It’s International Women’s Day today and to celebrate I’ve put together a list of women in wine that I think are ah-MAZING! I’ve gathered stories of four fabulous female winemakers from around the world, touched on the current situation in the Master Somm world and finish with some women in wine media you can look up.
From winemakers to podcasters, it’s awesome to know there are inspiring women in wine everywhere you look (as long as you’re looking in the right places). Sadly pay disparities between men and women continue to exist in all industries with a global wage gap of 32% and the World Economic Forum being quoted as saying that it will take 202 years to close the gap. It’s not all doom and gloom though, more and more companies are openly reporting their pay gaps and taking serious action to close them.
There are also some brilliant women in wine doing brilliant things for the industry and their community. So let’s get into it.
South African winemaker, Carmen Stevens exports and sells her wine through online retailer, Naked Wines. Not only is Carmen South Africa’s first black woman to graduate in winemaking but she managed to overcome all the barriers of being a woman in South Africa making wine to get there and to then go on to become winemaker of the year 2015.But it doesn’t stop there. The shining superstar built a campaign to give back to the local community through her #givemylunch campaign. Using her connection to people all over the world through the Naked Wines community, she encouraged Naked Wines Angel Investors to spread the word and donate to Peninsula School Feeding Association who deliver meals to school children who need them in South Africa.
Her #givemylunch campaign put 725,525 meals on South Afrianca school childrens tables in 9 schools over the course of a year. How amazing?
Women in Wine
Women in Wine is the first wine producing company owned, controlled and managed by women. While this one isn’t about a specific winemaker, it’s actually about 20 women all with backgrounds in the wine industry that had a common dream – giving women, especially farm workers and their families, a share in the industry in South Africa.
Women in Wine only sources wine from farms that comply with socio-economic legislation with specific reference to ethical and environmental practices, employment conditions, skills development and training, as well as that address aspects of black economic empowerment.
Western Australian, Vanya Cullen has been making wine at her family’s vineyard, Wilyabrup Estate, since 1983. She was named chief winemaker in 1989 and moved on up to MD 10 years later. Vanya’s goals relate to the environment and where she creates her wines. She’s transformed her estate into a certified biodynamic, carbon-neutral and naturally powered operation.
While protecting the environment is her focus, she says her biggest challenge now is justifying her approach in making more natural wines but hopes others follow her lead and protect our planet for future generations.
Barbara Banke and her daughters, Katie and Julia Jackson, own and run Cambria Estate Winery in Santa Maria, California. A female owned and managed winery? Brilliant – and it doesn’t stop there. They founded their Seeds of Empowerment program in 2014 to encourage women to “change the world”. Within the program, a $100,000 annual grant recognizes remarkable women leaders and non-profit organizations, including Vital Voices – an international organization that focuses on emerging women leaders.
Not only producing brilliant wine but giving back to amazing women in the US.
I watched Somm on Netflix on the weekend and my eyes were opened a little bit to the prestigious badge that is Master Sommelier and the gruelling work that it takes to get it. But the doc focuses on four men – where are the women?
It is is extremely difficult (and life consuming as well as expensive) to attain the Master Sommelier title. But did you know that there are only 164 master sommeliers in the world? And that only 26 of them are women? Becoming a Master Somm is clearly a tough task and is no mean feat by anyone. But should that mean that only 15% of them being women looks right?
So, we need to up the numbers in the Master Somm world but where else can we find inspiring women outside of world of somms and in other, more attainable sectors of the the wine industry?
Other great women in the Wine Media World
Obviously I’m a big fan of wine and will consume it in all measures and mediums! So here are the women inspiring me in wine media at the minute and some people for you to look up.
Read – Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine, creator of RAW WINE, an artisan wine fair and author of Natural Wine: an introduction to organic & biodynamic wines made naturally. It’s a good read and lesson on why you should know what’s going in to your vino. Next up on the reading list is Wine Folly by Madeline Puckette and Everything happens for a Riesling by Grace De Morgan.
Listen – Booze hags. Two Melbourne ladies talking about vinos great and small. Funny, entertaining and local – YAY! You can also find interviews with women in wine on other regular podcast favs suchs as Interpreting Wine and Friends of the Vine.
Follow – just to name a few…
AU@Travelling Corkscrew – biggest wine influencer in Oz with trips, tips and tastings.
UK@Christina Rasmussen – UK based wine writer and consultant – her travels and adventures are pretty cool.
So there you go – some brilliant wine makers, a lack of Master Somms and some people you can read, listen to or follow. I could go on all day but realistically you’re not going to read an article as long as a piece of string. But it just means there are more women to find and put in the vino spotlight which I hope to do!