Women in Wine – Laura Maniec

August 11, 2010 6:36 pm - Posted by Roland Hulme in Drink

Women in Wine

On the 29th June, Jody Ness and the crew of Wine Portfolio convened in the luxurious Two E Bar and Lounge of The Pierre, just off Manhattan’s Madison Avenue. They were there to meet with four of the most dynamic female faces of the modern wine industry – and delve into the evolving role women play in what was traditionally considered a male-orientated business. Following filming, Alice Ryan spoke to one of the guests -.

By Alice Ryan

Contributing Writer, Wine Portfolio

Laura Maniec

Laura Maniec, Director of Wine & Spirits for B.R. Guest Restaurant Group, always knew that her future was in hospitality.

Part of a large, New York-based Italian family that was always entertaining, Maniec enrolled in culinary school almost instinctively. But it was atop the World Trade Center that Maniec found her true calling: The Windows on the World Wine Class.

Inspired by what she learned, Laura ultimately never made it to culinary school. Instead, she chose to pursue wine.

At only 21 years old, Maniec assumed the position of sommelier at Blue Fin, a 400-seat Time Square restaurant. Her knowledge and experience blossomed there, under the guidance of the B.R. Guest group’s umbrella. As part of B.R. Guest, she was sent across the country to learn about wine – from New York to Las Vegas, and from Arizona to Chicago. After picking up a background in the industry it might take decades for others to learn, Laura finally decided to enroll in a course of study through the Master Sommelier Association, thanks to the encouragement of her boss, Greg Herrington. The rest is history.

Today, Maniec is now one of only 14 female Master Sommeliers in the United States, and currently the youngest. She buys between $10-12 million a year in wine and spirits for the B.R. Guest group and cherishes being stationed in New York, close by her family.

But when it comes to wine, Maniec’s true passion is teaching. She loves to educate, to share her passion and to mentor others who are coming ‘up through the ranks’ of the wine industry. During her climb to the top, she found colleagues and so motivating and supportive and wanted to make a similar contribution to people following in her footsteps.

That’s perhaps one of the most interesting things Laura shared at the Women in Wine discussion – how she felt only encouragement from male colleagues, never a hint of gender or age bias in the wine world. And if Laura’s learned anything, she suggests it’s that the wine industry is a humbling place. There’s always more you can learn – even if you are one of the most respected people in your field.

For example: “You might think you know everything there is to know about a particular region, but then you find a producer who is doing things completely differently. You need to travel to that region and listen. There’s always someone who knows more than you and there is always more for you to learn.”

Which is perhaps why, even after almost a decade in the business, Maniec stresses that every day is still exciting. There are always more things to discover.

“I went to a wine shop last night,” she shared. “One where they wouldn’t know me, or know I was in the business. They found a small producer of champagne, my favorite region, that I was unfamiliar with.”

“I went home afterwards and did some research, finding out that the winemaker was a woman, and she only makes about 30,000 cases a year. Yet she’s still considered a major up-and-comer – and I had never even heard of her.”

It’s proof, Laura argues, “that there is always more to learn.”

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