Julia Coney has done more to shift the wine industry’s paradigm in the last few years than others have in decades. Coney is a wine journalist based in Washington D.C. and Houston. Her pennings regularly push the intersection of wine and racism to the forefront of the trade.
Formerly a legal assistant and beauty blogger, Coney turned to wine full-time in 2016. She holds a WSET Level Two Certification in Wine and Spirits and is currently pursuing her Master Level Champagne Certification with the Wine Scholar Guild as well as her WSET Level Three Certification in Wine. Through her work as a wine educator, speaker and consultant, Coney has spoken openly about often being the only Black person invited to industry wine tastings or on media trips.
Being a tireless advocate for diversity and inclusion, Coney helped spur long overdue change by launching Black Wine Professionals in June 2020. The database is a tool for those planning tasting or tours and pushes for expanded diversity in the wine industry.
Coney is a friend of SOMM TV and has made several appearances on the SOMM Podcast Network. She’s talked with Jason Wise about everything from pairing wine to drink while watching Denzel Washington movies to discussing American sparkling wine. Her latest podcast appearance coincided with the release of the Verticals episode featuring Pierre Péters, and we got to hear her favorite Champagne food pairings.
Recently, we asked her to make her debut on the SOMM TV Online Magazine and profile her as an industry innovator. Read further to find out Coney’s view of being innovative in the wine industry.
What aspects of your personality make you a natural innovator?
I’m an extroverted introvert technically called an ambivert. I like people. I talk to people and I have a natural curiosity about life.
When did you realize that you were an innovator?
Honestly, I don’t see myself as an innovator. I see myself as a motivator. To shift your perspective, open your mind, find your path, purpose, and be bold in your decisions.
Describe the moment in your career when your passion for wine shifted to focus on the business of wine.
In 2018, when I started writing and talking about racism in the wine industry. I realized there were so many aspects of the wine business I didn’t know about and I wanted to learn about. And I wanted more people of color to see the wine industry as more than just wine descriptors.
Describe a time when you were sure you couldn’t accomplish what you were hoping for but ended up succeeding.
I’m a writer so being on deadlines always seems impossible until I hit send. LOL.
How do you foster innovation among those on your team/colleagues?
Listening. Listening to my team and their ideas. I don’t have to like or even agree with them, but I work with them for a reason and rely on their judgment. A great innovator and leader has to delegate. It’s hard, but you have to do it.
What kind of innovation are you excited to see in the wine industry? Either in the near or distant future.
I think the pandemic has opened up how virtual classes have allowed the industry to meet new consumers. Everyone can’t always travel to different regions, but being able to taste wine with a winery team member or winemaker with friends around the world will hopefully continue.
What wine region do you believe is being the most innovative with their winemaking?
Spain is always thinking outside the box by bringing the old and the new together.
If you had $1 million to implement a new idea to push the industry forward, what would it be?
I would innovate the 3-tier system of how we buy and sell wine in the U.S.
And because wine is meant to be fun, what’s your go-to beverage after a long day?
Sparkling wine. Bubbles bring the party, go with a variety of food, and they’re just so much fun to drink.
Nicole MacKay in the Managing Editor of the SOMM TV Online Magazine. She holds her WSET 3 and is a Spanish Wine Scholar. With a passion for food and travel, she's often found in her kitchen adjusting perfectly good recipes to be gluten-free and plant-based.