Angela Aiello’s alter ego is ‘Super Wine Girl’ – fitting as I imagine that her super powers include being a sharp entrepreneur with a deep understanding of branding, and the ability to translate confusing wine talk for the layperson.
Angela Aiello has been in the wine industry for close to 20 years, having started out on the hospitality side, working front of house at four diamond wineries in Niagara it has prepared her for her career. After 10 years of hospitality experience, Angela had learned key insights to millennial consumer behaviour and had a great experience working in the booming local wine industry. Once she had finished her Honours BA degree in Communications from Brock University in St. Catharines, Angela made her move to Toronto to embark on a new adventure in the big city.
Being new to Toronto, Angela began hosting wine tasting parties in her home. These parties were a way for Angela to meet new friends in Toronto and also share her love of wine. Soon, the parties morphed into a fully fledged wine club. The club, though it started as a way for Angela to fulfill a personal need, had actually morphed into a solidified business – iYellow Wine Club.
Since then it has grown into a 50,000 member community, primarily based in the Greater Toronto Area and last year they hosted over 150 wine tasting and educational events. Over the years, the business has changed and adapted. iYellow began with a pop-up model before moving to the iYellow Wine Cave space, which had a lowkey speakeasy vibe. Now, iYellow is embarking on their newest chapter, hosting private and public events, tastings, and tours throughout the city.
Throughout the years, no matter what form iYellow takes, Angela’s philosophy on events has remained the same, “I want people to have fun while learning about wine. Wine events shouldn’t be so serious. I want to distill all the complexities of wine into a digestible form, to educate the average person. I want them to go away from the event, being more mindful of what they are drinking and developing their own wine confidence.”
Aside from iYellow, Angela works independently as a wine writer and editor, speaker, practising sommelier, and consultant. In 2018, Angela was granted a spot in a ‘Women in Wine’ winemaking internship in South Africa, this distinction is added to some of Angela’s other awards including OHI’s 30 under 30, and Niagara’s 40 under 40 Business Achievement Awards. With this many jobs and accolades, the nickname ‘Super Wine Girl’ is entirely accurate!
Among the notable honours, Angela counts the George Brown Cooperative Partnerships Award that she and her business received for bringing on (and later hiring) many student interns from the college. Being a mentor is important to Angela. This is one of the reasons she chose to partake in the upcoming Femmes du Vin event.
Like fellow Femmes du Vin attendee Michaela Morris, mentorship has been a vital part of her career, and in turn, she is passionate about mentoring other young people looking to get their start. By taking part in events like Femmes du Vin, and by mentoring young women, Angela highlights the fact that she is empowering a new generation of women in the wine business, building up new talent in the industry. Angela highlights that her company is female-led, in fact, 99 per cent of those hired in her company are women.
Being such a force to be reckoned with in the industry, we wanted to get the lowdown from Angela on the future of the wine industry, what the challenges facing women are, and of course- what her favourite wine is!
What do you love about wine and the wine industry?
Wine intersects with almost every other industry; whether it’s design, agriculture, food, hospitality, or tech. Being in the wine industry, you get to learn about so many other things.
What are some of the challenges in the industry?
It has been a traditionally male-dominated industry, but I do think this is changing. Overall though, in the industry, I think we still have a lot of traditionalists and there is hesitation to change. That being said, I think we will see a more youthful approach in the coming years.
What are some of the trends you see happening in the wine industry in the next few years?
Firstly, ready-to-drink beverages are gaining in popularity. Previously, wine was only served in glass bottles with corks but now we’re seeing this transition to different packaging like tetra packs, and cans. It’s almost like wine is crossing over to take inspiration from cider and beer.
Secondly, there’s an increased interest in natural wines. Stratus Vineyards for example has pioneered the trend with unfiltered, wild fermented wines. These cloudy wines look different and 20 years ago, nobody was interested in this wine but consumer perception is changing but now the talented work of J.L Groux is getting recognized for its true artistry and great taste .
Lastly, we are seeing new flavours in wine and consumers are interested in discovering new tastes in wine. This can be lower alcohol wines, sweeter wines, or wines that integrate fruit.
What’s your favourite wine or your favourite way to enjoy wine?
I love Ontario whites, like a riesling or a chardonnay. I’m happy to be drinking wine out of a mason jar, but there’s something special about using nice glassware. It’s a small luxury but decanting red wine and sipping wine out of a lovely glass is a nice little treat.
Have you seen social media changing consumer behaviour or your business strategy?
Yes, definitely! Before social media was so ingrained in our culture, I think most people purchased wine solely off the score system. However, what social media has allowed for is what I call the ‘democratization of wine’. What I mean by this is that now, everyone has the ability to share their point of view on wines, and everyone can read what others feel about wine. The process of buying has shifted from looking at scores, to looking at what your friends or influencers think of a wine. I think, it could be argued that this change in culture is contributing to possible ‘demise of the wine hierarchy’.
Why do you feel like it is important to celebrate women in the wine industry?
Really, I think it’s important to celebrate women in any industry! The wine industry has been male dominated, however many large houses in Champagne have been historically run by women. Women have incredible palates, and I think we need to show admiration for that, there’s still a lack of women in the scoring system.
What advice do you have for someone looking to get into the wine industry?
Get out there and volunteer and network to make connections. It’s essential to understand your own voice and as well; begin to brand yourself early. Also dive deep into understanding how to leverage social media, it’s always good to remember that everything you do online lives forever and potential employers Google you!
What are some of the challenges or issues you face as a female in the wine industry? How can we address these issues?
Not exclusive to the wine industry, but in my experience, I think women tend to underestimate our own value and skill set. But having someone in your corner to help validate you, push you up, and give you a chance, can truly be what propels your career forward. Mentorship and a competition-free environment are essential. That’s why I’m so excited to take part in events like Femmes du Vin that bring together a community of amazing women that build each other up. Events like Femmes du Vin are bringing more women into the wine industry in a positive and enlightening way.