Women of wine

By the time my 2-year-old daughter chooses a career, I hope there are no jobs that seem off-limits to her as a woman. There’s no doubt women’s professional options — in the hotel industry and everywhere — are expanding all the time, but there are still some careers that remain mostly populated by men.

Yet the evidence is there that even currently male-dominated professions are evolving. My fellow HOTELS blogger Debrah Dhugga’s recently wrote about female bartenders, and along similar lines, I have been noticing more news about female sommeliers. Especially as a woman whose appreciation of wine has grown in recent years, I’m glad to hear about women rising to the highest ranks of the wine world and can imagine many ways women might bring unique qualities to the table as sommeliers.

As head sommelier at Cut at 45 Park Lane in London, Vanessa Cinti is among several women in similar roles at various Dorchester Collection properties. Interestingly, however, Cinti doesn’t see being female as a significant factor in her job. “I have never experienced a particular advantage or challenge as a woman versus my friends who are male sommeliers,” Cinti says. “This job is full of challenges, but they are not related to gender.”

Cinti also expects the ranks of women sommeliers to grow. “Sommelier schools are attracting more and more women, and at the moment, the majority of the resumes I receive are from women who want to work in this business,” she notes.

Zoe Hankins, recently named assistant sommelier at La Toque at The Westin Verasa Napa in California, agrees. “I believe this industry is evolving in a very modern and female-friendly direction encouraging more women to choose [becoming a sommelier] as a viable avenue in hospitality,” Hankins says. “I have found the key to success is the ability to relate to each guest, and once that is accomplished, there isn’t much room for obstacles. My advice to other female sommeliers is to be humble, and handle each situation with grace and confidence.”

Sounds like solid advice to me — for women (and men!) in any profession.