How One Woman Broke In To Wine's "Boys Club" And Became A Certified Sommelier
Women love wine — at least according to the informal survey I took of myself and every woman I’ve ever met. That’s why I was surprised to learn that the wine industry has historically been a male-dominated field, and today, just 10 percent of lead winemakers throughout California are women.
Though she's an outlier in her industry, Jessica Altieri hasn’t let that intimidate her or get in the way of her optimistic, (wine)glass-half-full mentality. As a Certified Sommelier and recent Certified Water Sommelier with eight years of experience, Altieri is passionate about educating others, as well as encouraging women to get involved in the wine world.
This support of fellow females is matched by Olay, a brand Bustle has partnered with to celebrate women who are chasing their dreams and challenging gender stereotypes — women like Altieri. Read her story below to learn more about how barriers are broken, adversity is overcome, and success is achieved in a historically male-dominated industry.
1. She’s Truly Passionate About Her Career
The secret to enjoying any job is loving what you do, and Altieri discovered her passion for wine while working in a totally different career. As a former sales executive on Wall Street, she found herself extensively researching wines on restaurant wine lists in order to learn enough to impress her clients. Soon after, that ‘research’ became the best part of her job, so she left Wall Street to earn her title as a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. "The most rewarding part of my job is sharing the knowledge I’ve gained from traveling the globe and meeting legendary winemakers and vintners — and sharing a glass of wine with them," she says.
2. Her Work Ethic Is Unmatched
Confidence and knowledge matter whether your industry is a male-dominated one or not, Altieri says. As a former NCAA athlete, she's naturally competitive, which pushes her to work hard. She encourages other women looking to break into the wine industry to harness a similar go-getter attitude.
"I believe I can and will outwork anyone, male or female,” Altieri says. “That breaks down barriers fast. [Gaining access into the industry] wasn’t about being male versus female: How successful you want to be in this industry depends on how hard you’re willing to work and think outside the box."
3. She Knows When To Get Creative
To get others as excited about trying new wines as she is, Altieri is constantly brainstorming new ways to create experiences that push people outside of their comfort zones. She calls her approach 'edutainment' — a blend of education and unique storytelling.
"The old-school way of tasting wines meant sitting in a four-walled conference room in suits," she explains. "Today, I try and have consumers experience wines outside of a restaurant. If that means playing basketball with a winemaker or doing a tasting at a car dealership, then so be it. I want to open the wine world to people everywhere."
4. She Tells The Truth
One thing Altieri's friends outside of the wine industry are constantly asking her about is if wine glass shape really matters: "The short answer is, yes," she says. "The right — or better — glass can and will make your wine taste better!"
5. She Advocates For Other Women
There’s no guide book for women working in the wine industry, which is exciting, because it means those in the field today can write their own rules and mold the future, Altieri says.
"There’s an opportunity to be part of this revolution and create and make an impact," she says. "My advice for other women looking to get into the wine industry is to never stop pushing the limits: Find a mentor, think outside the box, and always keep learning."
Altieri emphasizes that the most important thing a woman working in a male-dominated industry can have is her confidence. "By being confident [and going after what you want], you will help empower others around you naturally," she says. "That’s why I feel Olay’s campaign highlighting strong women is so important."
This post is sponsored by Olay.