The Golden Vines initiative to help drive and make an effective change to diversity and inclusion in the wine industry could not have had a more dramatic start. Within months of being set up by Lewis Chester of Liquid Icons and Nina Basset, in tribute to her late husband Gerard Basset MW MS, the scheme has already raised £1.2m through a successful awards, auction and fund-raising night held earlier this month. Two of the standout prizes are the Golden Vines Scholarships – worth over £50,000 each – to help two people study for the Masters of Wine programme. Here in the second of our two profiles of the winners we talk to Angela Scott about her career in wine to date and what it means to her to have won one of the scholarships.
The Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships received 42 entires from black and ethnic minority students from 23 countries who were looking to take advantage of £55,000 investments to help them study for either the Masters of Wine and Master Sommelier programmes. You can read our profile on the Masters of Wine Golden Vines Scholarship winner, Dr Erna Blancquaert here.
The Golden Vines scholarships are the first of their kind to be offered in the wine industry and have been designed to cover all the training, support materials and examination costs needed to potentially complete the MW and MS courses, as well as help cover any loss of earnings during their work placement internships.
The Golden Vines team has worked closely with producers all over the world to set up an extensive internship programme that gives the two winners the chance to spend time at some of the world’s most important estates including: Château Cheval Blanc, Liber Pater, Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Château d’Yquem in Bordeaux; Dom Pérignon and Ruinart in Champagne; Domaine Baron Thenard, Domaine des Lambrays and Domaine Laroche in Burgundy; Weingut Egon Müller in Germany; Symington Family Estates and Taylor’s Port in Portugal; Colgin Cellars, Lawrence Wine Estates (Heitz Wine Cellars, Stony Hill Vineyard, Ink Grade Estate & Burgess Cellars) and Opus One in California; Klein Constantia and Vilafonté in South Africa; Bodega Catena Zapata in Argentina; Lapostolle Clos Apalta and Vina Vik in Chile; and The Macallan distillery in Scotland.
The programme also includes the chance to study and take modules at UC Davis Department of Enology & Viticulture, the WOW Wine School (Porto), the Kedge Wine School, and the OIV.
The judging panel for scholarships included: Nina Basset; Rajat Parr (Sandhi Wines); Carlton McCoy MS (Heitz Cellar); Clement Robert MS (The Birley Clubs and Annabel’s); and Jancis Robinson MW. The judges will also provide ongoing mentorship to The Golden Vines Diversity Scholars during their academic journey.
Angela Scott has moved into the wine sector from the legal profession where she was a non profit human rights lawyer. But she moved into when she relocated from Washington DC to Napa to studying for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma. There she was able to work as a tasting coordinator for wine critic and author Karen MacNeil, and then as hospitality manager at Spottswoode Winery. She then had the opportunity to travel and live in New Zealand with her husband who had taken on a winemaker’s role there. Here she talks to Richard Siddle about her career and what she hopes winning the Golden Vines Scholarship will mean for her future.
Can you tell us about your background?
I was an art history major in school. My first job out of school was a fellowship with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Department of 20th Century under the most amazing curator, Lowery Sims. I had a wonderful experience, but I thought there was something more immediate that I could contribute to and that’s why I joined the Peace Corps.
I’ve always had this pull to do something creative but a sense of obligation to give back. I would not describe it as a burden but just something that has been instilled in me from my family. One grandfather started and ran a catering company in the 1930s and 1940s. My other grandfather immigrated from Cuba and joined the US army during World War I, as a result gained his citizenship. On both sides of my family, I benefited from their dogged determination and sacrifice.
Why did you change tack and start working in wine?
I wanted to get back into something creative. I was introduced to wine at home. Asti Spumante and White Zinfandel at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was introduced to wine as culture (an everyday accompaniment with food) when I was an exchange student in Cadiz, Spain when I was in high school. I really started to explore more seriously when I was practising securities litigation in Washington DC and I joined an amazing wine club that used its presence in DC to collaborate with embassies to showcase the wines from their countries.
How did you make your way in the wine industry and what were the big step changes to help you on the way?
I went out to Napa to attend a retreat. I loved St. Helena and then decided to stay. It was more the place that drew me in than the industry at first. After doing some soul searching, I did a gut check and really thought about what could bring me true satisfaction.
I liked interacting with people. Never considered myself a salesperson because I am not a shape shifter. Much to my surprise, this was never necessary when I started working in tasting rooms in Napa. For the most part, the people I encountered were lovely. I found that people just wanted to learn more about what they liked and for me to make them feel comfortable in making their choices.
Education has clearly been a key factor in your wine career to date – do you think your career as a lawyer has helped you?
