With International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day in March, it felt it right to honour some of the great females in the world of wine: winemakers, winery owners, and trailblazers.
As is often the case, let’s start with a glass of fizz and give a mention to some of the ladies who paved the way. Up first is the ‘Grand Dame of Champagne,’ Barbe-Nicole Cliquot, who took the helm of a Champagne house at a time when childbirth and marriage were the sole occupations of most French women. There were many things she pioneered from her vineyards in Bouzy, but two innovations that stand out is the development of the ‘riddling rack’ to turn bottles, and the creation of pink Champagne through adding a touch of red wine.
Sticking to fizz but moving to another house, we must briefly mention Lily Bollinger — who bravely headed up the house of ‘Bolly’ through the war and German occupation, after being widowed. We can thank ‘Aunt Lily’ for the launch of Bollinger RD in 1967 and Vieilles Françaises in ’69. If you’ve ever had the blessing to have a glass of either, you’ll know why gratitude is needed!
In 1953, a qualification to promote excellence in the wine trade was founded — the prestigious ‘Master of Wine’. In recent years, the candidates are equally balanced in terms of gender. However, it wasn’t until 1970 that a woman, Sarah Morphew Stephen, earned the coveted MW initials. Before taking on the mammoth course, Morphew Stephen did every job imaginable in wine, from treading grapes to the cellar door. The next female to gain MW wasn’t for another six years in 1976.
The Rias Baixas region of Spain is an interesting little coastal region that not only provides us with delicious Albariño, but is of historical importance to women in wine: over the years, over half of the winemakers there have been female. The simple reason? The men were often fishing out at sea, so the women tended to the children and vines at home. The attitude towards women in wine in this spot of the world was much more accepting than others, and it’s for this reason we thank them for paving the way for winemakers today.
Fast forward to now and, across the globe, women are in every type of job related to wine that you can imagine. Like many male-dominated arenas, the wine trade is now celebrating more diversity, although there is still a way to go.
At the beginning of March, we are hosting a series of Instagram Live Tastings (4th-8th March) with notable women in wine who are really storming the world at the moment. We’ll be joined by Samantha O’Keefe of Lismore Estate Vineyards in South Africa, Estelle Roumage from Château Lestrille in Bordeaux, Joanna King of Château Unang in Ventoux, and Amandine Bernard from Château Beauchéne in the Rhone Valley.
Full details are on our website and social media channels. You can buy individual bottles that are from each vineyard to ‘drink along’ or go the whole hog and take us up on a special case discount for all of the wines.
Either way, let’s raise a glass to all the great women behind the glorious bottles!