Meet the Founders of Wine Empowered

Les fondatrices de Wine Empowered

Three professional sommeliers are helping women make their way in the wine world, a sector still dominated by men. We take a look back at the beginnings of their project and their vision of the future.

Les fondatrices de Wine Empowered

"We are focusing on inspiring the next generation of wine leaders"

Nominations for the 2023 Simone Awards are now open. Do you know a commited woman?

Victoria, Amy and Cynthia, three dynamic sommeliers, are seeking to change the industry’s face through professional growth and empowerment.

They founded Wine Empowered, an educational organization providing tuition-free wine courses to women and minorities wishing to embark on a career in the hospitality industry. Their programs provide wine classes to students of all levels and all backgrounds. 

Our mission is to inspire professional growth and empower women and minorities in the hospitality industry in an aim to diversify leadership roles in the industry.

To do this, the three colleagues have implemented several initiatives: 

To advance our mission, we provide tuition-free wine education, mentoring services, and access to a wider network of sommeliers and hospitality professionals.”

@Wine Empowered
@Wine Empowered

Indeed, education is the core of their project.

We believe education not only qualifies an individual for higher levels of employment, it empowers one to pursue endless opportunities for advancement,” says Victoria.

She adds: “The three of us worked in a restaurant together in NYC and offered tuition-free wine education to our staff. After this first series of classes we were so surprised to see that students were empowered to build their careers. We saw bussers become servers become sommeliers become managers! We realized that this was the key to diversifying the upper ranks of leadership within the hospitality world. This inspired us to take our initiative and expand it outside of our one restaurant.

But the association had to face a major obstacle that no longer needs no introduction:

The pandemic! First and foremost! We were incorporated in 2018 but launched our first class in 2020… which of course we had to shut down in March. However, it was a great lesson about how we could make the classes even better when we launched again.

@Wine Empowered

Far from giving up, Victoria, Amy and Cynthia persevered.

We are still a baby organization and look forward to growing and expanding our initiative. In the meantime, we are proud to serve our community in a small but mindful way by offering mentorship and education to women and BIPOC in hospitality. Just our existence, we believe, shows people how important this mission is!

Wine Empowered is unique in that they are a non-profit group with a dedicated mission to offer in-person cost-free wine education. “Other organizations are wonderful and offer scholarships to help pay for already existing programs and certifications,” says Victoria. “But we felt that we wanted to create our own safe space where those who felt marginalized in the wine world could learn.

So, what is Wine Empowered’s agenda for the next few years? 

We have so many goals” replies Victoria. “But for now we are focusing on making our current class the most successful it can be and inspiring the next generation of wine leaders!

When they received word of their nomination for the Simone Awards, they told us they felt “incredibly honored”. “We are thrilled that this support will help nurture our students’ future”.

In addition, our grant will allow this beautiful project to grow. “Every cent of every donation goes directly to our students and our initiative of providing tuition-free education to women and BIPOC in hospitality,” outlines Victoria.

Finally, what piece of advice would they give to someone who wants to commit to a cause? 

Band together”, they say. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this solo — coming together as young women who were passionate about the same cause was crucial to our success. Often, there is this mindset that you have to go it alone but when we come together we can accomplish so much more!


Thank you and we wish you all the best for the future!


Victoria was speaking to Victor Goichon, our Export Manager.

Diane Dupré La Tour, Founder of Les Petites Cantines

Portrait of Diane, founder of Les Petites Cantines.

After losing her husband in a car accident, Diane Dupré la Tour realized the importance of a social support network, and found that food was the key ingredient to creating one.

Portrait of Diane, founder of Les Petites Cantines.

"We shouldn't wait for a life-changing incident to live this kind of solidarity"

Nominations for the 2023 Simone Awards are now open. Do you know a commited woman?

Diane Dupré la Tour, a 42 year old former finance journalist, is the co-founder of Les Petites Cantines, a network of restaurants that specialize in sustainable food and are open to everyone. 

We offer sustainable food, free of charge. We opened the first canteen in Lyon, and today we’re present in many French cities.

However, the inspiration sprung from tragedy. 

I lost my husband in a car accident ten years ago,” says Diane. “This tragic event made me realize that any life-changing incident can easily put us in a vulnerable position, sometimes causing inward-looking attitudes at times when we mostly need the others. I was lucky enough to receive great support from my neighbors. It made me think that we shouldn’t wait for a life-changing incident to live this kind of solidarity.

