Writer Julia Coney on Demystifying Wine and Breaking Through Barriers
Coney's open letter on race and women in the wine industry was "the straw that broke the camel's back."
Julia Coney's work centers on travel, winemakers, and the intersection of race and wine. She holds a WSET Level Two Certification in Wine and Spirits and is pursuing her Master-Level Champagne Certification. In January 2018 she wrote an open letter to the wine industry responding to a Somm Journal story about women in wine that didn’t include black women. To Coney, wine isn’t just a beverage—it’s a tool to move us all forward.
Julia Turshen: You used to be a legal assistant and a beauty blogger. When did you transition to writing about wine?
Julia Coney: In 2016, I wasn’t in love with beauty anymore. Makeup wasn’t fun to me anymore. I had always been into wine, and my vacations were always about wine. My law colleagues introduced me to wine. My mother encouraged me to write about it. “It’s all you spend your money on!” I started connecting with other wine bloggers.
JT: What were the other wine bloggers like?
JC: It seemed like a hobby for everybody. [But] this was my job. I spent 2016 and 2017 reading wine books and attending classes. I noticed a lot of people’s racial undertones. “Oh you’ve been to Bordeaux?” they’d say. Yes, yes I have. The open letter was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
JT: Do you feel like your role in that world has shifted since you wrote “Your Wine Glass Ceiling is My Wine Glass Box. An Open Letter to Karen MacNeil and the Wine Industry”?
JC: People seek me out to talk about race—a tricky subject. They’re trying to understand something they never had to consider. Some people get it; some don’t. People equate privilege with money and don’t equate privilege with access.
JT: Do you ever feel like you just want to talk about wine and not race?
JC: I showed my mother the letter before I posted it, and she said, “You will be associated with this forever. Are you OK with that?” She was my biggest fan and paid for two of my certifications.
JT: What do you love about wine?
JC: Wine tells you everything going on in the country and the world. It’s politics, economics, art, culture. Like food, wine brings people together, but it’s seen as more intimidating.
JT: What do you feel makes it intimidating?
JC: It’s a lot of language. What’s terroir? It’s the ground! Most people don’t care about the technical sheet; they buy wine to drink in the next hour. The wine world doesn’t make it fun.
JT: What does wine teach us when it’s at its best?
JC: Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. Every year and every vine is based on climate. Wine shows us we have no control over life.