This International Women’s Day we’re raising a glass to the fantastic female wine producers around the world. For a long time, the wine business has been heavily dominated by men, but over the years this has slowly started to change, with many women smashing the glass ceiling, and no doubt a few bottles along the way.
Like any industry, this diversification has led to new ways of working, and the wines we get to enjoy today are all the better for it. In fact there is evidence to say that women’s taste buds are better able to detect bitter notes, which could result in a more elegant blend. Of course, that’s not to say any woman could make wines with such finesse – many of these inspirational women are highly skilled in a number of fields, juggling various careers (not to mention families) with their passion for wine. One thing that unites them all though is that they are paving the way for the next generation. If you’re looking to learn more about the world of wine, writers Jancis Robinson MW, Fiona Beckett and Susie Barrie MW are just some of the well-respected female voices we turn to. The MW stands for Master of Wine, one of the highest wine qualifications you can obtain in the UK. There are currently just 124 female Masters of Wine in the world.
Lizzy Rudd, Chairman, Berry Bros & Rudd says; “Historically, wine has been perceived as a “male” industry for a variety of reasons, from the sheer physicality of production through to men being the dominant consumers, however all that is changing. We now see women leading the wine buying decision making for their homes, as well as increasing numbers of women producing the wine.“
We’d also like to give an honourable mention to a couple of producers, whose wines are unfortunately unavailable to buy here in the UK. Firstly, there's award-winning Ntsiki Biyela, who was the first black female winemaker in South Africa and now runs Aslina wines. She managed to obtain her degree in wine, despite the fact her lessons were predominantly given in Afrikaans, which she did not speak. Using grapes from local vineyards, today she produces chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and a bordeaux blend. Furthermore, while in Kenya recently, we had the pleasure of trying Mara Nyekundu, a South African red wine made of cabernet and merlot grapes. Each bottle is adorned with the distinctive Maasai beads, made by Kenyan women in remote villages, and each bottle purchased supports their entrepreneurship.
The team at food and drink website Crummbs has curated this female-focused wine list, and we hope you will join us in raising a glass this International Women’s Day.
Dominio Del Plata Terroir Series by Susana Balbo, 14.5%: £75 for case of six, M&S
Susana became the first woman in Argentina to receive her degree in oenology (the study of wine) back in 1981. Since then she’s been named as one of the “most influential women wine-makers” by The Drink Business magazine. This malbec is a fine example of her work – created with 100 per cent malbec grapes, it’s bursting with ripe black fruit with a touch of dark chocolate and mint on the finish. The super-smooth drop is perfectly balanced, working well with most meat-based dishes.
Fattoria Tregole Chianti Classico Le Pigole DOCG 2015 by Sophie Conte, 13.5%: £14.75, Amathus Drinks
Tregole, a picture-perfect vineyard set in Tuscany’s Chianti region, is home to Sophie Conte who has followed in her father’s footsteps to produce organic Italian wine. Created with sangiovese grapes this is a structured wine with notes of cherry and redcurrants and an aromatic floral perfume. As you’d expect from this part of the world, it pairs well with a selection of antipasti, grilled vegetables and pasta.
Catena Malbec 2015 Mendoza by Laura Catena, 13%: £13.99, Majestic
A fourth generation wine maker, Laura works with her father Nicolás in the family vineyard. This full-bodied malbec utilises the distinctive microclimates found throughout Medoza, Argentina to create a truly unique flavour profile. Expect ripe blackberry with a touch of chocolate and a delicious spicy, peppery, acidic finish. As well as being a practicing part-time physician of emergency medicine in San Francisco, Laura has also written a book Vino Argentino: An Insider’s Guide to the Wines and Wine Country of Argentina.
G. Tribaut Brut Cuvée de Réserve by Valerie Tribaut, 12%: £25.99, The Fizz Company
Valerie’s champagne house is based in the Marne Valley of the Champagne region in the village of Hautvillers. (The same village in which Dom Perignon allegedly discovered champagne.) Valerie’s father Ghislain handed over the house about 10 years ago, in which time she’s become known for making really fresh, fruity and easy-drinking champagnes. The beautiful tasting room looks over the vines, and we’re told she’s very much of the opinion it is never too early in the morning to taste champagne – a woman after our own hearts.
The Search Grenache Blanc by Trizanne Barnard, 13%: £9.99, Waitrose
After working in vineyards across Australia, France and Portugal, Trizanne returned home to South Africa, where you’re just as likely to find her surfing as you are sampling new blends. One of our favourite wines in her portfolio is this blend of grenache blanc, marsanne and roussane grapes – a crisp and refreshing white wine with a mouth-watering minerality best saved for long summer days.
Sole Shiraz Fetească Neagră 2015 by Nora Iriarte, 13.5%: £8.75, Oddbins
Having trained in Bordeaux before working in both Rioja and Australia for wine brand Yellow Tail, Nora took over at the Romanian winery Cramele Recas. Here she’s won awards for this smooth, medium-bodied red. It’s a blend of shiraz and local Romanian feteasca neagra grapes. You’ll find cherry, strawberry and cranberry coupled with a balanced acidity, try it with a warming stew.
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2016 South Australia by Louisa Rose, 13.5%: £8.99, Majestic
Widely regarded as one of Australia’s most talented winemakers, Louisa has won too many awards to list during her 20-year career. Like many of these women, a career in wine wasn’t Louisa’s first choice. With a degree in physics, the plan was to become a science teacher but instead she put Australia’s rare viognier grape on the map. An exceptionally good-value wine, this viognier is full-bodied, yet dry and works very well with meaty fish such as grilled tuna.
2016 Rheingau Riesling, Selected by Eva Fricke, 12%: £17.25, Berry Bros. & Rudd
As mentioned above, Berry Bros. & Rudd work with an increasing number of wineries headed up by female winemakers. One which they particularly champion is Eva Fricke, well-loved for her dedication to producing the perfect riesling. Showcasing the German vineyards penchant for minerality thanks it’s chalky soil – expect juicy acidity, and fresh light citrus notes.
The Verdict: Wines by female producers
What will you be eating this International Women’s Day? That’s the real question. If you’re after warming meat-based dishes or a juicy piece of steak, Susana’s Argentinan malbec will warm the cockles. Meanwhile, we simply can’t wait for lighter, brighter and more importantly, warmer evenings when we’ll be savouring the delicate riesling from Eva’s vineyard.
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