“Woah!,” Pierre grabbed Cynthia’s leg with urgency. “Women growers in Champagne get higher prices than men!”
More captivated than usual by the Harvard Business Review, we dove into the story. It was March, Sunday night dinner, and the start of midterm and end-of-quarter craziness in our respective universities, but we weren’t going to let that stop us. So, we went reading, wine shopping, and splurged a little to join the Twitter fun convened by a wine writing group called the French Winophiles. The theme of this month’s Twitter chat: the women of Champagne.
Price negotiations: how Champagne’s women growers outsmart men
Big companies called “Houses” (think Veuve Cliquot, Moet & Chandon etc) make most of the wine in Champagne but they own little land. This means that while they have the capital to invest in equipment and marketing, they must buy grapes from the other side of the business, more than 15,000 independent growers who own most of the vineyard land. As you might expect, antagonism between growers and producers is a pretty big part of the 5 billion dollar a year industry.
So what does gender have to do with this? Women growers have to fight for respect and credibility in a male-dominated field. Two researchers decided to find out if these women also face “seller discrimination,” i.e. getting lower prices for their grapes as a result of their gender. Seller discrimination, the authors explain, is widespread, affecting minorities selling all kinds of things from baseball cards to iPods on eBay. You would expect the same results for grapes sold by women in Champagne. Of course, to measure this, you must control for other factors, notably grape quality, which the authors did.
But here’s the surprise: for a given level of grape quality, on average, women growers got paid more for their grapes than men! Why? The authors argue that as a minority group, women often support each other and socialize. They end up sharing all kinds of market relevant information with each other, which make them much better at negotiating prices. By contrast, they explain, men not only fail to socialize and share information, but in the rare instances that they do, they don’t usually trust what they hear from each other! You know, that other guy was probably just bragging, they think!
Our bottle of the night: “Particules Crayeuses” Brut Grand Cru, Blanc de Blanc, by Champagne Waris Larmandier
Our pick for dinner was a grower Champagne, i.e. one made by the grower themselves, with grapes from their land, rather than one of the big Houses. Champagne Waris-Larmandier was founded in 1989. Located in Avize, a village rated Grand Cru in the Côte des Blancs, the domaine is headed by Marie-Hélène Larmandier who continued the business after her husband Vincent Waris passed away. Her daughter and two sons work for the domaine too. The eldest son handles the family’s seven hectares of vineyards and the winemaking.
We bought our bottle of “Particules Crayeuses” at Vif, our favorite Seattle natural wine shop, owned and run by awesome women who always make terrific recommendations. The Chardonnay grapes for this Blanc de Blanc came from Grand Cru vineyards over 40 years old that the family owns in several villages (not just Avize). Retail price was $70 plus tax. We were very pleased with its bright acidity, classic yeasty, toasty notes and a long, clean finish that made it work very well with our sushi dinner.
The Chardonnay grapes for this Blanc de Blanc came from Grand Cru vineyards over 40 years old that the family owns in several villages (not just Avize). Retail price was $70 plus tax. We were very pleased with its bright acidity, classic toasty notes and a long, clean finish that made it work very well with our sushi dinner.
Pairing: make your own sushi at the table
We invited our friends Anaid and Luis, who had done all the work for the #winepw Cab Franc dinner last week. They must have thought they would just be able to “mettre les pieds sous la table” (put the feet under the table), as we say in French. But nope, we put them to work.
We learned this way of eating sushi at home from a friend many years ago and never looked back: get a variety of fresh ingredients, set the table, and let guests have fun making their own sushi, as you would for a taco or burger night. While Cynthia loves to make rainbow rolls and other fun things, you can’t beat the simplicity of the DIY at the table method. And simple is what we need at this time of the year when we are buried in work.
For this, our go to source is H-Mart, the Asian American grocery chain. We stopped at the Federal Way location on the way back from Vif to Tacoma (our itinerary was highly calculated indeed).
Their brilliant sushi corner has everything we need, and the fish is prepped enough that the remaining cuts to get your sashimi ready don’t require too much skill (sharpen your knife though!). For the sushi rice, Cynthia, has tried many recipes over the years, but was particularly happy with this new one.
The Champagne pairing is one of our favorite things to do with sushi, though given the price of Champagne, we don’t do it often. The Particules Crayeuses by Waris Larmandier worked especially well.
Pierre quickly made a mess on his plate (it’s yummy anyway), a bit like those people in exercise videos who do everything with modified or poor form to make the rest of us feel better.
Meanwhile Anaid and Luis were killing it with colors and creativity:
OK, while it was a sushi night, we couldn’t help but have a cheese course before dessert.
We’re joining the fun for the first time at the French Winophiles #winophiles Twitter chat, organized by experienced wine writers whose work we enjoy. We’re grateful to them for giving us the opportunity to play and learn. Like us, you should follow #winophiles on Twitter on Saturday, March 16, at 11 AM ET. We’ll update the links to all their posts below soon.
- Julia from Julia Coney.com speaks on “Women of Champagne Making Shift Happen”
- Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings whips up “Women Who Make Champagne AND Woman Who Helps Us Learn About Champagne #Winophiles #tastelikehappy”
- Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog writes on Overcoming the Odds Twice – The Women of Champagne Duval-Leroy “Overcoming the Odds Twice – The Women of Champagne Duval-Leroy”
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator talks about the Wonderful Women of Champagne and Halibut 4 Ways for #Winophiles “Wonderful Women of Champagne and Halibut 4 Ways for #Winophiles.”
- Jill from L’Occasion talks about Working With the Classics: Advice from Women in Champagne“Working With the Classics: Advice from Women in Champagne”
- Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles asks the question, Where Are the Women in Champagne?“Where Are the Women in Champagne?”
- Camila from Culinary Adventures with Camila makes you hungry with Glazed Beet & Burrata Toasts + Alice Paillard“Working With the Classics: Advice from Women in Champagne”