Xingyu Chen - Started the Wine Memoir blog & uses her Instagram platform to reach consumers.
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 business for 5 years. Having made a career transition from Wall Street to the Wine World, I started my Instagram WineMemoir as a passion as I was working on my WSET. Soon I started to write about my experience and commenced my blog WineMemoir. Today I utilize social media as a platform to bridge the communication gap between the producers and consumers. I do it in my unique way by combining photography with artful tasting notes - let the photo tell the story! My blog is where I do more extensive research, conduct interviews with winemakers by traveling to different wine regions and exploring the wines, terroirs, and cultures.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I live in NYC and the best part about this magic city is diversity - culture, food, and of course, wine! Unlike some people who grew up in vineyards or pairing wine for dinners in their families, I had very limited experience or knowledge about wine before I moved to NYC. My aha moment was through various wine pairings in all kinds of restaurants, of course, at first I had no idea what I was drinking...but amazed by how they could elevate the dining experience! I was so curious and decided to learn more through formal study - and so my WEST journey starts!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It feels great when people who only-drink-certain-type-of-wine tell me they fall in love with other regions/wines. Wine is still intimidating to most people today, and it is hard to get out of the comfort zone. My purpose is to encourage people to learn, to try, to ask questions - it’s all about broadening the horizon and keeping an open mind. By bridging the gap between the consumers and the producers, people would feel more relatable and accessible.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
Let me tell you, being a young Asian woman somehow takes away my seat from the table. I hate to admit the wine industry is still VERY male-dominated and conservative. Constant challenges from people questioning my expertise - most of the time simply because I come from a non-traditional wine country (China), to waiters always bring the wine to my husband or other male friends when I’m the one ordering the wine...
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and are often 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?
It starts with this: do not easily jump to a conclusion! Before we tend to make a judgment, especially a negative one, think twice! Don’t let unconscious bias and stereotypes get in the way.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Like any other industry, we benefit from diversity. We all come from different backgrounds and will bring different angles to the table. It cannot be only one voice.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
It’s good that people are uncovering these issues today, but we need more actions. I hope to see more scholarships for young women for wine programs, more opportunities, especially in key positions. I also hope to see more women of color in the wine world - together we can build a more supportive, inclusive community.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
What message do we have for men entering the wine profession? Just do it.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equal opportunity, equal pay. Diversity as well. We see many women in the “traditional female-dominated” areas such as sales, marketing, PR, communications, etc. and it’s great! But I also hope to see more female somms, winemakers, technical directors, etc.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I try my best to use my voice and platforms to enlighten women to learn, to challenge, and to contribute. Just because no one looks like you in the wine world doesn’t mean you don’t belong here! I’m always willing to share my ups and downs, and will be there if anyone needs me to chat more on wine and diversity topics!
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Passion, dedication, courage!
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Lin Liu, MS - the first Chinese female Master of Wine. She is exactly what I described above - she worked in Consulting/Finance for years and had no knowledge about wine, moved to France when she did not speak a single word of French... Fast forward to today: now she’s based in Cahors - Chateau de Chambert making wine and got her MW! How amazing is that! Jeannie Cho Lee, MS - wine educator and author. I look up to her and love that she introduces pairing ideas with Asian food to the world! Karen MacNeil - do I need to go into why? :-)