I’m Canadian and have been living in France for 28 years, more than half my life. I originally came over to do a Masters in Art History at the Sorbonne. Then I was offered a job at the Canadian Embassy, and after that at the OECD (an international organization known for its comparable statistics). Neither jobs had anything to do with art history, but I wasn’t ready to go back home. I loved wine and cheese too much! The Internet was just starting back then. I taught myself how to code and I managed the OECD’s websites for the next 20 years. Fast forward to a few days before my 50th birthday. I was informed that my position was going to be cut. Leaving the OECD was a blessing, not even in disguise. I felt like a prisoner who had just been set free from a golden cage.
For the next chapter in my life story, I wanted to do something that made my heart sing. Wine was my passion. I knew a lot about it, but I didn’t have a document to prove it. I signed up for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) program to become a certified wine professional. The more I ventured into the professional wine world, the more I realized how male-dominated it was. When I judged wine contests, trying to find another woman in the room sometimes felt like looking for Waldo. Ditto when I attended professional wine fairs. I started to seek out women wine professionals. One winemaker from Burgundy told me that men and women didn’t behave the same way during tastings. She explained that men tended to be more interested in technical information, like methods of vinification and percentage of grape varieties, and that they liked to use their knowledge as power. She laughed and confided that some men even liked to mansplain how she made her own wines. She also mentioned that women were either intimidated or bored by technical information. That gave me an idea.
I wondered what would happen if I did women-only tastings?
While I was becoming a certified wine professional, I was also teaching an international MBA class at a university in Paris. During breaks, the young women in my class would pick my brain about life, work, relationships. I realized they wanted to be mentored. I was also meeting a lot of older successful women who were sitting on mountains of knowledge and experience they wanted to share. They had been there, done that, saw the movie and got the T-shirt. I connected all the dots and created Delectabulles, a champagne networking club for women so that women could connect while sipping a glass of bubbly. I also made the conscious decision to only use champagnes made by women. It was my small contribution to supporting women in a male-dominated industry.
Behind every great bottle of champagne is a woman
Learning about wine is a very humbling experience. The more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn. It touches upon history, geography, geology, chemistry, legislation, culture, etc. I decided to specialize in champagne and other sparkling wines for a long list of reasons. The main reason being that women played a critical role in the history of champagne. Mesdames Clicquot, Pommery, Bollinger, for example, profoundly changed the way champagne was produced and marketed. Women continue to play an important role today. The CEO of Krug is a woman, so is the cellar master of Jacquart, and the list goes on. I love telling the stories about the fearless women behind the bottles.
Did you know that Mme Clicquot invented the rosé d’assemblage method? Or that Mme Pommery invented brut champagne?
Women love their wine
Shortly after creating Delectabulles, I realized that the women attending my events could tell me if they preferred champagne x or champagne y, but they didn’t know why. I decided to teach Champagne Masterclasses for Women. I wanted to give women the tools to better understand what they liked and why, which factors affect aromas, quality and price. How to get the best bang for their buck was particularly important considering that 75-85% of wine is purchased by women. The women attending the classes confirmed they preferred a women-only learning environment. They felt “safe” asking questions. They also felt empowered, especially those who opened their first bottle by themselves.
At the end of my first year, Delectabulles was voted Best Wine Tasting in Paris by Expatriates Magazine. I was up against some very big names and received 85% of the votes. I suspect it is because women love to support other women. I know I do! I partner with female entrepreneurs for all of my tasting events (e.g. Yoga and Champagne, Chocolate and Champagne, Shoes and Champagne, Cheese and Champagne and now Bubbles and Bras!) I also now take women on off-the-beaten path day trips to the Champagne region. And of course, we only visit estates where women play a key role. Cheers to all the women who love champagne! And cheers to all the women who make it!