Georgia Panagopoulou - Complete WSET certification to help close a gap she saw in wine communication
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
From chemical engineering to wine: in 2016, I quit corporate life, landing a job in the PR of a winery. My thirst for knowledge leads me to continue with the WSET L3 and the MSc in Wine Management by OIV, visiting 30 wine countries to study the market. I started blogging about this experience starting what is now my brand: @wine.gini. These international studies made me realize there's a gap in the wine communication. There were few people who knew about wine and digital. To bridge this gap, I started a diploma in Digital Media and today I help wine brands with their social media growth and promotion, using digital marketing by acting either as their ambassador or behind the scenes, as their strategist.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I still remember a road trip in Italy while I was an Erasmus student, not sure about my career choice. It was the first time I was doing a winery tour in Tuscany, welcomed by a very ethereal and knowledgeable wine woman as the tour guide, coming from Germany with main studies in History. I asked her how she found this amazing profession. She said: ‘’Every passing minute is a chance to turn it all around.”
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Sometimes I pinch myself to realize that this is actually happening. The last years have been nothing but rewarding. I met amazing people, tried fantastic wines, visited beautiful wine regions. The fact that I am trying to build something of my own, combining my passion for wine and digital, while using my skills as an engineer to give customized and creative solutions for each client’s communication project, makes my everyday life a great adventure.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
As a young, female professional based in Europe, starting from nothing and focusing on digital and social media in a male-dominated — and in some cases conservative— industry, the challenges were numerous. However, the fact that my first studies, as an engineer, were in a similar environment made me realize how to confront such behaviors and stay focused on my goals. Women can thrive in whatever they put in mind, like any other human being, regardless of gender. Sexist behavior and mansplaining of course happen often. Personally I never remain silent, whether these comments are addressed to me or to other women. Being a feminist (= gender equality) is an everyday human fight. Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and often are harder on/more judgmental of other women as a result.
How can we, as women, become more aware of our own prejudice towards each and change that behavior?
That's a super important and deep subject. There are many women who don't realize that one of the worst results of patriarchy is the distorted image we, as women, have about our own gender. The internalized sexism is a behavior that we now start to realize. We are raised with very specific ideas dictated by the society, the school and our families on how we should treat our own gender. For example, we learn early on that competition is a norm. These ideas have such deep roots in our awareness that it takes a lot of work within ourselves, reading and action to fight with our inner interpretation of things, understand why we think this way and finally take these parasites off our heads and let new ideas flourish. I can only imagine how powerful women can be once they deconstruct that tendency towards this mindset.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Women live in a society that asks them to prove themselves everyday in different roles by putting pressure on them, constantly making them feel like they’re not enough, having guilt about everything. This working environment, which is part of our public life, can be improved for every woman drastically. Having equal opportunities in the salary and in job openings, supportive colleagues, more leadership roles, having our voice being heard and being treated based on our qualifications, is vital. This can give us the opportunity to be independent and stand stronger while addressing our needs in the field. It boosts our self esteem and how we perceive ourselves as humans in our society but also it can uplift the industry as a whole. With new ideas and women coming in, wine will be more inviting to a wider consuming audience. According to Wine Intelligence 2019 trends, men and women tend to consume equal shares of wine in terms of volume, so imagine the possibilities of an industry that actually talks to women and understands them. In many cases, wine is marketed like a Hollywood movie: rom-coms for women and action movies for men.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I wish I could foresee the future, but what I wouldn't wish to see again is CVs on the rubbish of higher/same qualification women candidates and cases of abuse or sexual harassment at work. I hope for more grants for wine studies, more women in key positions, more young women being interested and entering the field, and a supportive, strong female wine community.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Stay true to yourself.
What does equality in the wine industry looks like to you?
Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I try to do everything possible to inspire the women of my generation to be bold, to educate themselves, to travel, open their minds, trust themselves and chase their dreams. I am still a young wine professional trying to build my path, and it's not always easy. I share the difficulties, the wins and I am always supportive and approachable to women who reach out to me everyday with their worries or questions.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Empathy, Courage, Passion, Imperfection, Faith
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There are so many of them but I will mention three. Madeline Puckette, the creator ofWine Folly and wine communicator of the year has made wine cool, digital and accessible across the globe and is my idol for her creativity, knowledge and constant evolution of her project. Stevie Kim, the director of Vinitaly International, is running the orchestra behind amazing media projects to market Italian wine worldwide. She cares strongly about women empowerment and helps her team (which consists of many women) grow. Sarah Heller, a super young Master of Wine, is a bright and dynamic wine expert and a speaker in marketing and e-commerce who's also a content creator and visual artist marrying wine and art through creative projects with brands. Cheers ladies — keep inspiring us!