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Vicki Denig - Fluency in French led Vicki to work in wine and tourism for the Languedoc region

How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.

I’ve been in the industry for six years now. I studied foreign languages (Spanish, French, Italian, and Polish) in college and was unsure what I’d do with it upon graduating. I was offered a position at Sud de France to work with the wines and tourism of France’s Languedoc region solely based on my language capability. I didn’t know shit about wine! They said it was okay and that I’d learn the basics. Well, I did, and I was immediately hooked! I then worked in a retail store for two years. This is where I really dove deep into the world of wine. I started as a cashier, and by the time I left, I was one of the buyers for the store. Today I am currently a freelance wine and travel journalist and I oversee all content and social media operations for Verve Wine, a bicoastal retail operation founded by Dustin Wilson, MS.

Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

I wish I could say that I had one particular moment that I could pinpoint, but truthfully, it was a collection of experiences at Sud de France. I remember feeling so inspired by the way that wine brought so many different people, cultures, languages and backgrounds together. It was so beautiful to see the way that so many different worlds collided through this one particular beverage!

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping people feel more confident and less intimidated by wine through approachable writing and content, for sure. There’s definitely a certain stigma and snobbery that is associated with wine, and I hate that. Like everything, wine should be accessible, enjoyable and inclusive in all aspects of its existence.

Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?

I definitely have felt prejudices for both my age and gender. I feel that young women get the brunt of it for sure. I can’t even tell you how many times older men would walk into the wine store, ask me for a recommendation, then roll their eyes at my response, then have the audacity to try and mansplain something about wine to me when they truly knew nothing about the subject. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to react less angrily, as it’s clear to me now that this type of reaction stems from insane amounts of insecurity, but it still definitely grinds my gears!!

Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and often are harder/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?

I think the first step is realizing when we are being judgmental or gossipy out of a place of insecurity, and instead, turn these sentiments into motivation and support. We need to realize that other womens’ successes do not make our personal successes any more or less valid. Our strengths and achievements don’t lie in comparison with one another, they all work for the greater good of getting womens’ accomplishments out there on the table.

When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?

I think we’ll see a lot more diversity and a lot more approachability within the industry, both of which are imperative to the greater success of everyone.

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 in positions of power. I wrote a story a few years ago where I spoke with Pascaline Lepeltier, MS and she is the one who really put this on my radar. The issue isn’t necessarily that we don’t have enough women in the wine industry (don’t get me wrong, there could certainly be more), but the problem truly lies in the fact that women rarely hold positions of power. We are seeing more women than ever working in wine shops, working the floors as sommeliers, and writing articles for publications, and that’s great. But where are the women RUNNING these publications, directing these wine programs or owning these businesses? Until we see more women in positions of power, the true underlying power will remain male dominant. We need to find ways to get women into leadership positions to truly see change.

What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?

Put your head down and work hard, strive for the ‘impossible’, and support other women along the way. Other women aren’t your enemies, they’re your friends and your support system. Have one another’s back. Have integrity.

What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?

Women and minorities in leadership positions! Until we see this come to fruition, the industry will remain white male dominant.

What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?

When I interview industry professionals for my stories, be it freelance or for Verve Wine, I always am sure to include an array of voices from different genders, races, cultures and backgrounds. In being conscious about reflecting a variety of faces and voices, not only do I believe that I’m contributing to equality in wine, but I also think that I’m creating better stories at the end of the day!

What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?

Someone who speaks her mind, lifts up others (both male and female) along the way and doesn’t take shit from anyone.

What other women of wine do you admire and why?

Pascaline Lepeltier has always been an inspiration to me, despite the fact that I’ve never worked the floor (and truly have no desire to! ha!) The way she carries herself professionally, advocates for honest wine, and is open and inclusive to anyone that wants to work hard and learn is inspiring. Julia Coney and Victoria James, too. The work they’re doing to advocate for minorities and women through their various initiatives is beyond inspiring. Ariel Arce, simply because she’s a badass entrepreneur and strong advocate for women in leadership positions at her four restaurants. There are so many! And to all of the girls who support other women working for the greater good of women in wine, I admire you too. You fucking rule.
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