Our annual 40 Under 40 Tastemakers feature isn’t just a roll call of the latest drinks professionals to hit the scene. Instead, it’s where we call attention to people who are shaping the future of the entire spectrum of food, beverage and hospitality for years to come.
The term “tastemaker” can carry a range of definitions. So, how does Wine Enthusiast interpret it? For this list, we celebrate people who are making change now, whether they’ve been working in the industry for six months or 16 years. They’ve made recent impacts to shift the drinks landscape in lasting and meaningful ways, from bringing new consumers into wine, to championing progressive organizations or initiatives, to innovating in how they approach the wine business, to creating opportunities and educational spaces.
This year’s list includes sommeliers who use wine as a bridge between cultures, brewers who are building awareness of racial injustice and the founder of a nonprofit advocacy organization for restaurant workers that has raised millions in coronavirus relief funds for hospitality professionals. It also includes people who have hands-on roles in creating wines for big-name producers, whether in the vineyard or the winery. We also seek to achieve some level of balance in representing all parts of the country and sectors of the industry.
One of the more controversial elements of this list is its very name. It’s centered on individuals under 40 years old at the list curation date, which is in the middle of the year. This started as a way to recognize a younger demographic group that is largely underrepresented, underappreciated and underrespected in coverage of wine, drinks and hospitality. Until better equity is achieved for this group, we are honored to use this space to represent up-and-coming voices, personalities, backgrounds and experiences.
Still, there is a great deal of privilege inherent in a career in wine in particular, and that can make this list feel exclusionary. Lots of people simply can’t afford to cultivate an interest in wine, to say nothing of a career, until later in their lives. Many, many more find their way to flourishing wine professions after age 40 for plenty of other reasons. To that, all we can say is that we want to celebrate your stories as well. (A few are also included in the October issue. There are so many more to share.)
A final note unique to this year’s list: As the global pandemic keeps many sheltering at home, we organized our first-ever “virtual photo shoot,” allowing a more personal view into the lives and workplaces of those guiding our industry forward. Captured remotely by photographer Matt Sayles, this year’s tastemakers were encouraged to bring their most authentic selves and personally selected their own environments, clothing, accessories, props and concepts to best represent how they feel, who they are and what they stand for.
Here’s to all of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2020.