The Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, now in their second year and created by the Gerard Basset Foundation and Liquid Icons and judged by Jancis Robinson MW among others to promote great inclusivity in the world of wine and spirits, were awarded at a grand ceremony in Florence on 15th October 2022.
The 2022 Taylor’s Port Golden Vines® Diversity Scholarships were awarded to Jarrett Buffington from Australia, Sandeep Ghaey from United States and Carrie Rau from Canada who beat 44 other applicants from a total of 18 different countries, who are all looking to undertake the Masters of Wine (MW) and Master Sommelier (MS) programmes. They win £55,000 each, to help cover course and examination costs, as well as loss of earnings during their work placement internships with some of the world’s top wine domaines. Jian Cio from China was awarded the inaugural Hennessy Golden Vines® Diversity Scholarship, which also grants £55,000 to cover loss of earnings during a 12-month internship programme at Hennessy Cognac and examination costs for a Level 3 WSET qualification in spirits. Four Dom Pérignon Golden Vines® Master of Wine & Master Sommelier Scholarships worth £12,500 and 10 Wine Scholar Guild Golden Vines® Scholarships have been awarded to those that did not win the headline scholarships.
Artemis Domaines have also sponsored five Golden Vines® Victims of Conflict Scholarships, and a new scholarship was recently announced for a student from a diversity background to undertake the OIV MSc in Wine Management sponsored by the Brooklyn Nets NBA team.
We spoke to the winners and asked them a bit about what winning meant to them, what they hope to achieve as a result, how we can all make the industry a more diverse place, the importance of mentors and to name a wine that has blown them away recently.
Jarrett Buffington – Fine Wine Merchant, Dan Murphys Double Bay, Australia (MS pathway)
I didn’t often feel like I ever knew what I wanted to do. I’ve always been a dreamer who could see himself living a hundred different lives. The wine industry gave me a chance to combine my loves of culture, art, geography and learning. The wine industry has kept me because I’ve found a genuine home in it and it offers me the opportunity to be a light unto others. The industry has helped me become a better and more self aware version of myself.
The scholarship will enable me to make connections around the world through the internship opportunities. There’s a lot of countries that I’ve never been to and I’m a firm believer of learning from the source. When you get first hand experience in a wine region I believe it’s very hard to forget it. And the scholarship has really given me a lot of confidence, although I believe that I should be the number one validator of myself but it’s really amazing to be believed in.
We have to encourage people to be themselves. In the wine industry it’s really easy to look at a bunch of white faces and ask yourself what do I need to do to fit in and belong? You may find your way in but in my opinion that’s not diversity because you’ve had to put on a mask. I believe we will attract more diversity in the industry when people of other backgrounds are exposed to wine and encouraged to come as they are.
When I was first starting out I really looked up to David Keck in Houston. He had a background in music like me and he was a colleague of my voice teacher. David sat me down for a tasting which I was absolutely unprepared for. But after he spoke to me about going through the journey and these exams for the right reason. I don’t imagine he would remember this but this conversation has always really stuck with and resonated with me.
Just a few days ago I had a stunning bottle of 2012 Recaredo Reserva Particular Brut Nature in Barcelona. The complexity and also sheer intensity of the wine was enough to keep my attention. But at the very heart of it, the wine was simply delicious. It gave me a lot of perspective into the integrity of Corpinnat and how it differentiated itself from Cava. I really enjoy these moments where I am educated.
Sandeep Ghaey – Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Vinic Wine Co, US, (MW pathway)
My first industry job was in a wine bar and retail store during college. The community was a sharing one, and introduced me to boutique producers and wines beyond my means. While their bon vivant lifestyle was certainly enticing, what kept me around was that great wines, beyond having beautiful flavours, can be emotive — powerful, seductive, deceptive, cheerful or buoyant.
The bursary is the most generous in the industry and will allow me to focus all my efforts on my studies, and the internships and mentorship make this opportunity incredibly unique and powerful. The MW exams ask for a knowledge of winemaking and grape growing practices from around the world and require granular technical information, such as asking questions on why wineries might choose one specific method over another. Often winery visits are managed by a hospitality arm, but these technical visits promise to share the insight necessary to pass these exams.
We can encourage and attract diversity in the industry by building a pipeline for talent from entry level to executive positions. And we should expect the companies in our industry to reflect the diversity in their countries from the board and c-suite all the way down. It’s also important that we champion companies making DEI a priority, both with our dollars and our accolades.
My favourite wine store in Urbana was called the Corkscrew, it was owned by Geoff Bland, and for some years was run by his son Nick. They always treated me like family and taught me a tremendous amount, letting me be a fly on the wall for their tastings with distributors and suppliers. My time with them taught me to taste broadly and enjoy wines from around the world for their own sake, quality, and value. They helped find me work opportunities, join industry organizations, and let me travel with them to wine regions. I cannot thank them enough.
Most exciting wine recently? – the 2019 Henri Rebourseau Clos Vougeot VV. I had a great opportunity to taste the lineup of Rebourseau. Even with the great pedigree of the rest of their holdings, their Clos Vougeot is something to seek out. It speaks loudly of its source, of the house style and of the vintage. The parcel is of old vines situated on a hill at the heart of Clos Vougeot. The size of the holding along with its advantageous position gives the wine more breadth and depth than I’m used to out of this vineyard. With new investment and the brothers taking over the wine making, it’ll be a wine I watch with great anticipation in coming years.
