Ageism in the wine industry

Being forty-something, I have the means and desire to branch out and learn new things. I signed up for a wine course with a renowned wine academy, and completed their one-day course, followed by their longer certificate course.

At the outset, I noted that my fellow course mates were considerably younger than I am. I could sense that their heads were teaming with untainted, fresh brain cells and that their palates were clean slates, ready to be indelibly imprinted with all things wine. Undaunted, I consoled myself with the fact that at any point in time, I would have approximately 20 years more wine-drinking experience than any of them.

After completing the course, I am keen to continue in my quest to have new experiences and make new starts, so I enthusiastically looked at the employment classifieds on a wine website, and was encouraged to find that there are many jobs available in the wine industry. Eagerly I read the entrance criteria to see if there were any suitable matches. I read things such as ‘young and enthusiastic’, ‘young and well-groomed’, ‘young and presentable’, ‘young and dynamic’, ‘young and motivated’ etc. Now if your brain is as sharp as mine is, you will have noticed a pattern.

This got me wondering. To prepare for my wine-tasting exam, I have been doing as much wine tasting as I possibly can – both at home and out in the winelands. Visiting a wine estate has become a weekend fixture for me and my husband – an outing that perfectly combines entertainment with education. It struck me that our two most memorable tastings in recent months were both conducted by older women. These tastings were educational, interesting and enjoyable. I am not saying that this was due to their age, merely that their age did not detract from the experience in any way. If anything, their wisdom, motherly patience and kindness put me at ease – so much so that in both cases I parted with alarming sums of money, as I filled the car up with enough bottles for the cellar that I wish I had.

My message to the wine industry is this: I am a full-bodied and luscious gem. I am mature, but at the same time youthful and developing. Pick me, and over the years I may yield untold treasures. As for the ‘well-groomed’ and ‘presentable’ aspects, perhaps you have not heard that 50 is the new 21!