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Q&A with Hannah Crosbie

Q&A with Hannah Crosbie

In the run-up to International Women’s Day Hannah Crosbie was the obvious choice to curate the Club Emile Box 002

Hannah is a breath of fresh air when it comes to wine. She’s knowledgeable, open-minded with exceptional taste. She is also a huge champion of women in the industry and has been a great friend and supporter of Emile since the beginning. We are delighted to collaborate with her in our celebration of IWD. 

She has selected her favourite wines from our female producers, and we are also very excited to welcome the Dalston Wine Club to Emile HQ. Buy tickets.

We sat down, popped a few bottles and had a good chat with Hannah. Note to self - don't ever order Hannah a G&T.

EW: Who is Hannah Crosbie?

HC: First and foremost, I am a wine writer: by day I work for one of the UK's biggest wine importers, by night I run Dalston Wine Club and I write about wine freelance. Everything I do is rooted in making wine — natural or not — accessible to young people, particularly to women, even more so to those who don't have a lot of money. I also podcast quite a bit: I have my own podcast called Acquired Tastes and am the host and producer of Berry Bros. & Rudd’s first-ever podcast.

Everything I do is observed through a lens that regards of hospitality as a experience, not thinking about wine as one entity and food as another. Realising one provides context for the other has led me to some really amazing, exciting places, like right here.

EW: What's it like as a woman working in wine?

HC: Gender and sex are such multi-faceted issues in this industry, as they are in any other. I can only speak as a CIS, white woman in wine, so my experience is going to be completely different from anyone from a marginalised group working in the industry. I think on a very base level people underestimate you as a young woman, that's why I try to keep a lot of my personal life quite private. The thing that I find difficult is that although are so many amazing men in the industry, but there is still a small group will still view you as a sexual object before they will view you as a professional figure. 

There is the flip side to this though, I feel like it’s never been more exciting to be a woman in wine. There’s women like you guys at Emile Wines, Honey Spencer, or Alex Price who does the wine list for Bar Crispin. I think that because there are so few women in this age group in the industry, we’ve all formed this incredibly tight-knit, supportive community — one that I’m really thankful to be a part of.

EW: Most tedious question or comment you've received as a woman in wine?

HC: I received it indirectly. My friend was at the Fortnum & Mason awards and they were having a conversation as a group, they were having a bit of a bitch about the industry and one person said “we can't all be flavour of the month like Hannah Crosbie.”

It really affected me because there's that weird implication that I’m not going to be around for very long.

EW: And that you’ve not got to where you are without working your ass off!

HC: I suppose when you’re a young woman you have to expect these comments to some extent. It goes back to this complex issue of gender and sex. I think in male-dominated industries there is this unspoken rule where women have to de-sex themselves in order to feel like they can be taken seriously. But I feel like you should be able to be a provocative, sexual person and also be taken seriously in a professional sense — men do it all the time!

EW: So much of the language around wine is overly sexualised in such a crass way as well.

HC: that's another thing I was gonna say — why do people still describe wines as ‘feminine’? What does that even mean? Does it have a vagina?

EW: I read a really good article about gender in wine and even more deep rooted is classism in wine - we call wine aristocratic or rustic. Poor wine or rich wine. These really out of date phrases, it all needs to be rewritten!

HC: I think that a lot of women in the industry right now are rewriting the lexicon.

EW: For you, why is it important to champion women in wine?

HC: I said this in an interview the other day, although the question was slightly different: you go into a room and you’re the only woman there what advice would you have? My answer kind of tackles the same issue. I just said “well, the fact that you’re the only woman there in the first place is all the more reason to stay and prove yourself. I've been in situations in the natural wine world where as hippy trippy and a bit of a free for all as it may seem, it's still a massive white boys’ club.

But in answer to your question: if we don't do it then who else will?

EW: What is the bottle that got you into wine?

HC: I first got into wine as quite a lot of people do. I was working in hospitality in a fine dining restaurant.

The food was really good, the wine pairings were rudimentary but that's how I first realised that I was into wine. I tried some really brilliant wines but I never really remember any of them.

I didn't get into wine straight away because I couldn’t see anybody who was like me in the wine space. I thought it's not for me. Then it lay dormant for years. 

I had a good general knowledge, but it was only until a couple of years ago I decided to get my qualifications. Until then, I was always the person to bring a bottle of wine to pre-drinks, I would be the person on a date to choose the wine. Friends would be like “Hannah knows about wine” but I would be like “no, not really”. I never really thought of it like a career thing until 2-3 years ago — it's all happened very gradually. There hasn't been one bottle but it was an interest that lay dormant and then grew in me for a long, long time.

EW: Where do you like to drink in London?

HC: I just moved to Bethnal Green and I feel incredibly lucky that I am within walking distance of some of my favourite restaurants. I don't really go to bars anymore, I drink wine in restaurants and have a beer in pubs which I know is a really lame answer! I don't know if you guys find this, but whenever you drink wine — even if you're trying to relax — you drink it and suddenly you're in work mode again. I find a beer helps me switch off at the end of the day.

In terms of places around where I am, I'm really spoilt for choice. I really really like Brat, predictably. I really like drinking at The Drapers Arms in summer. I like drinking on my sofa, I like a glass of wine on a school night.

EW: What's the worst thing you've ever drunk?

HC: I really don't like gin. I remember the first time I had gin I threw up and I wasn't even drunk! I hate gin. Gin is the worst.

In terms of wine, I had a bottle of [name redacted] and it was, to this day, the mousiest thing I’ve ever had the misfortune to sip on. It was almost as if there was no trace of fruit left. I called over the sommelier and it was a bit of an industry gaslighty moment. He didn't know I was in the industry and I said “oh the thing is with natural wine sometimes it can be a bit funky”. NO, do not mansplain natural wine to me!

EW: We know you love to cook and are a Nigella superfan, what's your fallback recipe to impress?

HC: Right now it is a noodle soup that was developed by Seema Gets Baked for Mob. You boil a chicken for the whole day, after you cut the skin off first. You boil the chicken with some onions, spring onions and carrots. Then after about an hour, you take the chicken out once it's all cooked, you shred it and put the bones back in to make a stock which you boil for absolutely ages. Then you plate up with udon noodles, crispy chilli oil, spring onions, coriander, some eggs and the broth.

EW: Favourite pairing?

HC: It’s such an overdone pairing to the extent that it's not even a novelty anymore. But it just works so well: Champagne and fried chicken.

It's so amazing, it's not even just how it tastes, it's the experience.

EW: it's thrilling! It’s that high low thing.

HC: it's like drinking that bottle of ‘61 Cheval Blanc at the end of Sideways. He has a bottle that's peaking and it's a metaphor throughout the movie. Then at the end of the film he's drinking it with a hamburger in a restaurant — it’s a beautiful scene. Throughout the film he's like “i'm waiting for the perfect moment, i'm waiting for the perfect moment” and then he realises life isn’t about waiting for the perfect moment, it's about seizing the moment and relishing life now, as it is.

EW: Dream dinner party guests?

HC: You guys obviously! Nigella Lawson, Lee Miller, because not only was she an incredibly interesting woman and lived so many different lives, she's also a really good cook. Then maybe Diane Abbott. I'd love to hang out with Diane Abbott. I feel like she needs some support right now.

EW: she drinks gin though, what are you gonna do about that?

HC: maybe that’s only a tube thing for her, we definitely wouldn’t be on the tube. 

Those would be my folks.

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