And so it began. With her friend Etienne Thouvenot, Diane decided to create a place that would fulfill this need to be connected to others. 

Instinctively, food appeared as the key element to facilitate encounters and create a social link. It’s a great source of resilience, because food not only answers physical needs, but it also answers emotional and relational needs.

The decision to make the food free is a bold and interesting one. 

 “It enables us to welcome people from different generations and life paths. The supply relies exclusively on sustainable food with organic, local ingredients from direct supplies. We also collect unsold stocks from the neighboring organic shops. The kitchen too is participatory: those who want to can come earlier and cook together. We create opportunities to meet people we couldn’t have met otherwise. Some neighbors also offer workshops. It’s like Neighbor’s Day, every day!

@Les Petites Cantines

 But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Lyonnais pair. They weren’t caterers, and entering into such an industry is fraught with challenges.

I didn’t know anything about the catering industry,” Diane admits. “I attended training sessions about hygiene and the rules of this industry. We started with ephemeral canteens in venues that people would lend to us, so we could test the impact on the neighbors. When we realized that it was a success, we started looking for our own space. The real challenge was to find available premises, with an affordable rent and the possibility to carry out work related to the industry standards. All the premises I could find were too expensive.

This choice to become an entrepreneur at a point in Diane’s life when she had not only suffered bereavement but also quit her job while looking after three children was, she admits, an unorthodox one. 

Seen from the outside, it could sound really irrational to become an entrepreneur at this stage. But I had the feeling that it was a good time to go for it. In reality, we take a bigger risk by not following our instinct: the risk of missing the whole purpose of our own life.

But they continued moving forward. 

Our ambition, with Etienne, was to build a non-lucrative model without having to depend on subventions: our model would rely on the free and conscious contribution of our guests. It can be really stressful to never know how much money we get at the end of every day, especially when you have salaries, rent, charges to pay. You have to learn to trust yourself. And it worked!

Here in 2023, all the canteens are stable and built on a trusted model. Nearly 85,000 meals have been served to more than 35,000 guests since the inception six years ago of the initiative. 10 canteens are already open, and 12 are about to be launched. But there’s still a level of precariousness. 

Part of the supply depends on the collection of unsold stocks. Plus, we never really know who is going to cook. Lastly, we don’t know how many people will sit at our tables. Overall, for a project relying on gatherings, you have to accept that a good part of it is unpredictable. Our canteen managers are championing uncertainty management, and they do it with a lot of simplicity and social capacity. This is, in my opinion, a job for the future.

It’s an admirable set up. But, fundamentally, does it work? Diane says she is able to measure that. 

We run social impact studies every two years. Today, 95% of our guests say they feel as welcome as they truly are. They become aware of their own prejudices and can more easily get rid of these biases after spending quality time with someone in particular. Two guests out of three give more trust to others and feel trusted in return. The main thing is that we foster the ability to redefine social connections and loneliness.

But there’s more than just the social aspect. This initiative has a health dimension too. 

We also measure the impact of accessing sustainable food,” Diane continues. “82% of our guests have discovered healthy, cheap recipes in our canteens, and want to reproduce them at their home. We offer recipes made with local, organic ingredients, and ideally bulk goods to avoid too much packaging. These practices have an influence on our guests’ food behaviors, not just through our speeches but also through the experience of pleasure. The notion of savory, sensory well-being are the key to opening to others. We noticed that one guest out of two have sustainably changed their food behavior thanks to Les Petites Cantines.”

Les Petites Cantines
@Les Petites Cantines
@Les Petites Cantines

In terms of frequency, the regularity of custom goes some way to prove their success. 

 “25% of the guests come often, at least once a week. 50% of them come on a regular basis, once or twice a month. And the remaining 25% are people passing by, they come once or twice a year. These people are nonetheless important because they are our ambassadors. They talk about us. For the elderly, the initiative can come from their children who heard about us. They come with their parents the first time then let them come back on their own if they want to.”

Diane and company have now got to the point where they can make a forecast for their future success. 

 “We’re hoping that in 5 years, we can count 50 canteens within our network. This would serve approximately 100,000 guests and 100 employees. Today, we already have 30.”

But they don’t want to get too big. One of the company mantras is proximity and simplicity are the key ingredients to create social connections

The word “petites” means small in French and is as important as the word “canteen” in our name,” explains Diane. “To create trustworthy relationships, you can’t have complex structures. The entrepreneurial agility enables us to stay resilient, a precious quality in this society of changes.”

