Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how did you join the drinks industry?
As a teenager in the Barossa, I recall picking grapes for a friend’s dad to earn school holiday money. He didn’t trust us to prune later in the year! I remember other mates busting into their parents’ wineries to acquire port for our winter bonfires. Intended for warming purposes only, of course. As a young adult, I worked in and around local wineries and cellar doors. Whilst there it was the unlocking of the international wine knowledge that really captured me.
I worked with an Englishman that knew about this whole other world...I wanted IN! I moved from my cosy hometown of Tanunda (South Australia) to the ‘big smoke’ of London in 2014. Once in London I undertook my WSET Diploma and began working with Negociants UK. From there I was with Enotria&Coe on the Buying Team. Now, having just embarked on my Master of Wine journey, I await to see what my next adventure is.
You’ve been selected for one of Drinks Community mentorship programme. Can you tell us why you were interested in the programme?
Like much of our drinks industry, I was furloughed for a major portion of 2020. After initial gratitude of the pace slowing, I began to grow restless. By the end of the year, I was feeling a genuine disconnect from my peers and professional self. Scrolling on LinkedIn I saw the Drinks Community feed pop up with the Mentorship program. I’d never had a mentor before and thought that could be just what I need to renew my vigor and verve. I applied thinking that I wouldn’t fit the criteria and within a week I had a reply that I’d been accepted. It was such an exciting moment and a change of trajectory for me.
Any tangible outcomes from the mentorship you might want to share with us?
Oh, my Yes! No-nonsense, pragmatic yet kindly, my mentor has been a wonderful source of inspirational and industry insight. Thanks to her level-headed guidance and networking I have achieved so many personal goals that together we set.
How do you think being a mentee has helped you? Any area of growth?
Using the GROW model for each of our sessions my mentor helped me decide the core areas I wanted to focus on. This will be different for each relationship and each mentee. Mine were very much centred around feeling connected, engaged, and active participant of the wine and drinks industry. My mentor also helped me challenge conflict and obstacles I was facing in the workplace by being an impartial and external support.
With the help of my mentor, this year I have:
- Become an International Wine and Spirits Competition Wine Judge
- Had an article published with Jancis Robinson
- Applied and been accepted onto the 2021 Master of Wine Program
Any challenges you had to overcome during the programme?
The biggest challenge I had to overcome in the program was my lack of confidence. In the beginning, I felt like I wasn’t really ‘professional enough’ to be a part of the Drinks Community mentorship program. I also worried that my mentor, an absolute boss MW, would be disappointed in getting a mentee like me. The other challenge was pandemic related, being unable to meet face to face in the beginning. In fact, we didn’t have our first ‘real life’ meeting until July.
What would you say to anyone considering applying to the mentorship programme?
NIKE. JUST DO IT. Today, as I answer these questions, I feel incredibly optimistic about my future in the drinks industry. I have met so many new people. I have learned Imposter Syndrome is a thing and not something only I experience.
I am about to embark on the MW journey which is something I barely dared to articulate before I began working with my mentor at the beginning of the year. Undertaking the program, the opportunities for connecting and the camaraderie experienced is what the drinks industry is all about.
What are your future and goals in the industry?
I have a stimulating agenda of freelance brand ambassador work scheduled for November. For 2022 I will throw myself into my MW studies, with the first residential happening in January in Rust, Austria.
Having just stepped away from my current role, I am excited to find a new employer that will elevate, champion and celebrate who I am, what I can offer and what I am setting out to achieve. I believe I have found that with LWC Drinks. I will soon be commencing as Wine Development Manager with LWC Drinks and I couldn’t be more excited! I look forward to understanding and inspiring their portfolio. Further to this, I will be training, educating and generally thrilling the Sales Managers, their customers and their staff in all things wine.
Developing relationships with fellow mentees within the Drinks Community events is most definitely on my radar after an amazing initial event at the end of October. I also hope my mentor will continue to keep in contact with me once our formal schedule has come to an end. They really have helped my pivot in a way I would not have thought possible at the beginning of the year.
You can follow Melissa on Instagram:
- @mwdrinkswine - for her MW journey
- @mwwineambassador - for private, bespoke tastings & corporate events