VINTAGES Preview – May 26th, 2018

Women of Wine
By Sara d’Amato with notes from Michael Godel and John Szabo, MS

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

VINTAGES’ May 26th release celebrates women in winemaking across the globe. In the light of so many similar thematics relating to women with respect to tastings, competitions and events, one may begin to tire of this type of recognition, even if you would certainly not say it aloud. In fact, I can tell you that many women in the industry have signaled that they are beginning to grow weary of this type of thematic not because it singles them out but because it segregates them. A focus on “women” in wine can potentially impede integration of women into the industry and may artificially force one to search for differences in the resulting wines that are not there. Despite this, though, I still think that there is more value than none in these tributes to women of wine.

It has been almost a decade now since the administrator at Niagara College’s Wine and Viticulture Technician’s Program mentioned to me that more women had been enrolled in the program than men. It is quite apparent that women have made significant impact in the world of wine on a global scale. Many of the consortiums that manage the producers of the world’s finest wine regions are run by women. Beyond the important roles of management and marketing, women have also flooded into positions of production, which are roles more traditionally associated with men. Most of the world’s wine producing nations and regions now have associations dedicated to the women of wine, from France’s well established Les Femme de Vin, to the recent New Zealand initiative of Women in Wine. Awards have arisen such as the Australian Women in Wine Awards and France’s Féminalise or the 2016 Argentina Wine Awards motif that cast all women as judges (a panel on which I had the privilege of sitting). International collectives have also sprouted such as Women of the Vine and Spirit and the Women in Wine Leadership Symposium. You get the picture.


Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2015

There is still obviously a need for a collective dedicated to the advancement of women in wine. This sense of solidarity brought about by such endeavors allows women the opportunity to promote and recognize other deserving women, to come up with collective ideas of how career advancement can include having children and how to combat negative stereotypes. As reported by Forbes Magazine after the most recent Women in Wine Leadership Symposium in NYC, Jancis Robinson MW lends credence to these forums by saying: “I think there are certain areas in which we do need to exercise solidarity”.

Pioneering women of wine Jane Hunt MW and Jancis Robinson MW - 1

Pioneering women of wine Jane Hunt MW and Jancis Robinson MW

This is made apparent by Ann B. Matasar in her 2010 book entitled Women in Wine: The Rise of Women in the Global Wine Industry, where she identifies key factors in women’s exclusion from positions within the industry of wine. She begins her book with the following statement: “For centuries, biases, traditions, religious practices, superstitions, physical characteristics, and social stereotypes have conspired to keep women from achieving positions of influence in the world of wine. As the wine industry advanced and spread from the Old World to the New World, one theme remained constant: ‘Women need not apply.’ ”Some of those stereotypes include promiscuity: “Women, regardless of social standing, were associated with wine’s excesses rather than its benefits. . .” referencing culturally founding biblical anecdotes and historical examples from Ancient Egypt and Greece among others.

Views on consumption of wine by women lead to conclusions that men were better suited to the industry of wine, as Matasar puts it: “The ability to appreciate wine’s nuances became associated with masculinity. Some assumed that women would spoil tastings by wearing perfume that detracted from the wine’s bouquet.” This slippery slope led to all-male private clubs for the consumption of alcohol, and exclusionary “brotherhoods” such as the “confrèries” of wine regions across France, which after hundreds of years, are just beginning to see the value of the inclusion of women. Bordeaux was a notorious hotbed for such segregation. Religious rituals are also at fault and relegated much of the production and service of wine to dominant male roles. Still today, we personify wine as having “masculine” or “feminine” qualities that are stereotypically offensive but with wine, we can camouflage that sort of conduct and seemingly make it palatable.

Although we take much of our very recent progress for granted, I am reminded of celebrated wine author Karen MacNeil’s anecdotes about her experiences in New York in the 1960s when she quietly and patiently awaited her turn to speak after a decade in a male dominant world of wine. When Elle Magazine commissioned her to write a wine article in the mid 1970s, it was a historic development for women in wine.

Author Karen MacNeil, center

On a continued positive and progressive note, women have successfully pushed their way into almost every sector of the wine industry today. What continues to be an area of allied improvement relates to inheritance and ownership. Stalwart French traditionalism has perpetuated the idea of “fils” on many wine labels – the notion that a “son” is the decided continuance of a house of wine. “Fille” has started to creep in to replace “fils” here and there, but this kind of patriarchical anachronism is stubbornly difficult to dislodge in a business where many still place such a premium on the so-called “traditional” ways of doing things.

Without out further ado, we would like to present our top picks from the women who excel in the profession of winemaker. Their unique signatures and well fought contributions are alluded to herein.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES May 26th:


Vasse Felix 2017 Filius Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – Few winemakers know Margaret River better than Virginia Wilcock who has been making wine for 26 years in the breezy, coastal region. Her prowess with Chardonnay has led to global recognition of her efforts with this cool climate style. Refined, elegant and restrained, this youthful chardonnay is an undeniable value.…

There are seven more VINTAGES Release recommendations this week that are currently only available to our premium members. This complete article will be visible to all members 30 days after publication. We invite you to subscribe today to unlock our top picks and other Premium benefits.

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Tune in here next week when John takes you through the rest of the release.

Sara d’Amato

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Sara’s Sommelier Selection
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview