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Social organization Hispanics in Wine was founded with the aim of promoting equality and diversity and helping Latinx professionals advance in the wine industry. Founded in September 2020, it consists of a social media space and website which serve as a digital platform for insight into opportunities and resources for members of the community. It was established by Lydia Richards and Maria Calvert alongside wine professional Ivonne Nill. The organization’s mission is to give back to Spanish-speaking communities by promoting equality and helping the new generation of Latinx professionals advance in the wine and hospitality industries. Hispanics in Wine also intends to help wine companies better communicate with their Spanish-speaking consumers.
Cofounders Maria Calvert and Lydia Richards met while working in wine public relations at Colangelo & Partners, a well-known agency with offices in New York and California. Calvert, a native of Quito, Ecuador, is currently working as an independent Public Relations Consultant with a focus on startup and established brands in wine and food, while Richards, who hails from Panama, recently started a job as PR Manager at Taub Family Companies: Palm Bay International and Taub Family Selections.
At this time Hispanics in Wine has more than 30 members and is prepared to grow as word spreads within the wine and hospitality industries. Hispanics in Wine aims to encourage and connect people from diverse backgrounds to pursue their career path in the industry through the organization. It also intends to help wine brands and companies cater to the Latinx population in the U.S., whose buying power is forecasted to top $1.9 trillion by 2023.
As Women’s Month draws to a close, we are concluding our focus on women in the wine industry with this interview of co-founder Maria Calvert.
World Wine Guys: What was the impetus behind starting Hispanics in Wine?
Maria Calvert: In 2018, I transitioned to the wine industry and met Lydia Richards at a public relations agency. As part of our PR jobs, we work closely with all types of professionals in the alcohol beverage and hospitality industries, including sommeliers, retail stores, restaurants, trade, press, wine brands, winemakers, marketing professionals, and many others. Coming new into the wine industry, you see people of color cutting the grapes and working behind the scenes, but we noticed the lack of representation and diversity when attending trade events, press trips, and executive meetings. In addition to the lack of BIPOC, Hispanic, and Latinx professionals in decision-making roles, we noticed the lack of Spanish language resources for our community, brands neglecting Hispanic and Latinx consumers, and the need to amplify the work done by vineyard stewards.
As a result of our professional experience as two Latina immigrants in the wine industry and Covid disproportionately impacting the hospitality industry and minority communities, we decided to launch Hispanics in Wine in September 2020. We chose this month in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Culturally, Hispanics and Latinx work together as a community; it's part of our pride, family, our roots. Community is so important to us, and this is something that we are trying to replicate with Hispanics in Wine. We created this centralized digital space for individuals to feel welcomed by the industry, to find important English and Spanish resources, to provide a sense of community with other Hispanics & Latinx alcohol and hospitality professionals, and more importantly, to educate the public about our communities and amplify the diverse talent and knowledge we offer and promote more representation in the industry.
WWG: Which areas of the wine community have you drawn members from thus far?
MC: The Hispanics in Wine team are four women with different professional careers, hailing from different countries, and different journeys in the wine industry: Lydia Richards, Ivonne Nill, Emilia Alvarez, and myself. It is important to highlight our team diversity because it allows us to understand the industry's needs, bridging the gap for opportunities and language, and build a broad Hispanic and Latinx beverage and hospitality community.
As a result of our team's efforts and continued outreach, we have connected with wine professionals across the United States and worldwide. We have a community that covers the spectrum of wine and hospitality. For example, we have Nial Harris García, Wine Director at the Conrad Hotel in Washington D.C., Hugo Arias, Head Sommelier at The Grill in Washington D.C., Gabriela Fernández, Marketing and Event Coordinator for a California wine producer, Jesica Vargas, Founder and Wine Blogger of AndesUncorked, DeAnna Ornelas, President of non-profit organization AHIVOY, Sam Parra, Owner of PARRA Wines Co., and many others. Our Hispanics in Wine community is growing every day, and we have received tremendous support from many wine professionals in the industry who want to help in any way possible.
WWG: How are you reaching Latinx members of the wine community in order to let them know about Hispanics in Wine?
MC: We are working with our Hispanics in Wine community to help spread the word, share the "Hispanics in Wine Spotlight Series" within their network, and notify other Hispanics and Latinx professionals about this initiative. We started Hispanics in Wine on social media, and we now have a website. We have received inquiries from individuals trying to pursue a career in wine who reached out to us via Instagram, and individuals who found our website via Google
WWG: Can you tell us about some of the initiatives that Hispanics in Wine has implemented?
MC: We launched the “Hispanics in Wine Spotlight Series,” where the team conducts virtual English and Spanish interviews with talented Hispanic and Latinx professionals in the United States and worldwide, such as sommeliers, wine producers, marketing experts, retailer owners, portfolio specialists, social influencers, and bloggers, to learn about their journey in the wine industry, speak about educational opportunities, and provide essential advice to the next generation as well as changes they want to see in the industry.
Our mission with these interviews is to inspire individuals to enter the industry, thereby increasing the talent we offer as a community. Ultimately, we want to increase pressure on companies to hire Hispanic and Latinx professionals for leadership roles, drawing from our deep well of unique backgrounds, experiences, viewpoints. According to Nielsen data, by 2023, we expect the buying power of the U.S. Latinx population to top $1.9 trillion, which is higher than the gross domestic product of countries like Australia, Spain, and Mexico. Targeting this quickly growing consumer base by aligning with Hispanic and Latinx values has never been more critical.
Through the "Hispanics in Wine Spotlight Series," we also aim to highlight the diverse backgrounds of the Hispanic and Latinx communities in the United States and worldwide. We hail from vastly different geographies, whether Latin America, Central America, the Caribbean, Spain, or the United States; we have different traditions, we look different, and in some instances, we claim unique local languages, such as Guaraní in Paraguay, Catalan in Spain, or Quechua in Ecuador.
Additionally, with our public relations expertise, we are also working with the local and national press to include Hispanics and Latinx alcohol beverage and hospitality professionals at the forefront for feature stories and share their knowledge with key external stakeholders. In the near future, we hope to execute a program aimed at providing educational training, scholarships, and professional opportunities for advancing in the industry - both via in-house opportunities and partnerships with external organizations. Lastly, we are also looking to partner with wine companies looking to tap into the Hispanic and Latinx consumer market.
WWG: What has your career path been in the world of wine?
MC: Before transitioning to food & wine, I was the Vice President of Global Communications at a currency broker on Wall Street. I have long been drawn to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives and served as Co-Chairman of the company's charity committee. I spearheaded initiatives to give back to the local community by securing partnerships with non-profit organizations in the tri-state area. After several years in finance, in 2018, I decided to follow my palate to the wine industry by joining a specialized public relations agency in New York City. While there, I led integrated communications campaigns for institutions and brands in food and wine from all over the globe.
In 2019, I decided to embark on a new adventure as a public relations consultant and moved to Washington D.C. While living in The District., I discovered a wine retail store named Grand Cata which specializes in Latin American wines, spirits, and gastronomy. The owners, Julio Robledo and Pedro Rodriguez, and the entire Grand Cata team taught me about the incredible variety and diversity of wines produced in Latin America. This was truly an eye-opening experience, as it highlighted not just the lack of representation of Hispanic and Latinx people in the industry, but also the glaring void on shelves at retail stores where lesser-known South American wines should be given more space.