Desiree Harrison-Brown - Wine Ambassador for Pernod Ricard Winemakers & runs the blog Wino Noire.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I’ve been working in the wine industry for almost three years. I started out doing wine promotions at local liquor and grocery stores in 2017. I transitioned into wine full-time as a sales representative selling wine in Maryland and DC. My current role is Wine Ambassador for Pernod Ricard Winemakers based in Los Angeles, California.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
After passing my WSET level 2 exam, I got the confidence to quit my corporate job and transition into wine. At the time, I didn’t realize that I had only scratched the surface in terms of wine knowledge, but my naivete paid off because it was the best career decision I’ve made.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is meeting people from all over the world and connecting over a shared passion for wine. Wine has the power to bring people together and that is my favorite part!
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
When I was a sales representative, buyers would blatantly ignore my presence on account visits and make excuses as to why they couldn’t taste with me during appointments. As a Black woman in wine, I feel that I am not taken as seriously as my male counterparts despite my credentials.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and often are more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each other and change that behavior?
There’s a great article in the New York Times that discusses jealousy. Shankar Vedantam says that, when someone succeeds in a field that we want to succeed, in our brains automatically and subconsciously set up a battle. I think this is true for a lot of women in the wine industry, myself included. The way I overcome this is to try to be aware of it and to instead be complimentary of another women’s achievement and not compare my journey. After all, one’s success does not negate your own.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
We will see more career growth and also an increase in women who view wine as an inclusive industry and viable career.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see more women, particularly more women of color, in leadership roles at wineries, importers, distributors, and corporations across the industry.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Working in wine is a lot of hard work and studying, but embrace the process of being a beginner. Learn as much as you can and don’t be intimidated by your peers. Follow your passion! What does equality in the wine industry look like to you? Equality in the wine industry looks like fair access to opportunities and pay. Equality looks like wine marketing that represents diverse consumers. Equality looks like diverse women having a seat at the table.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I am contributing to equality in wine by sharing my knowledge and communicating diverse stories of people in all facets of the industry.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
A wonder woman of wine is a trailblazer who leads by example and helps create space for other women to thrive in the wine industry.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There are so many Black women in wine who are shaking up the industry, challenging the status quo, and paving the way for other women to succeed. Here are just a few that come to mind: