Peggy Hanley, 1.25.19
Peggy Hanley hasn’t always been a part of the wine world, but as the Executive Director of the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, she is paving a path for wine professionals and enthusiasts alike to enjoy wine in an unpretentious and inclusive fashion.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I have been the Executive Director of The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas for 4 ½ years and this is my first professional role in the wine industry. My background is in nonprofit fundraising and I have primarily worked in private schools. After completing graduate school, I looked for a challenge and a new experiences in a new world and found it at WFFT. I have learned so much about wine and about the industry in particular. At the end of the day, my role is about creating great experiences for our members and guests around wine and food.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Each month, our Auction Committee gathers to plan our biggest event of the year - the Rare & Fine Wine Auction. Our volunteers bring a bottle of wine to share and we sit and discuss how to create the best evening possible for our guests. These meetings have shown me the true joy and fun that comes with sharing a bottle of wine - and remain one of my favorite things we do at WFFT.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I find a lot of joy in seeing all of our guests coming together to enjoy one of our classes or events. All of the effort to create the right experience for our community of wine lovers is worth it when everyone has a glass in hand and is enjoying the company of those around them.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
The private school world that I was used to is very female dominated, and I find the wine industry to be more male dominated. This has been a big adjustment for me over recent years. However, I tend to find that when anyone is sharing a glass of wine, we’re all in it for the enjoyment!
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
Confidence is key to breaking down any prejudice in our industry. We, as women, need to walk forward into each situation accepting of the knowledge that we have just as much right to a seat at the table as the men do. Our experience, education, and instincts are just as strong as anyone else’s.
What communal benefits do you think we’ll see by bringing more women into leadership positions?
As in any industry, when there is more diversity in leadership roles, everything improves - communication, insight, perspectives, etc. This diversity will lead to incredible change and growth at every level of the industry.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope we see more women pave their way through the industry and take on leadership roles in an effort to create a truly diverse industry.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Immerse yourself in all aspects of the profession - know the wines, know the people, know the ins and outs of the industry. The knowledge you’ll gain will give you the confidence you need to maximize your growth in the industry.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equality in the wine industry means more diversity at all levels and in every corner of the business.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
Because the work of WFFT is centered on two things - providing wine education and investing in rising professionals through scholarships and travel stipends for professional development - I believe we are having a big impact in our community and making wine more approachable overall.
By providing education, we are giving opportunities to any individual who wants to know more about wine and gain a better understanding of what is in their glass - from novice to expert. By investing in the professionals that are driving the profession, we are allowing access to career growth in an expensive industry. Both areas of focus can level the playing field and make Austin the most wine-centric and knowledgeable community possible.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
I admire the women - Board members, staff, and volunteers - who are working with me to grow the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. From the consumers to the industry professionals, these amazing women are leading us on an incredible path of success and growth so that we can have a unique and lasting impact in our community.