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.
Michael Godel – The people’s chardonnay from Virginia Willcocks and Vasse Felix will always deliver the primary goods with great Margaret River transparency and that is really all you need to know. The freshness and perfectly ripe orchard bite of this Filius gifts what’s needed for cool, sapid and nearly saline (not alkaline) adrenaline so that sips add up to fully-accessed satisfaction through to the finish. Hello 2017.
John Szabo – I’m a big fan of this bright, snappy, fresh, minimally oaked chardonnay from Margaret River, a smart buy year after year. The 2017 is particularly appealing, a touch less flinty-smoky-reductive than some previous editions, and more widely appealing for it. Fruit is comfortably in the ripe citrus-green apple/nectarine spectrum, and wood is hidden away behind the scenes. Very good length and depth. Classy stuff, best 2018-2027.

Mullineux 2016 Old Vines White, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa ($36.95)
Sara d’Amato – Globally experienced winemaker and proprietor Andrea Mullineux has been instrumental in redefining modern South African wine since she and her husband Chris invested in Swartland in 2007. Naturally produced, this substantial blend commands attention and reverence for its structure, keenly meshed flavours and impressive length.
Michael Godel – From winemaker Andrea Mullineux this is equation building by chenin blanc (62 per cent) plus grenache blanc (15), viognier (11), clairette blanc (8) and sémillon. It may as well be Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières or Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc transposed into the body of chenin-plus in South Africa. The combination of flinty strike and sun-fleshy body is perfectly tugged with posit force, stretching, flexing and relaxing with each effortless sway.
John Szabo – This is a spectacular wine from Mullineux, easily worth the premium price and then some. It offers a gorgeous nose right off the top, billowing with ripe yellow fruit and flower blossoms, wisteria and other exotics, while the palate is full, dense and concentrated, well-structured, firm but creamy, with exceptional length. Wood lends a subtle, toasty profile. Drinking well now, though surely even more impressive in another year or three. Terrific wine, oozing with character and style Best 2018-2026.

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2017Mullineux Old Vines White 2016Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2015

Robert Mondavi 2015 Fumé Blanc, 50th Anniversary, Napa Valley ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – Bordelaise winemaker Geneviève Janssens began working for Mondavi over 40 years ago making her way to Opus One and then back again a decade ago. Her work with the  ”cru” vines of To Kalon is responsible for some of the most impressive sauvignon blancs out of California. This well-priced entry level version delivers an abundance of freshness and varietal expressiveness without loosing its uniquely Napa disposition.
Michael Godel – From Mondavi’s winemaker Geneviève Janssens, the landmark 2015 is the culmination of five decades spent elevating and differentiating sauvignon blanc. The name fumé blanc and Mondavi are synonymous with one another and this 2015 sits at its richest and adroitly balanced best. Great vineyards produce great sauvignon blanc and the rest is history.
John Szabo – 2015 is a fine vintage for Mondavi’s category-leading, wood-aged sauvignon, with the right mix of ripe citrus and tropical fruit flavours, sweet green herbs and very gentle oak spice. Flavour intensity is high and length is very good to excellent. Best 2018-2023.

Rosé and Red

Susana Balbo 2016 Signature Rosé, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Mendoza, Argentina
Sara d’Amato – Susana Balbo has the claim to fame of being Argentina’s first female winemaker after graduating with her oenology degree in 1981. Constantly innovating and mentoring, she made significant strides in the recognition of the female voice in wine during her recent presidency of the Wines of Argentina. This fresh and lively, dry rosé showcases her experimentation with ”direct pressing” Provençal winemaking techniques to achieve the palest of colour with maximum flavour expression.

Susana Balbo Signature Rosé 2017Mullineux Kloof Street Red 2016

Mullineux 2016 Kloof Street Red, Swartland, South Africa ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Kloof street is Andrea and Chris Mullineux’s Swartland syrah with bits of carignan and cinsault that drinks like old vine, granite-drawn Northern Rhône syrah. It’s a steal because the fruit used is just perfectly ripe and the winemaking magically derived from out of a deeper understanding. Just imagine the quality to be found in the maker’s higher end syrah investigations.
John Szabo – Here’s a deep and fruity, nicely extracted, pure and honest Swartland red, made without artifice, just nicely concentrated, fully ripe but not overripe black fruit (mostly syrah with a splash of cinsault and carignan). I love the floral side, the fresh fruit character, the absence of obtrusive oak flavour (just a tinge of vanilla sweeps through on the back end). Best 2018-2026.

Lungarotti 2014 Rubesco Sangiovese/Colorino, DOC Rosso di Torgiano, Umbria, Italy ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Giorgio Lungarotti’s legacy in the hands of Chiara Lungarotti, Teresa Severini and Maria Grazia Lungarotti is a thriving entity and all you need to know in terms of wine, for the table, without bells, whistles or make up is this Rosso di Torgiano. The by now archetypal sangiovese and canaiolo blend from the Monticchio vineyard is at its best since 2010. It’s unique and purposed, structured and demanding. For so little.

Lungarotti Rubesco Sangiovese Colorino 2014Lungarotti Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio 2010Phelps Creek Pinot Noir 2014

Lungarotti 2010 Monticchio Rubesco Torgiano Rosso Riserva, DOCG Umbria, Italy ($46.95)
Sara d’Amato – Sisters Teresa Severini and Chiara Lungarotti have been instrumental in raising awareness of the role women play in wine throughout Italy by way of ”Le Donna del Vino” group. On their own turf, they ensure the continuation of their father’s Umbrian estate founded in the late 60s. This sangiovese-canaiolo blend is sourced from 30+ year old grapes and offers a delicious mineral tang and salty sting that add dimension to the fleshy palate.
John Szabo – Chiara Lungarotti has crafted a fleshy, still very structured, almost nebbiolo-like sangiovese with tannins and acids off the charts. I must say I love the tight structure and the floral perfume, the sheer character and personality, which will appeal to fans of firm, structured, old world wines. Well done, and fine value in a relative way. This still has some legs; hold into the mid-twenties or beyond. Best 2018-2026.

Phelps Creek 2014 Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, Oregon ($48.95)
John Szabo – Burgundy-born Alexandrine Roy, a fourth-generation winemaker also at Domaine Marc Roy in Gevrey-Chambertin, brings a sensitive, restrained touch to this excellent pinot from the Hood River’s volcanic soils. The colour is pale red-garnet, and the nose is open, high-toned, very spicy, and leathery-earthy in a more old-world style. But the palate is deceptively powerful and concentrated, and length and depth are impressive indeed. A genuinely cool climate pinot that melds power and elegance, best after 2020.

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