Wine Geek of the Week Diana Hawkins

Welcome to the Wine Geek of the Week
Where I ask my favorite wine geeks shitty questions!
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This week's guest is Diana Hawkins @vinenoir
Photo of Shitty Wine Memes Wine Geek of the Week Diana Hawkins
Why are you a wine geek?
First and foremost, I am a complete, unapologetic, lifelong, geek - I'm talking full-blown science nerd. I've always wanted to learn as much as I could about the world around me. But when I stumbled upon wine? That was it. Down the rabbit hole I went, and I've never looked back. Wine is one of the most infinitely fascinating things you can get into. It's impossible to know everything and therefore it's impossible to get bored. There's always questions to answer and topics to explore, which I love about it. I also find it a lot more relatable than, say, string theory, and wayyy more interesting than systems engineering. So, that's why I'm a wine geek.

Extraterrestrials just landed on earth. What wine do you pour them?
Meinklang "Prosa" Pét-Nat rosé. I poured it at various restaurants (from crunchy to super traditional) throughout my career and have never had anyone dislike or return that wine. It's tasty, refreshing, and perfect for celebrating us not getting destroyed,
Mars Attacks! style, by our extraterrestrial visitors.

What's your favorite scent you have ever smelled in a wine?
I call it an "ash-berry." I usually get it in Cru Beaujolais and Cab Franc from the Loire Valley. It smells like you put a dollop of mixed berry jam into a full ashtray and stirred it together. My grandfather smoked most of my life and while cigarettes are absolutely NOT good for you, that smell is super nostalgic for me.

Any favorite music or podcasts you like to listen to while you drink wine?
I love love love listening to Ologies by Alie Ward. She interviews experts in their fields and asks them a bunch of questions about like, trees, ancient breadmaking, or economics. I also like listening to music. Tiny Desk Concerts (NPR affiliated and basically bands jam out) and My Analog Journal (people spin records from around the world so you get things like Latin Jazz, Indonesian Funk, and Turkish music from the 60s) are favs as well.

If you could visit any wine region in the world right now what would it be any why?
Etna. I f*cking love Italian wines, and Etna is one of my favorite regions. I figure after covid, climate change, and plastic getting into the food chain, zombies are probably next. So, I better go drink Nerello Mascalese on the side of an active volcano before it's too late.

What do you think is the most exciting thing going in the world of wine right now?
The reckoning. It's been a long time coming, and the industry has a lot to answer for in terms of its utter lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion; inability to look long and hard at its past; problematic agricultural practices; and contribution to climate change. My hope is that rather than ignore these issues the industry addresses them and finds a path forward. I've seen some encouraging signs and hope it continues.

What would you like to see in the future of wine?
More transparency, which will lead to greater accountability. The industry keeps wondering why it's losing market share to other beverages and can't get Millennials and Gen Z's attention, but at the same time it's keeping consumers at an arm's length and refusing to let them see behind the scenes. I think part of that is because the image the industry has projected for so long requires a bit of what I'll call Wizard of Oz energy. Well you can't be accountable to the greater community, if you're hiding behind a curtain. We've got to be wayyyy more honest with consumers about how wine is actually made. The industry gets too caught up in talking about terroir, pH, and TA, but skips the tough convos about carbon footprints and fair labour practices that people actually care about. We've got to do better.

What advice would you give yourself looking back to when you first started working in the wine industry?
I left corporate to work in the industry. So, I essentially went from being a daywalker to a full-blown vampire. I loved it, but I lost a lot of non-industry friends and my remaining relationships changed quite a bit. I think my advice to others would be: don't blindly pursue your passion; find ways to maintain the other things that are important to you.

Who are some people that inspire you in the world of wine?
There are quite a few like the McBride Sisters, Julia Coney, and Jancis Robinson. However, as an aspiring winemaker who may have children one day, I resonate with Brianne Day's real-life account of what it's like to be a single mother AND head winemaker. Seeing her with a baby bjorn on a forklift during vintage or her with her son checking out potential growers on the gram is super inspirational to me.

Anything in the works you'd like to mention or promote? 
I'm in the process of starting a wine brand, Responsible Hedonist (@responsiblehedonistwines and responsiblehedonist.co.nz). We want to bring fun, interesting, wines from Aotearoa New Zealand to consumers in the USA all while being mindful of our community and environmental obligations. We're just getting started but are taking people through the process as we go. Our hope is that by being more transparent and showing the path we're going down, we can encourage others to start their own wine companies and learn from our mistakes. We also want to be fully accountable to our community, which means letting people in and starting a dialogue. You can sign up for our mailing list here: https://www.responsiblehedonist.co.nz/mailinglist.

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