The Australian Women in Wine Awards is focusing on making sure the conversation about diversity isn’t just with women. “In fact, current stats show that women may not even be sitting around the ‘influence’ table in our wine businesses, so we need to make sure we extend the conversation to both genders, and work hard on improving unconscious bias,” says Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards. “To demonstrate how important this is, we have asked some talented #winechicks to tell us about who has stood behind them, and helped them get to where they are in their career.” In past weeks we have spoken with Melissa Brown from Gemtree Wines, Rose Kentish from Ulithorne, Irina Santiago-Brown from Inkwell Wines and Anna Fisher from Zonte’s Footstep. Today Ruth Harris, Global Wine Public Relations Manager for Pernod Ricard Winemakers, shares her story…
There are jobs in the wine industry that are seen, and those that are unseen. Wine PR people like me are unseen – we just write and organise things in the background – trying to get our wines and winemakers in front of wine writers and into wine publications. I have learned it all on the job, coming as I did from an economics and export background, so I am very grateful to those who have helped me succeed along the way. Corrina Wright asked to name a few of them, which I have happily done below.
Like Anna Fisher from Zonte’s Footsteps, I have one as a husband and they are very handy. Not just for putting out fires and generally strutting around being heroic, but also because they have so much free time. His roster sees him at home six out of eight days, meaning our two children still get parental attention even when I am working 24/7 in the throes of launching a new wine. It is vitally important to your sanity and your career success that you can still be happy and successful in raising a family too – and that goes for both men and women in wine.
A true gentleman of the industry, it was Forrie’s mention of me in the front of his 2011 Quaff guide as the most efficient PR person of the year that gave me leg up within our business. It helped provide a focus on Wine PR and allowed me to marshal more resources for it. I have been in his debt ever since, so it’s nice to be able to clear the ledger with a nod to him here.
Nick Bruer and Sam Kurtz
I have worked in the drinks industry for 20 years but when I started in wine a decade ago, my wine knowledge was fair to middling at best. Writing about wine required a lot more depth than I could get just by drinking the stuff with enthusiasm. So I turned to our winemakers. I will be eternally grateful for the patient hours that Nick Bruer and Sam Kurtz gave me to explain why Coonawarra grew great Cabernet Sauvignon, what “cool climate” meant in terms of the Adelaide Hills, and why Shiraz Cabernet is such a unique and amazing blend.
Ben Bryant and Dan Swincer
These young guns are the chief winemakers for Jacob’s Creek and St Hugo respectively, and I include in this paragraph Ben’s now-retired predecessor Bernard Hickin. My ability to be able to succeed in my role rests significantly on the cooperation and talent of our chief winemakers. They have supported me in their willingness to be on vineyard photo shoots from dawn til dusk – even during vintage; to host dinners at short notice and conduct tastings on weekends; and in generally doing “PR stuff” after a full day’s/week’s work actually making wine.
Shauna Siostrom and Sophie Breheny
As did Irina Santiago-Brown of Inkwell wines, I feel compelled to mention the women who have supported me too. The list is long so I am just calling out a few epic #winechicks: Shauna Siostrom and Fiona Keen, both senior brand managers and my lunch buddies who give me much-needed light-hearted relief on those stress-filled days. And my boss, Sophie Breheny, who believes in me and always pushes me to achieve more, and also strongly insists that I don’t answer emails on the days I don’t work.
I once read a quote that said, “Be a woman who lifts up other women.” It really resonated with me. I am certainly grateful for all the men who have helped me in my career, but I think women in the wine industry should be doing exactly that: looking for opportunities to lift each other up. We are the ladders of our own success. I extend to all those who entered the #Women in Wine Awards, the very best wishes.
Photo: From left: Shauna Siostrom, Ben Bryant, Ruth Harris, Dan Swincer and Sophie Breheny of Pernod Ricard Winemakers.
Special thanks to Corrina Wright for putting this series of stories together.