“We only serve wines that are produced by women, whether they are owners or winemakers,” explains Alexandra Carpentier. In early June, the 38-year-old Frenchwoman from the Paris region and her husband opened Winemak’her, a wine bar in Brooklyn’s Park Slope district. Although the premises are not yet open to customers due to COVID-19, customers can already order online or for curbside pickup.
“I didn’t plan it that way in the beginning,” concedes the former bank adviser. “When we started the project in 2017, we wanted to set up a traditional wine bar. But I attended a women winemakers’ fair in Avignon, and my discussions with all these women convinced me to work with women alone.” In France, each region has an association of women winemakers, and women are increasingly represented in the wine business. “Until 25 years ago, women were forbidden to work in Champagne. Today, 30% of French winemakers are women, and they make up 25% of the vineyard owners. They are also more and more numerous in oenology and sommellerie,” explains Carpentier.
In the United States, no such association exists. But the French entrepreneur has worked with importers to list wines from foreign winemakers. “We have 26 wines available to order at the moment, and soon around 50 when the bar opens. 85% of the wines we serve are produced by French women, the rest were made by American, Italian, Portuguese and Argentinian women.”
A mother of two children aged 10 and 15, Carpentier explains that she fell in love with New York during a trip in 2002. 16 years later, in September 2018, the couple decided to take the plunge by renting their main residence in Avignon and selling their country house in Picardy to finance the wine bar project. “We came with an ESTA visa for the first time in the winter of 2018 to canvass. Then we came back nine months later in August with a visa to learn English. I was advised by a friend about the location, which we found quite quickly,” explains Alexandra Carpentier. “We have a very good location on a busy street (Editor’s note: 5th Ave) with a very wide interior, which is rare in New York. It allowed us to build an indoor petanque court.”
Very present on social networks, the Frenchwoman has shared every step of the opening of Winemak’her on Facebook. In May 2019, she appealed to the French community in New York to raise $25,000 to help with the work. “We did it all ourselves. Unfortunately, we had a permit problem with the kitchen that delayed the opening for a few months. Then there was the Coronavirus. We’re very happy to finally be able to start selling some wine,” says the Frenchwoman who invested $200,000 in her project.
In addition to the wines, Carpentier has been offering charcuterie and cheese boards for delivery since June 13. She hopes to get the green light from the local authorities to open partially by July. “We’re already going to try to get this wine bar up and running, but if all goes well, we’d love to open a second one in Bushwick in the future.”