews elsewhere if they wished. I also sent the following note to my 270,000 subscribers, as many of them had saved these mines in their virtual cellar accounts on the site. Quote, in light of recent allegations of sexual harassment levelled at Norman Hardy, winemaker and owner of Norman Hardie wines reported in the Globe and Mail this week, I will be removing all listings and reviews these wines from our website and mobile apps, I believe in the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, Norman hardy has subsequently published a statement confirming that many of the allegations are true. immediately thereafter, I started determining how to do this quickly and effectively within our database, which contains hundreds of reviews of these wines from our team of writers, as well there are thousands of listings from those of our members who keep seller journals on our site. Therefore, I wanted to let you know that these listings will be deleted to give you a heads up in case you’d like to save your seller notes or wine reviews elsewhere. Actions speak louder than words so I’ll keep my own words focused on the sound And leave the excellent editorial and reporting to an IV. an IV Night of the globe mail. Sincerely, Natalie, more than 3000 replies flooded my inbox. Most endorsing my decision. There were a dozen angry comments and people choosing to unsubscribe. Good riddance. Despite 21 victims coming forward to report a wide ranging pattern of unwanted sexual contact, groping, lewd comments and requests for sex. And despite Hardy’s own admission that many of these allegations were true, no charges were ever laid. His wines remain on the shelves of the lcbo Ontario’s largest liquor store chain and government run party has kept his position at the company. And according to the globe, his victims receive no amens. Personally, I’d hoped that hardy would set up a funnel For women in the industry, or donate a portion of the proceeds from his winds to a similar cause. If you know of any updates to this case, please contact me at Natalie and Natalie MacLean comm I’d really appreciate it. You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Laura whirlen one of the planet’s most authoritative writers on cheese and cheese and wine pairings. She’s won six James Beard awards. That’s like the Oscars of the food and wine world. She was also a regular instructor at the cheese School of San Francisco. She joins me from her home in San Francisco next week. In the meantime, if you missed Episode 23, with Randall Graham of California’s Bonnie doon winery, go back and take a listen. Randall is a winemaker and visionary for whom I have deep respect. He’s also hilarious with a razor wit. I’ll share a clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Unknown Speaker 46:59
The main My major has been very catchy. And it’s been helpful my cause issue I have though is that we in California, ultimately somehow need to get out of the shadow of our European colleagues, and somehow learn how to really define ourselves on our own terms rather than as something derivative or something referential to something else who wants to be the second best, you want to be your own thing? I think we in the new world have to get there somehow. I’m working on it. And I think the way to get there for me personally is trying to figure out what can we do in the new world that can’t be done in the old world that’s interesting and wonderful and pleasurable, but let’s do it and find the grapes that are uniquely suited to our sights, rather than take something else and try to make burgundy and style Pinot Noir or Cote. rotie like serraj, or Brunello ish Nebbiolo. For example.
Natalie MacLean 48:03
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the wine tips that Karen shared. You’ll find links to Karen’s books and newsletter, a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find us on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm including this evening. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie MacLean comm forward slash 91. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps at wine you pair while reading some of the terrific stories in the wine Bible.
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t Now on social media, so subscribe for free now at Natalie MacLean comm forward slash subscribe, maybe here next week cheers