Jessica Dupuy, 11.16.18
Jessica Dupuy started writing about the Texas wine industry over 10 years ago. Today her articles cover the greater world of wine, and she is a regular contributor to Texas Monthly, Texsom, and the Guild of Sommeliers.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I started out in food writing with Texas Monthly and a few other local Austin publications a little more than 10 years ago. One of my early assignments was to take a look at what was going on in Texas wine to see if there was a story there. In the early stages of that coverage, I realized I should probably better understand the world of wine, in order to better put Texas wine in context.
The journey has led me to earn my Certified Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine, and WSET 3 diplomas. I’m working on completing my CWE at the moment and plan to pursue WSET Diploma next year. Most of this is just to keep me sharp and aware of what’s out there since I don’t work in restaurants or in retail.
The time has allowed me to evaluate Texas wines accordingly, and write about my top picks throughout the year. In addition, my ability to travel to different wine regions has expanded my scope of coverage to include stories with Wine Enthusiast, Imbibe, SevenFifty Daily, and regular work with Texsom and the Guild of Sommeliers.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
There isn’t one particular wine that propelled me into the industry. Rather, it was the idea of wine as a regular part of the table that continues to command my attention. I lived in Alsace when I was in college and as part of the cultural experience, I was struck by how common it was to see wine served during an evening meal. Often times, it wasn’t even served from the bottle of a specific producer, but in a ceramic carafe as generic table wine. At the time, Edelzwicker was just a daily commodity that found its way onto the table alongside bread and butter. The notion of wine, and the communal experience it brings when shared at a table among friends and family has stuck with me ever since.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Listening to stories. Every place and every person has a story to tell. And those stories always lead to some sort of personal connection for all of us. Discovering those stories through the lens of wine continues to be one of my absolute favorites things about this job.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
For me personally, no. Less than a decade ago, I definitely remember seeing a largely male sommelier community, and I can’t authoritatively comment on why that was. But it’s been encouraging to witness that pendulum swing significantly in the past few years with more women earning Master Sommelier and Masters of Wine certifications and assuming roles as Beverage Director and other leadership roles within the wine community.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
I think before anything we each need to look at our own, individual approach to life. Are we kind, honest, hardworking, and committed to being a person of integrity? As idealistic as it sounds, I think if all of those elements are a part of our core character, that will reflect more on us than whether we achieved as a woman.
That being said, it’s clear we come from a culture that has historically tipped the scale in favor of male advancement. I feel like we’ve taken large strides to amend that in recent years, but I think we have much more to do to balance those scales. But to me, it would be meaningless if we didn’t keep those key characteristics at the heart of who we are.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I love that we’re seeing more and more women assume leadership roles within restaurant groups, in retail stores, and as importers and distributors. In addition, I’m always excited to find women winemakers and viticulturists in regions throughout the world.
One of the challenges I’ve witnessed women struggle with is when children come into the picture. Often times the hours required to work in the wine industry make it difficult to find adequate childcare for their kids. I worry that many women have backed out of roles they may otherwise want to pursue because of this challenge. My hope is that we might see an evolution in how this challenge is approached in a positive way for everyone in a family.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Be willing to work hard for what you want. Even when there may seem to be a roadblock in front of you, there’s almost always a way around it.
Find a mentor who is generous with their time and knowledge, and commit to being just as generous with others in return. While it’s important to learn more and be ambitious, it’s also important to remember what’s at the heart of why we do what we do, which is to share our love of wine with others in a warm, hospitable way.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
As a journalist, I’m always trying to make sure I’m working with sources for stories that reflect equality, whether that’s gender or race, particularly with stories that represent specific cities or markets.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
In the world of wine, the first woman that comes to mind is Laura Catena. She’s an ER doctor, a mother of three, a wife, and helps run one of the most well-respected labels in Argentina, Catena Zapata. This is a woman who will finish a shift at her hospital in San Francisco, pick up her son from school and hop a flight to Argentina to catch harvest.
The first time I met her, I was struck by her strength, intelligence, and most importantly, her hospitable demeanor. Within minutes of shaking her hand at Catena, she fired away with a series of questions she had already prepared for me and my fellow journalists. (Note: She had questions for us, the journalists. It’s usually the other way around.)
As we followed her through a number of spots throughout the location, I felt like we were on medical rounds at a teaching hospital. She was laser focused and down-to-business, yet she never lost her warmth and friendliness. She spoke to her staff with such respect, and she even managed a quick, heartfelt hug to her son when he passed through the hallway.
This is a woman who never seems to tire and never falters on her passion for Catena wine, something that is deeply meaningful to her family. I walked away from a few hours with Laura Catena with the aspiration to one day be more like her. I think the more we can find women like her in the wine industry, the better off we’ll be.