Welcome to Pro-Sips, our new series sharing pro-tips from sommeliers and wine experts! There’s so much to learn and explore within the world of German wine – 13 distinct regions offering numerous wine varieties in a range of styles – so to help you get started, we’re bringing wine wisdom from the pros straight to you.
Rania Zayyat’s German Wine Pro-Tips
We interviewed Rania Zayyat, the founder of Lift Collective, a community-centered, multi-channel platform advocating for equity and inclusion in the wine industry. Her experiences in a male-dominated wine culture during her formative years motivated her to create change in the wine industry by elevating marginalized groups and developing a platform to level the professional playing field. An esteemed sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and gender equality advocate in the wine industry, Zayyat is passionate about creating equity in the wine industry via Lift Collective and its respective annual conference. In addition to serving as Lift Collective’s Board President, Rania is the Wine Director and Managing Partner at Bufalina, a Neapolitan pizza and natural wine destination in Austin, TX.
Connect with Rania on Instagram at @LiftCollectiveOrg and read her Pro-Sips below!
Q1: How or why did you get into the wine industry, and at what point were you introduced to German wine?
I started paying attention to wine in 2010 when I started working at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston. It was kind of hard not to be involved in wine working there, because the list is so robust and world-renowned. I was fairly young at the time but already had an interest in wine and was simultaneously studying cultural anthropology at the University of Houston, so wine really brought to life a lot of the things I loved about anthropology: culture, people, places, history, evolution (wine as it ages), and it just clicked. I wanted to work in this industry. My very first wine trip outside the U.S. was with Wines of Germany. I was awarded the trip through an essay I submitted on GuildSomm. I was ecstatic to have that experience because Germany is often identified as a difficult country to study due to its wine laws, vineyard names, etc, and I knew that going there would be a game changer for me, and it was!
Q2: For consumers new to German wine, where or how do you recommend they start their discovery? What varietal or style would you recommend as an introduction?
My first instinct would be to recommend German Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder), primarily because people don’t often expect red wines when they think about drinking German wine, and a lot of consumers are familiar with Pinot Noir but have no idea about its prominence and success in Germany. It can be a great gateway to appreciating the diversity of what Germany has to offer.
Q3: In 2018, you founded Lift Collective (formerly Wonder Women of Wine), a non-profit organization changing the wine world with a goal of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion across the industry at-large. Tell us a little about what led you to that decision, the goals for Lift Collective, and how others can get involved.
After building my career in the wine industry, and learning about others’ experiences that were similar to mine (ie struggling to fit in and succeed in a patriarchal, racist, misogynist, and antiquated industry), I felt compelled to start talking about these issues and knew that a lot of other people had things to say too, so I planned a conference to bring those issues to light. After a couple of years as Wonder Women of Wine, we felt it was important that our mission and work prioritized the needs of anyone who had been intentionally ignored in the wine industry. We are a community-centered multi-channel platform advocating equity and inclusion in the wine industry through our annual two-day conference, proprietary research, community partnerships, and scholarships.
We’d love to see you at our next conference in spring 2022 in Austin, Texas. It will be offered in a hybrid format of in-person and virtual. People can stay notified about conference details and other Lift Collective programs by signing up for our newsletter and following us on Instagram at @liftcollectiveorg.
Q4: What is one of the most exciting changes or trends you’ve seen within German wine over the years?
As we become more aware of the effects of climate change and how it’s affecting our industry right now, I really admire the efforts of German winemakers and trade in leading research and strategy on how to operate more sustainably. From key research being done at Geisenheim University to the formation of regional, national, and international alliances sharing information and resources, Germany is such a great example of how to adapt all the while creating new business opportunities and consumer bases. They are really updating their reputation on the global stage. It’s fascinating and exciting.
Q5: Finally, for all the wine lovers out there, what’s your favorite pro-sip about wine that more people should know?
Trust your palate and stay curious about trying new things. Step outside your comfort zone and you might surprise yourself with what you like.