Wine:

In an in­dus­try tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated by men, fe­male wine­mak­ers are mak­ing ma­jor changes, says Mas­ter of Wine Emma Jenk­ins.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

women in wine­mak­ing

It seems fit­ting in a month that cel­e­brates moth­ers to con­sider women in wine. Of course, not all are moth­ers, but the process of tend­ing vines and mak­ing wine is a nur­tur­ing sort of role – one in which there are in­creas­ing num­bers of women in­volved.

Women have a com­pli­cated his­tory within wine, be­ing both revered and re­garded with sus­pi­cion. As the gath­er­ers of ber­ries, women are thought to have been the planet’s very first wine­mak­ers some 8000 years ago, and the ear­li­est of wine deities were women. How­ever, by Greek and Ro­man times their gods of wine, Diony­sus and Bac­chus (who also looked af­ter fer­til­ity, and mad­ness – read into that what you will!), were male and the sep­a­ra­tion of women from wine had be­gun. French wine­mak­ers thought hav­ing women in cel­lars would “cur­dle” wine, so for a long while women and wine were seen as be­ing in­com­pat­i­ble. Re­strict­ing women from par­tak­ing in wine was also a con­ve­nient way to keep them from many so­cial and po­lit­i­cal meet­ings. Some things take a while to change…

De­spite all this, his­tory abounds with in­flu­en­tial women in wine. Cham­pagne, in par­tic­u­lar, had a num­ber of notable wid­ows who went on to es­tab­lish some of its most fa­mous names – Veuve Clic­quot, Pom­mery and Bollinger among them – and a num­ber of key pro­duc­tion tech­niques/ styles. Mary Pen­fold took the reins af­ter her hus­band’s death, help­ing to cre­ate a com­pany that be­came one of Aus­tralia’s most renowned pro­duc­ers, and New Zealand’s wine in­dus­try fairly bursts with fe­male tal­ent.

It’s not just in pro­duc­tion ei­ther. Jan­cis Robin­son, MW OBE, is ar­guably the world’s most in­flu­en­tial wine com­mu­ni­ca­tor, and glob­ally there are few ma­jor wine com­pa­nies with­out women in se­nior po­si­tions. At New Zealand’s re­cent flag­ship pinot noir con­fer­ence, it was notable how many key speak­ers were women, a fact – along with the many fe­male wine­mak­ers in at­ten­dance – much com­mented on by over­seas del­e­gates. Women now buy around 80 per cent of wine con­sumed at home, which makes it all the more de­press­ing to see res­tau­rant wine lists still au­to­mat­i­cally handed to the man – my hus­band has be­come very adept at hand­ing them swiftly across to me!

While women are now much less likely to en­ter the in­dus­try via wid­ow­hood or in­her­i­tance, in­stead fol­low­ing their own tal­ents and pas­sions, there is still plenty of work to be done be­fore true par­ity of op­por­tu­nity and recog­ni­tion is achieved. So this month, raise a glass to the fan­tas­ti­cally clever and able women in wine – see be­low for a few great choices from local wine­mak­ers.

His­tory abounds with in­flu­en­tial women in wine.

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