food / travel

The Feminine Nose: How Women Have Come To Dominate Argentina's Wine World

Agustina de Alba was crowned Best Sommelier in Argentina twice already
Agustina de Alba was crowned Best Sommelier in Argentina twice already
Mariana García

BUENOS AIRES - When television was in black and white, women took care of the home, which included buying wine for the family dinner. By the time TV was in color, the reds and whites were typically selected by the men of the house -- and the restaurants.

But lately, more and more women have joined the ranks of the male-dominated wine world, with some taking over as sommelier in exclusive wineries. Indeed, in the past five editions of the Best Sommelier in Argentina competition, the winners have all been women, including Agustina de Alba, who has claimed the honor twice.

Of the three sommelier schools of Buenos Aires, two are run by women and at the Argentinian School of Sommeliers – founded by Marina Beltrame, a pioneer in the wine world – half of the graduates are women.

“Today, women are anchored in the wine business. So much so that there are now more wines named after women because they’re made by women,” says Ana María Rodríguez Compta, from the Buenos Aires Center of Oenologists. She explains the increased number of women in the wine business: “It’s no coincidence. Women have developed a certain predilection for wine, but mostly they are more daring, they don’t have preconceived ideas. In a restaurant, a man might be embarrassed to send back a bottle because he doesn’t like it. A woman wouldn’t be, she would ask for another one.”

Sommelier Aldo Graziani agrees: “The myth that women only drink white wine could not be further from the truth. Today, women drink red wine, take wine tasting courses, want to learn more, like to talk about wine and have the palate to be able to choose what they like to drink.”

This year, a European study involving 10,500 people in five countries found that 58% of women knew more about wine than men.

Different bodies

Journalist María Josefina Cerutti is about to publish “Neither Drunk nor Asleep”, a book in which the relationship between wine and women is examined from ancient Greece – where women drank wine and enjoyed it as much as men – “and the Roman Empire, after which Jews, Muslims, Christians, Calvinists, Victorians and the upper class threw us out of the party.”

In her book, Cerutti writes, “We spend more time in the kitchen than men do, and this has taught us about spices and aromas. Our brains retain the memory of certain smells, to which we are more sensitive.” She also says, “Since we have a different body, isn’t it normal to experience things differently?”

Ana Amitrano, commercial manager for the Zuccardi family winery, has no doubts about the fact that women have better “noses” and how it has changed the wine world: “Today, women’s attitude toward wine has changed: they have become actors. Curiosity drives their decisions: they choose, decide, give their opinion and drink. Women listen to their senses better than men, and wine is the most sensory of drinks. Today, women have a strong presence in the wine world – as employers but also in regard to communication. The contribution that they have made, and continue to make, is remarkable.”

Marina Beltrame was one of these women. When wine was still a man’s world, she brought an unknown word to attention: ‘sommelier.’ In the 1990s, she came back to Argentina after studying in France, to become the first master sommelier in her country. She is convinced that being a woman made everything easier for her: “People paid attention – a women drinking a glass of wine is interesting. I think there was always women in the wine business, but now we’re no longer invisible any more.”

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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