Carrie Rau – Wine Educator, Chef and Sommelier, Canada (MW pathway)
I have been a classically French-trained chef for about 20 years now. It was my first career and I loved it, but I knew I was eventually going to transition from the back of house to learn more about hospitality. I trained at the Stratford Chefs School in my hometown and it was a wonderful experience for me, this is where I had my first taste of wine education. At that time WSET, CMS or ISG wine courses were only available in metropolitan areas so I knew I had to move to a bigger city if I wanted to continue learning. It is important to remember that wine education courses weren’t as popular as they are now which changed the industry a lot. I made the move to Toronto, Ontario and started my wine journey enrolling in courses and I was hooked. I was able to become immersed in the industry, meet wine professionals, teach and move into front of house positions.
The funding of the scholarship will allow me to take the financial component out of the equation for me so I can concentrate on studying. I fully funded my previous education working multiple jobs so this will definitely lower the pressure. I think as a wine educator it is important to bring some lived experience to the classroom and the scholarship will make those dreams happen with the internship itinerary.
Representation and mentorship are needed for the industry to diversify. Winemakers should look to branding and realize the demographic of people that drink your wines. There could be a lot more done to advertise to a mix of communities. Through Vinequity we know how much it means to our directory members to see themselves in all levels and types of wine jobs in the industry. We all need someone inspirational to look up to. Diversity brings innovation, it’s about redesigning the workplace.
I have had a few wonderful mentors/role models in wine. Elaine Chukan-Brown is one of my favourite people, she has done so much for the industry beyond BIPOC, such as championing the Queer/Trans community and accessibility for disabled communities. We all have a place at the hospitality table, it is important to remember that. And it is so, so meaningful that she is Indigenous like me. Elsa MacDonald MW is another mentor/role model, she is a very inspirational teacher in the classroom for me. You can’t teach passion, you have to have it in the work you do and it needs to shine. I hope to do this in my classrooms.
To be honest, the wine we are producing at Lighthall Vineyards where I work in Prince Edward County, Ontario are the wines exciting me most at the moment. I have relocated to a small wine-growing region that is quite rural. It is peaceful and the very definition of cool-climate. We are making small batch, well-made wines and because I am fully immersed in harvest, I am also fully invested. It’s important to see first-hand how a product is made, especially how much work goes into it. I will never easily dismiss a bottle of wine again because you never know the full story.
Jian Cio – Master’s student at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Portugal, from China
Before entering into the major of Viticulture and Enology at China Agriculture University, I was attracted by wine, not only by tasting but also by the landscape of the vineyard and the work in nature. I have visited some vineyards in Ningxia, Huailai in China, and also Bourgogne, Champagne, Provence, Duoro, and Piémont in Europe. The different vineyards have their own characteristics, which incredibly aroused my interest in wine, and built a dream to work in the wine and spirit industry after graduating. I did the master thesis about precision viticulture, where we used image analysis to help yield estimation, which has both a lower estimating error and also higher efficiency than the manual methods. Besides, we are talking more and more about global warming and extreme weather these days, which is causing some problems for vineyards all around the world. As you can see, with the continually developed technology and more and more challenges, the vineyard nowadays is gradually changing and becoming more and more exciting and also challenging.
For me, it is very sure that the scholarship is a big support to begin my career after graduation. With this scholarship, I have the opportunity to intern in such a great company – Hennessy – and gain experience in various departments, and learn more about the spirit in the WSET courses. As a graduate, I am so lucky to have all of these when I get ready to begin my career. As for the scholarship itself, I know that it is economic support from the Golden Vine, Hennessy, as well as all the buyers and wine lovers from the whole world who are attending the auction. As a new man in the wine and spirit community, I have felt great love from the others. I believe that with this scholarship, I will contribute to our community and do something meaningful.
Diversity is always a thing worthy to improve because it is something that makes the world interesting and united. The Gerard Basset Foundation creating these diversity scholarships is a good example of working for improving diversity in our community. When we combine the different views from different parts of the world, we know more about the producers, the market, the consumers, the technology, and the concept that we could use to increase the quality of wines.
Nearly all the professors that I met gave me a lot of help while I was studying at university. At China Agriculture University, Prof Qiuhong Pan is the professor who first let me realize the beauty of scientific research in the wine field. Prof Jicheng Zhan is the professor who first let me open my eyes to wine all around the world and encourage me to go abroad and learn more. In Europe, Prof Jorge Ricardo da Silva at Instituto Superior de Agronomia made an impression on me. He is not only good at education and scientific research but also always humble and generous in helping others. He let me realize that the aim of getting better and growing up should be having more ability to help others because assisting others and accepting help from others with gratitude could be the two most happy things all around the world.
Last week, my friends and I opened a bottle of Colheita 2003 Port from Burmester. It is quite a good bottle and we are shocked by its balance of aromas and its strong ability to age, also with a very high price versus performance ratio. As a big lover of Port, this bottle is charming for me.
Last year at Annabel’s Private Members Club in London, the charity raised over £1.2 million. This year the hope is to raise over £3 million to support further scholarships and mentorship programmes. Look out online for more coverage of the Golden Vines Awards, including some of the incredible winemakers celebrated this year.