Wine Girl

Wine Girl


An affecting memoir from America's youngest sommelier, who is tracing her path through the glamorous but famously toxic restaurant world.

An affecting memoir from America's youngest sommelier, tracing her path through the glamorous but famously toxic restaurant world.

At just twenty-one, Victoria James became America's youngest sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even as Victoria was selling bottles worth hundreds and thousands of dollars during the day, passing sommelier certification exams with flying colors and receiving distinction from all kinds of press, there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status and a trip the hospital emergency room.

It would take hitting bottom at a new restaurant and restorative trips to the vineyards where she could feel closest to the wine she loved for Victoria to re-emerge, clear-eyed and passionate, and a proud 'wine girl' of her own Michelin-starred restaurant.

Exhilarating and inspiring, WINE GIRL is the memoir of a young woman breaking free from an abusive and traumatic childhood on her own terms; an ethnography of the glittering, high-octane, but notoriously corrosive restaurant industry; and above all, a love letter to the restorative and life-changing effects of good wine and good hospitality.

Victoria James has worked in restaurants since she was thirteen. She was certified as a sommelier when she was twenty-one, making her the youngest sommelier in the country and has appeared on both Forbes and Zagat's "30 Under 30" lists. She has worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in New York City, including Marea and Aureole. Currently, she is the Beverage Director and partner at Cote, a Michelin-starred hot spot in the Flatiron district of New York.

Wine Girl: A sommelier's tale of making it in the toxic world of fine dining
Hachette Australia
Author: Victoria James
ISBN: 9780349726267
RRP: $32.99

Interview with Victoria James

Question: What originally inspired your passion for wine?

Victoria James: I grew up in restaurants, my first job was as a waitress at a greasy spoon diner at age thirteen. From there I progressed to bartending during college and quickly realized I knew nothing about wine. I picked up a book on wine and then another, and another. I soon realised I was hooked. I had always thought wine was this intimidating thing, and that I was too young, too poor, and definitely the wrong gender for the wine world. But wine really combined so many things I loved- food pairings, my bookworm tendencies, serving others, and writing and. travel. I love that every bottle of wine holds a story about the place, the people, centuries of tradition, and mother nature.


Question: What inspired you to write Wine Girl?

Victoria James: This book began really five years ago, when I started assembling a few anecdotes I had written down, journal entries, and short stories of my time in restaurants. I realized this could be a book, and something that could really help a lot of other young women struggling to find their way in a world where they feel like an outsider. I've always written and journaled, as perhaps a self-prescribed therapy or a tool to help me remember things, but there is a difference between writing for yourself and writing a book for others. I took my story and chose parts that I could weave into a narrative. My hope is that by sharing my story it will encourage others to share theirs and stand up for social justice.


Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects/times of your life, whilst writing Wine Girl?

Victoria James: Absolutely. Sometimes I spent weeks crying while writing, or nights when I couldn't sleep. Re-reading some of my diaries from childhood brought up a lot of emotions I hadn't fully worked through. Trauma doesn't go away but the more we revisit it, the more we learn and can slowly heal. Most importantly, I feel like these things no longer have power over me. Of course they still hurt but they're not controlling my narrative, I am.


Question: What advice do you have for aspiring female sommeliers?

Victoria James: Find allies. Male or female. Find good people, in a healthy environment, that can help set you on a good path. Taste as much wine as possible, read everything you can find, and travel to vineyards. Most importantly, question everything. A lot of the world of wine has been written by men, and there are inherent biases built in. Be brave enough to form your own opinions and carve out your own niche.


Question: Can you share your favourite wine regions, with us?

Victoria James: My favorite area for wine is in this circle of the world: eastern France, western Switzerland, and Northwestern Italy. My family is from Piemonte in Italy so often even a whiff of Nebbiolo will bring me back here. The wines of the Valais and Vaud in Switzerland are full of sunshine and weight, they're just fantastic with food. Of course eastern France I include Burgundy, Bandol, the Savoie, Alsace and perhaps even Champagne (although it's a bit further west). I don't think I will ever tire of wines from these regions.


Interview by Brooke Hunter

Wine Girl: A sommelier's tale of making it in the toxic world of fine dining 
Hachette Australia
Author: Victoria James
ISBN: 9780349726267
RRP: $32.99




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