Originally posted in The SOMM Journal, written by Mary Montalvo.
WHETHER WE’RE SOMMELIERS, buyers, producers, or retailers, wine professionals often forget about one very important element of our industry: the fact that it is not all glitz and glamour but a business in which education is critical.
I sometimes find myself wishing that I could say I have been working in this exciting field for longer than the past ten years. Sadly, this is not the case, which brings me to why education has been my cause for the past three years.
Why is it so important? Well, let me guide you through how I joined the industry. I come from very humble beginnings in Puerto Rico, and my family wanted me to aim for the traditional careers of lawyer or doctor. So I followed the “professional academic” route, settling for law school and successfully completing my law degree.
I am forever grateful to those who welcomed me into the wine industry with mentoring, scholarships, and opportunities to grow; this is the time for all of us to pay it forward and spread the gospel that wine offers many paths to a formal career.
Once I started working at a law firm, I quickly understood that it was certainly not my passion. I moved to the mainland, where I started discovering the culture of wine; within a year, I decided to leave the legal industry and open my own wine bar with zero business background. As I broadened my network and progressed in my education, I came to understand all the myriad possibilities for forging a career in wine and grew frustrated that I had not known about them until I was 30 years old. I had acquired so much student loan debt in formal education while there was an entirely different option that I could have pursued instead.
Aspiring wine professionals have so many career options to choose from, from education and commercial enterprise to newer tech- oriented professions such as online sales and, of course, becoming a wine influencer, which is an uber-popular option given the power they exert on market trends. No matter the field, it is imperative that the industry open its arms to inclusivity in every aspect. I never experienced wine as a young adult in Puerto Rico, and I was not exactly welcomed as a brown girl with an accent when I ventured into the wine industry ten years ago.
Outreach to broader demographics is vital, as it could offer a life-changing opportunity for those who want to better themselves but view college as daunting and financially impossible. I am forever grateful to those who welcomed me into the wine industry with mentoring, scholarships, and opportunities to grow; this is the time for all of us to pay it forward and spread the gospel that wine offers many paths to a formal career. Let’s start by mentoring and facilitating access to education; bring- ing awareness to the nuts and bolts of the business; and making it our commitment to create a beautifully diverse industry with opportunities for anyone who wants to share our passion for this wonderful profession.
Fresh Voices is a collaborative effort between The SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel, and 501(c)(3) organization Dream Big Darling.The concept centers around providing opportunities to and amplifying the voices of the next generation of women in the wine and spirits industry.To learn more about Dream Big Darling, visit dreambigdarling.org or follow @dreambigdarling_org on Instagram.