Dasha Vayn ’25
Last week, the Tripod had the opportunity to sit down with the History Department Chair and one of the “Future 50 of Wine,” Dr. Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, to discuss her recent book, Imperial Wine: How the British Empire Made Wine’s New World. Professor Regan-Lefebvre teaches courses at Trinity College on modern Britain, British Imperialism, Ireland, World Histories of Wine, and more. Her study of British Imperialism led her to explore new realms of wine studies that inspired her to write the book.
She states in her book that, “rather than understanding the New World as a wine-producing block that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, I redefine it as a creation of European settler colonialism over the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries.” When asked what interested her about New World wine and its connections to British Imperialism, she stated, “The trauma of colonialism is obvious in the production of wine in New World wine countries.” Her determination for uncovering new territory in a “rarefied” and male-dominated industry has paid off. This April, she was awarded with the 2023 André Simon Award in the drinks category. Regan-Lefebvre began writing back in 2010 and published the book in April of 2022. This intensive research process had her traveling from Australia to California to London to Washington, D.C.
When asked why she decided to focus on New World wine, Regan-Lefebvre said, “there is a colonial connection in the New World wine industry that no one wrote about. I started writing and became obsessive.” Her passion for this subject allowed her to persevere through the criticisms that pushed back against her research. She talked about how the male-dominated wine industry, where “gatekeeping” is prominent, wasn’t always welcoming of her work. She “encountered a lack of professionalism” from some peers who looked at her research. A way Regan-Lefebvre dealt with pushback and blatant “misogyny in the industry” was to find “other like-minded people in the field—other women—and promote each other’s work.”
Regan-Lefebvre collaborated not only with her peers and academics but with her students to work on research for her book. She took an approach to the research that she described as “experiential” as she “had an interest in wine but was an amateur before the research started.” And, as her research came to a close, she confidently stated, “I’ve entered the world of wine.”
When asked what it meant to her to have won the 2023 André Simon award, Dr. Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre stated that it has been the “highlight of my career to date. I did a huge amount of academic research and was able to communicate it in a way that had people wanting to read it.” She was able to write the book in a way that entices connoisseurs and newbies to the subject all the same. Regan-Lefebvre decided to “adopt the same voice” she uses in her classrooms where the students are “smart, but don’t know the material.” Imperial Wine: How the British Empire Made Wine’s New World is easily digestible for anyone who wants to learn about wine. When asked why people should read the book, Regan-Lefebvre declared that “wine is exciting and wine is edgy.”
This book makes a perfect Mother’s or Father’s day gift, so make sure to grab a copy of Imperial Wine: How the British Empire Made Wine’s New World (now available on Amazon) before it sells out! To listen to Professor Regan-Lefebvre’s recent interview on the Live from Pemberley! Podcast, check out “Patreon Sneak Peak: Bonus Interview with Dr. Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre” on Apple Music. To browse Professor Regan-Lefebvre’s journalism, other podcasts, and online courses, visit jrlhistorian.com