Cathy Huyghe, 8.30.19
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I started writing about wine 14 years ago, after a sommelier named Jeff Eichelberger at Bouchon in Las Vegas (where we were both working at the time) took me under his wing. He lined up a selection of bottles and essentially said, “Look, here’s why we drink wine.” After that, once our twins were born and we moved back to Boston, I started writing about wine every day; the blog was called 365 Days of Wine. I also started taking wine classes through Boston University and WSET, and I started a small business called Red White Boston.
The writing and entrepreneurial “roots” were planted then, so to speak. Today I write for several platforms on different subjects: Forbes (6 years) on the business of wine, Inc (2 years) on entrepreneurs in wine, and A Balanced Glass (18 months) on maintaining wellness in the wine industry. Three years ago I co-founded Enolytics, which delivers data analysis and insights to the wine industry. It’s been an incredible journey!
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I’d point to tasting with Cat Silirie, the long-time sommelier for Chef Barbara Lynch in Boston. She herself was so interesting, and she made wine so interesting, that I began to see how many influences and layers there can be to any one sip, glass, or bottle. She also helped me to start using my words when it came to wine. A pivotal glass was a 2005 Trimbach Muscat that Cat talked me through.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Finding flow as a writer feels amazing. As an entrepreneur, there was a tipping point of realizing that the work the Enolytics team does can truly add value to people in the wine business, which ultimately improves the wine experience for end consumers. Contributing to that sequence is very rewarding, especially since we’re trying to do something different in the industry. As part of A Balanced Glass, I particularly enjoy expanding the conversation around wellness and mindfulness within our community; it’s rewarding to be a “safe” resource for that conversation to develop even further.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
I can’t point to specific instances of overt prejudice that I’ve experienced in the industry as a woman. I do feel the impact of stealthy micro aggressions, which I’ve learned to metabolize and release before they take root.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
It’s a life-long, proactive effort, and I’ve definitely landed on the “fail” side of things more than once. The lessons learned from those situations stick like glue, which materialize as behavior changes. It’s a painful process for sure. But one that I think is important to participate in, continually.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
We all know what the research says about the benefits of having women on our teams, and I’ve experienced that first-hand. The difference is tangible. In a more intimate way, I also see the impact of under-supported women at the systemic level, which means that we need to address beliefs and behaviors that fundamentally shape women’s presence in the workforce. Things like people-pleasing, low-balling the market value of our work, and seeing other women as competitors rather than collaborators. These aren’t unique to the wine world, but how can the wine world uniquely address these more universal conditions? That’s the underlying question here.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
Enolytics is mainly a technology company, and I’m often the only woman in a room full of male colleagues and decision-makers. Certainly I hope to see more women in those roles but, relevant to the point above, I hope first to see the underlying change take root where more women take ownership of their potential. Not just once or for one discrete situation, but persistently and wholly. That’s a real force for change.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Welcome! It’s an amazing industry with opportunities for creative expression and professional success. That expression, and that success, is in your hands. Keep your wits about you, at all times.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
My current vantage point, as a writer and business owner, shows me that writing about wine is populated largely by women while owning a business is populated largely by men. I’ll give you one guess as to which of those two options pays better, and which has more realistic income potential. This isn’t a path toward equality. I’m not saying that fewer women should write about wine or that fewer men should own businesses, but I am saying that a more even-keeled distribution of income relevant to work would help.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
As an entrepreneur, I’d say that I add to the ratio in terms of a woman-owned business in wine (and in technology). As a writer, I’d say that I intentionally and mindfully include women’s voices and perspectives in my work.
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 women who own what they know. Who speak up. Who embody what they believe. Who offer compassion. Who proactively give others the benefit of the doubt. Who take risks. Who work to understand their potential, and then work to activate it fully. Who utilize their skills to shine a light on others. Who do what they can with what they’ve been given, and with what they’ve earned. Who practice gratitude. Who make stuff, and make stuff happen. Who recognize that we are each part of a lineage, that we come from somewhere, and that there will be others coming behind us.