They would, it appears, rather be consultants who advise on future cantines run by like-minded others. 

Ideally, we would help create new networks in France, in Europe or elsewhere, to which we could transmit our knowledge. Our goal is not just having a social impact within Les Petites Cantines but also outside. We want to train companies, the hospitality industry about inviting interpersonal skills to their tables. Hannah Arendt describes the table as a space that connects us all, while maintaining a distance between each other. This distance is not an empty space since it is filled with what happens above the plate, which is the ability to speak. This is how we create unexpected encounters at Les Petites Cantines. Eating organic food on your own is not my vision of eating sustainably. For us, the aspect of sharing a meal is just as important as cooking organic, local, healthy ingredients.” 

Château de Pommard chose Les Petites Cantines as one of the three winners of the 2023 Simone Awards, and Diane says she felt a collective sense of pride on hearing the news.

It’s the reward of many teams. I’m also very grateful. In the end, the world of wine and Les Petites Cantines have more common values than you could imagine. One could think that a renowned winery like Château de Pommard would not have anything to do with an organization like Les Petites Cantines, whose goal is to encourage social connections. And yet, what connects us all here is food.

Certainly the conviviality engendered by carefully made wine accompanying food is one of the key driving factors when making wines at Château de Pommard, and we’re thrilled to be associated with an organisation who understand the importance, at a fundamentally human level, of how the social aspect of eating and drinking helps people connect, and has done for centuries. We hope the grant will help Diane and team move forward. 

We will use it for the development of our network, to create a collective, dynamic intelligence and support our teams. The more experienced project leaders can support new projects. We just need to train them as facilitators and provide them with an updated toolbox taking into account all the regulatory constraints,” Diane says. 

What piece of advice would Diane give to someone who wants to commit to an important cause?

Don’t fight on your own. Take people with you. You will be enriched from their experiences and their sensibilities. You will learn how rewarding it is to be able to rely on others, which is something that can be hard to accept. In France, we see a lot of suffering caused by entrepreneurial failure. This is seen as a personal failure. It would be much easier if we considered success as collective, rather than individual.

Thanks Diane, and good luck! 

Diane was speaking to our Asia Senior Trade Sales Manager, Remi Marchand .

Announcing the 2021 Simone Awards laureates

Simone Awards 2021 Winners: Emily Penn, Julia Coney and ucie Basch.

Château de Pommard and the Simone Awards Board are proud to unveil the 2021 Simone Awards winners. Launched in 2018 by Famille Carabello-Baum and Château de Pommard, the Simone Awards celebrate and support women-led causes everywhere. Each year, three laureates are selected by the Simone Awards Board based on criteria including the purpose of the cause, its achievements, and its future potential. 10% of the annual profits from the sale of Simone, Château de Pommard’s top cuvée, will be donated to the winners’ causes.

The 2021 Simone Awards gathered candidates from diverse backgrounds, fighting for different causes such as ending youth homelessness in the United States, lifting smallholder farmers out of poverty in West Africa, or promoting and providing access to clean water. The selected winners, three extraordinary women from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, truly represent the spirit of commitment — selflessly impacting the lives of others and making our world a better place.

Lucie Basch is the co-founder of Too Good To Go, an app dedicated to tackling the food waste problem in France and the rest of Europe through partnerships with local businesses and awareness campaigns. A young, French engineer, Basch won the Prix Margaret’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2018 and was part of Forbes’ “30 under 30” list – which showcases young, successful European entrepreneurs – in 2020.

There is a lot we want to do with the Simone Awards grant. First of all, it is a great recognition of all the team’s efforts. Secondly, we hope to use this grant to develop awareness campaigns in thousands of schools in France in September 2022.” – Lucie Basch, co-founder of Too Good To Go.

Emily Penn co-founded eXXpedition in 2014 with the ambition of better understanding the plastic pollution issue and finding solutions to this worldwide problem. The non-profit organisation runs pioneering all-female sailing research expeditions at sea and virtual voyages on land to investigate the causes of and solutions to ocean plastic pollution. Emily is an ocean advocate, skipper and artist. In 2016, she became the youngest and only female recipient of both the Yachtmaster of the Year, awarded by HRH Princess Royal, and the Seamaster of the Year award. In 2021 she was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Years Honours List.

