UC Davis’ Department of Viticulture and Enology Hold Discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Grape and Wine Industries

By Nora Lelivelt

DAVIS – On Monday, the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis held an event promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the wine industry.

The three-hour event consisted of remarks from UCD Chancellor Gary May, UCD College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean Helene Dillard, a keynote presentation by Julia Coney, panel discussions and moderated question-and-answer sessions.

Throughout the event, speakers shared their perspectives and advice, and audience members left with many ideas of how to further diversify the industry and consumer base as well as make wine more accessible.

To kick off the event, Chancellor May welcomed the attendees, introduced the event and spoke on his support of diversity, equity and inclusion in the wine industry.

Chancellor May began his remarks by stating the overall significance of this diversity, equity and inclusion event.

“According to the Association of African American Vintners, fewer than 1 percent of winemakers currently are Black and even fewer are brand owners,” May said. “It’s not hard noticing that underrepresentation. As someone who loves wine, one of the perks of living near Davis is being close to world-class wineries.”

Next, Dean Helene Dillard spoke about diversity, equity and inclusion discussions being led between students in the college.

Dillard urged the attendees to consider adopting DEI practices within the workplace, saying, “There are so many reasons why it makes sense for agriculture and the wine industry to consider diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of the business. And I’m really happy that the Department of Viticulture and Enology has opened this discussion.”

Following the opening remarks was a keynote presentation by Julia Coney, recipient of the 2020 Social Visionary award for her work on DEI in the grape and wine industries.

She spoke on how to further diversify the industry and consumer base and to make wine more accessible to a wider audience.

She said one successful way to go about this is to first, “think about the consumer, and the industry and the dollars… then think about the future of the wine industry.”

Especially after the coronavirus pandemic, there are many new consumers of wine that may not look like previous generations.

One large factor is social media, as there are many voices talking and teaching about the wine industry, therefore, bringing in new consumers.

To stay current, Coney suggested audience members diversify their companies’ (as well as personal) social media feeds to reflect this client base.

Additionally, Coney highly recommended watching “Uncorked” on Netflix, a fiction film about wine from the perspective of a person of color.

Another suggestion Coney proposed was for audience members to notice if every guest at their winery feels welcome and comfortable. For example, she urged audience members to notice what the tasting room culture is like and be sure to previously educate the tasting room staff on how to treat all customers with respect.

“It’s about being better because we’re here to see the industry thrive; we’re here to do the work… because by the end of the day, it’s good for business,” Coney said.

The rest of the event included three sets of panelists answering questions like how can we increase diversity in the grape and wine industries, and how can we make wine more welcoming and inclusive?

The panels included members from the local wine industry and UC Davis Alumni.

More specifically, the conversation discussed how to increase diversity among students in the Department of Viticulture and Enology, how to promote a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion within wineries and how to make wine more accessible to underrepresented consumers.

Following the panels were questions and a discussion including the attendees.

To learn more about upcoming events hosted by UC Davis’ Department of Viticulture and Enology, visit https://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/about/news-events.

Nora Lelivelt is a fourth-year Cell Biology major at UC Davis, also minoring in Professional Writing and Biodiversity.


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