A room filled with people listening to a speaker

International Women’s Day — A conversation with Avaline wine and Lift Collective

Avaline wine sat down with Lift Collective founder, Rania Zayyat, to have an honest conversation about the inequalities in the wine industry and how Lift Collective is advocating for positive change through the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Rania, for those of us who aren’t as involved in the wine industry, tell us about the current landscape in the wine world.

Today, it’s hopeful. When I started working in the wine industry 10 years ago, the landscape only catered to a select few. If you weren’t a cisgendered white male, you were likely dismissed or passed over for opportunities. Today, there are a lot of great organizations, initiatives, and companies that are progressive and pushing for a more diverse and inclusive industry. Lift Collective prioritizes collaborating with industry leaders to further advance our shared goals of making the wine industry more inclusive and welcoming for all identities.

Why did you start Lift Collective?

I started Lift Collective to celebrate diversity in the wine industry and to continue to push the envelope for inclusivity. Lift Collective is a multi-channel platform innovating the constructs of the wine world through thoughtful discussion, scholarship opportunities and mentorship. We’re less about behind-the-scenes efforts made by a select few, and more about collaboration, conversation, and transparency between our partners and collaborators. We welcome all identities and are working to build one community table that gives everyone a seat. 

Lift Collective founder, Rania Zayyat, smiling while holding a bottle and glass of Avaline Rosé
Lift Collective founder, Rania Zayyat, smiling while holding a bottle and glass of Avaline Rosé
A bottle of Avaline Sparkling and Avaline Red
A bottle of Avaline Sparkling and Avaline Red

Can you tell us about the virtual conference you have coming up and scholarships Lift Collective provides?

Our 2021 Virtual Conference is taking place on March 23rd and 24th. We are really excited about hosting the conference online this year, because we feel virtual events are naturally more inclusive. People from all over the world can tune in, network with each other, and have the opportunity to listen to some of the most inspiring leaders in the wine industry in one event. This year, we are addressing important topics like wellness, equity and inclusion, entrepreneurship, the shifting culture of feminism, hospitality abuse, and the anthropological history of womxn in wine. There will also be some special roundtable discussions that feature leaders who have opened doors, a wine tasting and conversation surrounding decolonizing wine, and discussions about the future of diversity and inclusion. We encourage both wine professionals and consumers to attend! Tickets can be purchased here

Lift Collective also provides several annual scholarships. This year, we are proud to partner with Avaline for our Self-Made Scholarship, to support entrepreneurial endeavors in the wine industry. The Self-Made Scholarship is available to womxn and historically underrepresented or marginalized communities. Starting your own business can be very challenging, and the Harvard Business Review recently reported that in 2019, 2.8% of venture capitalist funding went to womxn (“an all time high”), but in 2020, that number dropped to 2.3%. We also know that womxn have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and this is especially true for womxn from BIPOC and Latinx communities. Our scholarship not only provides much needed funding, but we also offer mentorship to each recipient to help guide them in the entrepreneurial journeys. 

Rania holding a bottle of Avaline Red
Rania holding a bottle of Avaline Red
A dinner table set up with Rania standing at the end sipping a glass of wine
A dinner table set up with Rania standing at the end sipping a glass of wine

For womxn wanting to enter the wine industry, what advice would you give them?

Find a community that values your individuality and your strengths. Surround yourself with people who are invested in your personal growth and professional development. Trust your gut, and if something or someone is making you feel less than, walk away. There are a lot of inspiring people in this industry. Find them. Get to know them. Honor yourself, always.

What are ways people like us can help bridge the gap to bring more equality and diversity to the wine industry?

Do a little research about who you’re supporting when you buy a bottle of wine. There is so much information available these days, and so many great businesses and organizations to support, while still drinking delicious wine. Donate to and support organizations like Lift Collective. Buy tickets to our conference, either for you or for someone who would benefit from attending. Recognize the individual power you have to create change for others, even in the smallest ways. 

What are some other female-founded wine brands we can support?

There are a lot. Some of my favorite domestic producers are Constant Crush Wines in Oregon, made by Bree Stock and her husband Chad. Bree is a master of wine and they are producing some of the best wines in Oregon. 

McBride Sisters make great wine from California and New Zealand. They are changemakers in the wine industry and are the largest Black-owned, womxn-owned wine company In the US. Their scholarship program called, SHE CAN Fund, promotes the professional advancement of womxn in the wine industry in a concerted effort to help close the gender and race gap.

Cheramie Wine is a new Texas wine brand launched by Cheramie Law. She is making great Riesling and Montepulciano Rosé!  

Ashley Trout in Washington makes Brook & Bull and her side project, Vital Wines, is a non-profit with 100% of proceeds going toward providing healthcare for vineyard and cellar workers. 

MYSA Wine is an amazing e-commerce platform founded by my friend, Holly Berrigan. They carry a great selection of natural wines and have a monthly wine club. 

Tara Gomez is the first Native American winemaker in the U.S. and is producing a range of acclaimed wines on Chumash land in Santa Barbara under the label Kitá Wines.

Hue Society, founded by Tahiirah Habibi, is a curated community that serves as a lifestyle hub for access to all things related to Black wine culture.

RAM Cellars is a natural wine brand based in Portland, Oregon. They are giving to trans specific causes through their VIV label in honor of Vivianne Kennedy, their proudly transgender winemaker.

I also try to purchase from female-founded importers like Camille Riviere Selections, Jenny & Francois, and Roni Selects. You can find their labels on the back of the bottle. When I see their labels, even if I haven’t had the wine yet, I trust their portfolios and generally always enjoy the wine. 

Internationally, I’m a big fan of Dolores Cabrera’s wines from Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Sybille Kuntz from the Mosel in Germany makes an excellent dry Riesling. Arianna Occhipinti’s wines from Sicily are great and more widely available. 

In honor of International Womxn’s Day, Avaline will donate 2% of online sales to Lift Collective to offer scholarships to support female entrepreneurs in the wine industry.

What is your favorite Avaline wine?

My favorite Avaline wine is the rosé! I really enjoy the combination of fruit like strawberries, peach-o candies, and cherries, with a floral aroma of freshly-picked roses. There is a bit of pink cotton candy and salinity, and I love the way it lingers on my palate for a few minutes after a sip.  

Rania holding a glass and bottle of Avaline Rosé

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