We are really excited about this grant. It will help our ambassador community to support the activities we run and to share the incredible impact that these fantastic role models are having”, Emily Penn, co-founder of eXXpedition.

Last but not least, Julia Coney and her organization, Black Wine Professionals, are the third winners of the 2021 Simone Awards. Founded in 2020, Black Wine Professionals is a resource for wine professionals and gatekeepers seeking to empower diversity in their industry. Julia Coney is an American wine writer, wine educator, speaker, and consultant. Her writing includes stories on wine, winemakers, and the intersection of race, wine, and language. In 2020, Wine Enthusiast elected her ‘Social Visionary Award Winner’ for her work in writing and speaking on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the wine industry. Wine Industry Network named her one of Wine’s Most Inspiring People for 2022. 

“We’re honored to receive this award; it is the continuation of our work. We’ll be able to create an immersion experience with a trip to France for professionals to go out in the field and meet with winemakers. We believe that no book can change how you feel when you’re on the soil,” – Julia Coney, founder of Black Wine Professionals.

Nominations for the 2022 Simone Awards are open now and closes on December 15, 2022. The Simone Awards are open to any woman-run cause in any country or sector worldwide focused on positive outcomes. 

News from our 2019 and 2020 Simone Awards laureates

Since 2018, the Simone Awards have honored six amazing women dedicated to causes aiming to change our world for the better. We spoke with previous Simone Award winners Nathalie, Stori, Christine, and Shelby to hear about their recent work.

Through Raison d’Art, Nathalie Hazan focuses on violence prevention. Her most recent work, PortraitX, is a five-year research intervention project to prevent teen dating violence in high schools across Canada. Within the context of PortraitX, Nathalie and her team have developed an app combining technology, art, and media to educate teenagers on how to build relationships.

At the Marin Academy Research Collaborative (MARC), Stori and her team continue to inspire and empower young women to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities. “It has been a joy to watch young women develop into the next generation of scientists and leaders tackling such complex issues as climate change, public health, translational research, and exoplanet discovery,” confirmed Stori. Since 2019, more than 20 young women in the program have partnered with mentors worldwide to design and conduct their own scientific studies.

In the past months, Shelby Meyer was able to move forward with her work at SquareOne Village. Her team at Landscape For Humanity worked with Opportunity Village Eugene residents to build a transitional housing community for people with low incomes. When asked about the impact of the global pandemic on her work, Shelby answered, “Of course, community collaboration has been more difficult with the restrictions from the pandemic. We have created surveys for the villagers about their environmental needs before, during, and post-COVID, and we have been thoroughly documenting our design processes and safely prototyping new designs.”

Since founding À Chacun Son Everest ! in 1994, Christine Janin organized hundreds of restorative stays for children and women in remission from cancer. Despite the restrictions affecting France in 2020, the association was able to run two recovery trips for children and eight residencies with women. “I am so grateful for the Simone Awards. Not only did they provide us with monetary assistance but they also gave us visibility on a global scale,” said Christine.

This year, more than ever, the Simone Awards are an essential part of Château de Pommard’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. Nominations are open until April 30, 2021 on

Meet Tanisha Townsend, Our 2021 Simone Awards Ambassador

Tanisha Townsend - Simone Awards
Tanisha Townsend - Simone Awards

This year, the Simone Awards Board is thrilled to welcome Tanisha Townsend, wine educator and author of Girl Meets Glass, as the 2021 Simone Awards ambassador. As a wine professional, Townsend has dedicated her career to sharing her passion and knowledge with wine lovers. Through wine education courses, private tastings, her blog and podcasts, she empowers her community to discover the world of wine and their own tastes.

We spoke with Tanisha about her story and what it means to be the Simone Awards Ambassador.

Tanisha, can you please introduce yourself? What has been your journey so far?

Hello, I’m Tanisha Townsend, originally from Chicago, Illinois. I currently live in Paris, France, where I teach wine courses at a couple of universities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was doing food and wine tours with people searching for new types of experiences. Since then, I do those virtually. I also do a little bit of writing and have launched my own podcast. 

How did you get involved with wine? 

I got involved in the wine industry by accident. I started drinking wine because I was kind of stressed out when I was in grad school. So that was something that I did to relax. I attended a few wine festivals when I lived in Maryland and Virginia. I got fascinated by the wine world, so I decided to take wine courses and then get into wine marketing. I did a lot of wine tastings in grocery stores, trained waitstaff, and trade. I decided to move to Paris, and it was the best decision of my life.

