Wine Gone Woke (In The Best Way)

The 18th annual TEXSOM wine event, held in August 2023, provided a lively and educational venue for wine professionals to come together to network, to learn, and to consider the present and future of the industry.

Fermenting Diversity

In my three years of attendance, there has been a noticeable, and increasing, foregrounding of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) issues on the agenda. The presence of DEI in this space has come in the form of verbal acknowledgment of who is and is not in the room (whether literally or figuratively), the presence of event sessions that are clearly designed to center traditionally marginalized voices, and the active institutionalization of diversity celebration. My (albeit limited) history at the event suggests to me that these initiatives have fermented organically within the organization and industry, and moreover that TEXSOM is trying not only to “keep up” but also to serve as a leader in this arena of the profession.

Rising Above a Turbulent History

Sexual (and other forms of) discrimination in the world of fine wine was tacitly accepted until whistleblower events related to sexual discrimination and assault—which were largely presented as part-and-parcel of a wider context of gendered expectations and norms—rocked the industry in the late 20-teens and early 2020s (see examples here, and here, and here…). Notably, this newfound resolve around sexual and gender equity issues emerged alongside the Black Lives Matters and LGBTQIA+ rights movements, which were also gaining strength at that time.

After a collective moment of revelation and reflection, wine professionals had to regain their footing amidst a micro-revolution in the trade. The resulting equity transformation is evidenced by reconfigured boards of the major professional organizations in wine in the United States and by organizational and procedural changes at events like TEXSOM.

Elevating Conduct

In a demonstration of support and forward-thinking aspirations, TEXSOM (among others) adopted non-discrimination and ethics guidelines which were widely shared among participants and made highly visible within TEXSOM proceedings. Moreover, as revealed at the “Diversity and Opportunity Reception” at TEXSOM 2023, time, effort, and, importantly, money are being put into partnerships to foster diversity and inclusion within the organization and within the industry more broadly. Through partnerships with entities like Somm Foundation that also have an active DEI agenda, these kinds of efforts seek to build platforms for DEI-focused wine entities such as Co-Fermented, which promotes awareness and representation of the LGBTQIA+ community within the wine industry.

In Sum

In sum, while the history of the term “woke” is itself complex, it invokes the progressive, inclusive vision now evident in the world of fine wine. However it began, and however it was then twisted, according to Merriam Webster, the term now non-judgmentally describes people who are “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”

Based on that definition, the wine industry has definitely (and thankfully) gone “woke.”

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