It’s been 20 years since a woman entered Decanter’s coveted Hall of Fame, but this week Burgundy champion Becky Wasserman-Hone was given the honour.
Jancis Robinson MW was the last woman to get the title, in 1999. Back then it was called Man (or Woman) of the Year but has been renamed to be gender neutral and better reflect the recipients’ long-lasting contribution to wine.
So perhaps that, along with Becky’s win, is a sign that things are changing when it comes to women in wine.
Friday the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme, Balance for Better, focuses on gender equality across all spheres.
In the UK there are 206 Masters of Wine, and 71 (or 34%) are female. It’s not a 50/50 split but it’s a sign women are being represented in the industry more and more.
Luckily, we get to work with a lot of women in the industry. So without further ado, here are six female winemakers paving the way for the next generation.
1. Lorena Deaconu
With more than 20 years of experience, Lorena Deaconu is a true master in the winemaking world.
She’s chief winemaker at Romania’s Halewood Wines and makes all our current Paris Street and La Catina wines.
As well as that, Lorena makes the very popular Burebista Shiraz Feteasca Neagra which won Wine of Show at the Vintage Festival 2018.
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Speaking to Vinul.Ro she explained that she feels like the mother of any wine she makes.
“And like any mother,” she said, “I do not feel the effort behind the work.
“And I do not mind sleeping, eating and living in the cellar, and waking up in the middle of the night to see what the kids do.”
2. Montse Molina
Having worked at at Bodegas Barbadillo for more than two decades, Montse Molina is a wine and sherry powerhouse.
Her background is actually working in her family’s pharmacy in Catalunya, but she couldn’t deny her passion. She went on to gain qualifications in viticulture and winemaking then entered a nationwide recruitment exam to become head winemaker at Barbadillo.
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It wasn’t always smooth sailing. Sleeping alone in the old Bodega left Moste feeling isolated, and she considered moving home several times. But then she’d spend a day on the vineyard and remember why she loved it so much.
She overcame local prejudices – they had never seen a female winemaker before – and saw Barbadillo named Spain’s Winery of the Year in 2015.
And exciting news – we’ll be launching her new white wine, made made from the Palomino grape, in the coming months!
3. Jo Nash
Winemaker at McPherson Wines in Victoria, Australia, Jo Nash has been awarded trophies and accolades for her generous, elegant wines.
Supported by assistant winemaker Olivia Forbes, the pair are responsible for one of our most popular reds – The Full Fifteen.
Jo joined McPherson in 2011 after she graduated and since then has made both great value and top end wines which are sold around the world.
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Winery owners Andrew and Nicki McPherson say “Jo’s natural affinity with, and passion for winemaking is evident in all aspects of her life”.
And they’re not wrong. She’s also married to a winemaker, and in their spare time they make small batch wine at home, enlisting their four children to help pick the grapes and stomp on them with their bare feet.
4. Barbara Laithwaite
In 2003, after all her children had flown the nest and with a team in place running the family business, Barbara was looking for a new challenge.
During a catch up with an old friend, she learnt about a piece of land in the Chiltern Hills that would be perfect for vines – and Wyfold was born.
After enrolling on a viticulture course, Barbara then went about the task of planting their 4,000 vines beside a tiny country lane.
Now Wyfold makes English Sparkling Wines in the traditional Champagne method.
It quickly established a reputation for excellence with a dream debut seeing the 2009 vintage named grand champion in London, beating 82 rivals.
There were golds for the 2013 and 2011 vintages while 2010 and 2009 won trophies – that’s quite a victory!
5. Viviane Gianesini
Working at perhaps the most important winery in the Limoux region, Cave du Sieur d’Arques, Viviane is responsible for the ever-popular sparkling wine Roche Lacour.
Her toasty, creamy Crémant de Limoux has won medals at London’s International Wine Challenge for four consecutive years and is one of our biggest selling wines.
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Not only that, sparkling wine makes up more than 65% of the winery’s cellar meaning Viviane is responsible for a large majority of its product.
Although Roche Lacour is one of our UK customers’ favourites, it’s also celebrated locally. What was supposed to be a one-time promotional event has turned into an annual festival involving Limoux’s surrounding villages. That’s quite an achievement!
6. Andrea Léon
Meet, Andrea León is the winemaking mastermind behind Clos Apalta.
Her team has attracted the acclaim of critics everywhere. Like Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, who calls Lapostolle “the most inspiring Merlot producer I have come across in Chile”.
What’s more, in 2008 The Wine Spectator named the 2005 vintage of Clos Apalta “Best Wine in the World”.
And she’s treated Casona Cordillera Merlot with the same kid-glove care and attention as her top stuff.
She uses only the best hand-selected Merlot from Lapostolle’s vineyards in premium Colchagua Valley.
Then, after gently coaxing every ounce of flavour from the grapes, she finishes it off in French oak barrels. Truly delicious stuff.