Denise Clarke, 12.21.18
Denise Clarke is a force in the wine industry. A public relations consultant with over three decades experience, Denise works with a handful of high quality producers in Texas, is an avid cycler in her free time, and is a true wonder woman of wine .
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I am a PR and marketing consultant with 30+ years experience, and have focused on wine PR for the past decade, representing the Texas wine industry, in general, and most recently Texas Fine Wine.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
When I started representing Texas wines, I was tasting Viognier, Vermentino, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Tannat and other grapes I was not familiar with. It really was at that moment that I realized there was such a huge world of wine to explore and I had barely touched the surface, but knew I wanted to learn more.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Meeting hard-working grape growers. I lived in Washington, DC, for 10 years and worked on several agricultural issues and spent three years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I loved meeting farmers and understanding their challenges and what they needed for success. When it comes to wine, it starts in the vineyard and I love meeting the growers who put their heart and soul into producing the best fruit possible.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
PR and marketing is largely a female-dominated industry so I have been fortunate to have been given many terrific opportunities to represent some fabulous clients. In addition to Texas wines, I worked with the Whole Foods Market PR team promoting its national wine program. I was rewarded with some great education and mentoring by the wine buyers Doug Bell and Devon Broglie. The same with the Texas Fine Wine group -- the winemakers and owners have contributed so much to my wine education. (Now, when it comes to social media, I have been “winesplained” a few times by folks, but hey, it’s social media, what can you expect? lol)
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
My biggest strength as a wine gal is putting in the time and doing the homework. I have studied wine for the past six years to earn my Certified Wine Educator, Certified Sommelier and WSET 3 certifications. Whether it’s for a PR program or for private tastings, I can talk about wine intelligently and with respect because I have put in the time.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
The people who have already helped me tremendously in my journey are wine women here and other places. Rania Zayyat, Mandi Nelson, Joelle Cousins, June Rodil, Paula Rester, Rae Wilson, Kristi Willis, Jessica Dupuy, Lana Bortolot, and others.
We stand to benefit tremendously by supporting one another because our jobs will ebb and flow and our paths will undoubtedly cross, so by building this community, there will always be someone there to help you along.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
More women in top sommelier and management positions, more women winemakers, and equal pay.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Wine is a lot of fun, but you have to remember wine is a business. Do everything you can to understand operations, management, marketing and PR, distribution, hospitality, and on and on. My goal is to better understand how a winery and tasting room are run or how to build a wine list -- always be learning.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Hard working, genuine, supportive, collaborative, strong, respectful and respected, and healthy. I am a big believer that your health is key to your success so I really respect wine women who focus on living a healthy lifestyle (which can be challenging in the wine world). #fitsomm
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Susan Auler (of Fall Creek Winery) -- the grand dame of the Texas wine industry. For nearly four decades, Susan has put her heart and soul into helping shape and grow the Texas wine industry.
Virginia Willcock (of Margaret River’s Vasse Felix) -- the grand dame of the Margaret River. I attended her TEXSOM 2018 session and was genuinely touched and inspired by her focus and dedication to her craft.
Melissa Monosoff -- badass wine woman and athlete. She travels the world with her job yet still makes time to run, hike or bike. Love to see her on the podium! #fitsomm