Yes. My academic background has helped to a certain extent. I love to learn. In terms of getting hired, less so. This is an industry built on relationships. These take time to develop so if you are an outsider it takes some time to find your way. The people who get the opportunities have the connections – or they fit a profile. Hopefully, this award and the changes across the wine industry can show that these barriers need to be removed to give newcomers a chance to use skillsets from other industries to enrich the wine trade
You have worked in many areas of the trade. What have you taken from each of your experiences?
Listening. Really listening to what customers want, what they like. Allowing people to be themselves, to like what they like without hesitation or fear of judgment. This is the same in the retail business. I try to bring an objectivity to evaluating wines where I am learning to look at wines and think, I know just which customers might enjoy this.
You have now moved to New Zealand – how has that been from a personal and career perspective?
My husband and I moved to New Zealand for an opportunity he had to make wine. We were meant to be there for three years on a work visa, but Covid had other plans. The New Zealand government was gracious enough to extend our visas, so I was able to gain some important experience as a laboratory technician during harvest and later as a partner in a wine store, Cellar Ahuriri.
Why did you enter the Golden Vines awards?
I thought it was a long shot. I knew there were lots of very well qualified people of colour working in the wine industry, but I thought this could be a game changer in terms of affording me the opportunity to delve deeper into some areas with which I am less familiar.
What is your response to winning the Masters of Wine scholarship?
I am hugely grateful and excited to delve deeper into appellations with which I have had limited engagement.
What are your next steps in terms of using the prize to help with your studies?
I’ll be travelling to meet the producers that have so generously offered their time.
What do you hope the Golden Vines initiative can do for the wider wine industry?
I hope it not only encourages people from diverse backgrounds to enter the industry but hopefully it can help the industry see that there are a lot of qualified people from diverse backgrounds that are already in the industry. I am particularly inspired by Julia Coney’s Black Wine Professionals and Mags Janjo and Jancis Robinson MW’s BAME Wine Professionals.
What advice would you give to others starting out in the wine industry?
Take advantage of building a transferable skill at every point of your career. No job is too small from which to glean some valuable lesson.
What would you like to see in the sector to help promote and implement better diversity and inclusion?
I would like to see people of colour afforded the same opportunities as those from other backgrounds. Where the people of colour that I know in the industry all have degrees. People from less diverse backgrounds are often not required to have this formal education to advance.
Are you looking to use your experience to mentor others?
Of course. I am happy to serve as a sounding board for others. I have had some very good mentors. I think passing along what I have learned is an honour.
What skills and personality do you think you need to succeed in the wine industry?
It is difficult to say. There are a lot of “personalities” in the wine trade. However, I do think there is generally a collaborative spirit amongst the most successful people. I have not met a more generous group.
What are your personal ambitions in wine?
I think I would like to work for an organisation where I am able to use my entire skillset. Ultimately, I would like to work with people who share my commitment to working towards putting forth the best product possible while enjoying the work.
What styles of wine and countries do you particularly like and why?
This is constantly evolving. I fell in love with Cabernet when I was frequenting the wine club I joined in DC. When I worked in a lab in New Zealand I started to appreciate the diversity of Syrah.
Winners of the Golden Vines® 2021 Awards
- The SGC Golden Vines Best Fine Wine Producer in Europe Award: Weingut Egon Müller, Mosel Valley, Germany
- The Gucci Golden Vines Best Fine Wine Producer in the Americas Award: Ridge Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA
- The VistaJet Golden Vines Best Fine Wine Producer in the Rest of the World Award: Penfolds, South Australia, Australia
- The Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Golden Vines World’s Best Fine Wine Producer Award: Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Burgundy, France
- The Virgin Galactic Golden Vines World’s Best Rising Star Award: Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux, Burgundy, France
- The Julius Baer Golden Vines Innovation Award: Coravin, US
- The Macallan Golden Vines Hall of Fame Award: Aubert de Villaine, Burgundy, France
- The Liquid Icons Special Award for Wine Entrepreneurialism – The Most Successful Rosé Wine Launch of 2020/21: Kylie Minogue Wines, UK
- You can find out more about the Golden Vines initiatives here.
- You can find out more about the Gerard Basset Foundation here that was set up to honour the legacy and memory of Gérard Basset OBE MW MS by addressing the wine industry’s most pressing issues through education, training and mentorship.
- You can read our profile on the Masters of Wine Golden Vines Scholarship winner, Dr Erna Blancquaert here.
- You can also download the full Liquid Icons Fine Wine Report based on interviews and surveys with leading fine wine merchants, producers, critics and journalists here .