Women in Wine — Caitlyn Rees
Monday, March 5, 2018 in News
Head Sommelier, Fred’s Sydney
To mark International Women’s Day 2018, Langton’s spoke to five leading women in the wine industry. Caitlyn Rees is reigning Gourmet Traveller magazine Sommelier of the Year.
What first drew you to the wine industry?
Working with Matt Swieboda and Megan Conway at (Darlinghurst wine bar) Love, Tilly Devine when it first opened. The energy of that place at that time was so electric. The bug bit me there and although it was not at all in my sights, it was there I decided to try a career in wine.
What’s your advice to budding sommeliers?
The most important thing is to find a great head somm to work under and learn as much from them as possible. I've been lucky enough to work under Franck Moreau (Merivale Group, of which Fred’s is a member) and Adrian Filiuta (Merivale Group) who are both Master Sommeliers now, as well as Pip Anderson (MONA) who is a machine and Ambrose Chiang (Momofuku Seiobo) who's super-creative. I've taken different things from each of them. After that I'd say it's all about people: be good to your staff, colleagues, suppliers and guests and it will come back to you. And stay humble – it's just grape juice at the end of the day!
Do you have desert island wine?
I remember my mind being blown when I tried Vin Jaune for the first time. I was working at The Wine Library (in Woollahra), it was probably around 2013. James (Hird - The Wine Library) used to open great bottles all the time for us which was awesome but this 2001 Puffeney Vin Jaune was next level, I remember thinking about it for months.
What’s the biggest change you've seen since you began your career?
Right now there's a lot of discussion globally and across different industries about gender equality and sexual harassment in the workplace. The topic has come up in the past in wine but it really feels like people are starting to stand up for themselves or their female colleagues and call out bad behaviour now. Where a couple of years ago it was just talk, now there's action, which is a great step forward. The next step will be creating a culture where that same bad behaviour doesn't happen in the first place.
What does the future look like for women in the wine industry?
I would love to see more sustainability for all staff in the hospitality industry – it'd be great to see all the young female somms around now still kicking goals in 10 years time.
Who is the woman in the wine industry who has influenced you the most?
That would have to be Kylie Javier Ashton. Kylie is the General Manager at (Star Casino’s) Momofuku Seiobo. I worked under her there for only six months however she has had a big impact on me. She embodies what it is to be a leader in our industry, she is incredibly passionate about food, beverage, service and the industry as a whole. At Momofuku she has created a culture of never settling for mediocrity but at the same time a place that feels home for those who work there. I think the venue very much reflects her management style in this way; she runs an extremely tight ship but she's at the same time approachable and fun.Check out Fred’s wine list or make a booking here