What drew you to France?

Wine, of course! When I first got into wine, it just seemed like the French regions were the ones that I was able to work with. I decided to start a wine career while in Burgundy, taking a course with the local inter-professional bureau. I realized that this was what I wanted to do with my life. So, it’s interesting that it all ties back. And here we are in Burgundy again. 

According to you, what is so special about France’s terroir? 

I think it’s special because it’s entirely different from one region to another. You may find gravel in the soil in one place, and somewhere else, you’ll find limestone or sand. It’s fascinating to see how it all ties in with the weather as well—the sunshine, the rainfall. I don’t think there are any other regions in the world that tie in perfectly to how the wine comes out. 

What do you love the most when teaching about wine?

What I love is that moment when someone gets it, whether I’m talking about tasting notes for a particular wine or a specific topic—the soil, the climate, or even how the grape becomes wine. I just love to see that light bulb moment when they’re like, “OK, I get it.” 

Introducing a new concept to someone is also a great experience, especially now that we have gone more digital. People want to learn how wine goes from the vineyard to the cellar to the internet. It’s truly fulfilling to be able to teach that and have someone understand the whole process. 

What are your commitments right now in your professional life and for the wine industry? 

My first commitment to the wine industry is as a voice. There aren’t too many people like me in this industry. “Like me” being a woman, being a Black woman, and most of all being a Black American woman. Many times, I’ve had people tell me that they didn’t realize how important it was to see someone who looked like them until they saw me. That is why I need to get in front of a camera or a classroom. 

Whether I’m out championing causes or fighting the good fight, just me being present and doing what I do is probably helping someone along the way. People can see someone that looks like them and realize that it’s possible for them. 

Another commitment I have to myself is just knowing more about wine and the industry. I think when you’ve been in the industry for a while, you may get too comfortable and just forget to explore this infinite world of wine. So that is my challenge every year, to learn a bit more about some of the regions and taste different grapes.

How do you stick to your personal and professional commitments? 

I don’t want an average life. And to not have an average life, I have to do things that aren’t average, and that’s having commitments, whether they’re personal or professional, and keeping them. I want a great life. I have to stick with my commitments, whether perfecting a new language, learning about new grapes, or traveling to different places.

What would you say to inspire women in the wine industry?

I would say, “Don’t let anyone dim your light.” There will be many times when people may talk down to you, talk over you, or act like they don’t notice you. Don’t let that deter you. Don’t let that bother you. Keep going. Keep doing what you’re doing.

There are a lot of people that women can reach out to now, whether it’s personally or through the Internet. There are mentor-mentee relationships. There are so many things that are available for you. Please don’t let anyone dim your light in that way, and study, study, study. 

What is your advice to anyone who wants to learn more about wine?

There is no better time to learn more about wine than now. There are so many things available to you: books, blogs, influencers, Google, YouTube videos. There is no excuse that you can’t know more, even at a basic level. To go further than that, there are certification courses or tasting courses with different schools. 

What is the best topic to learn about wine?

I would recommend starting with the wine tasting steps. It’s so much more than just picking up a glass and putting it to your lips. It’s the act of swirling and detecting the notes on the nose, in the mouth. The sensations, the perceptions you get from that experience. 

What is the big difference between France and the U.S.?

I noticed a considerable difference in diversity between the U.S. and French wine industries. The United States is more conscious of the diversity issue. The way race is viewed in France is just not the same. I noticed a few times that when I am at an event or a wine tasting in France, I see a lot fewer people that look like me. Maybe that is because they don’t want to be in the industry—I don’t know.

What are the causes that you give back to?

The causes and projects that I mostly give back to are ones that have to do with education, in any form. I was involved in creative education in my neighborhood in Chicago, where they don’t necessarily have the money or the resources to teach the arts. I also am very passionate about the wine industry and giving back to organizations that help out minorities in the industry. Giving back to those causes and being actively involved has always been important to me—and will always be.

What do the Simone Awards mean to you? 

It means so much. I was honored when I was asked to be the Simone Awards ambassador because it means being a voice for an award that’s so important. This award means so much to so many women across the world. They are doing amazing things. I’m just really honored. 

The Simone Awards, to me, is an award that recognizes women that are doing amazing things and giving back to their community. That’s so important to me because I was raised with this concept of service to the community, giving back and doing something to help someone else. The Simone Awards rewards women out there doing the work, participating in a much bigger cause than just them.