When I mentioned on Twitter recently that I wanted to talk to women winemakers for a feature in the run-up to International Women’s Day, I was overwhelmed by the response. Of course I knew there were a good number (many of them have been on the scene for some time) but not quite how many, or how much they wanted a voice.
Like women chefs, female winemakers operate in a largely male world and have encountered discrimination and casual sexism, “from being dismissed as the marketing girl to overtly lewd behaviour”, as one told me. More surprisingly, that discrimination comes from customers, too: “When one female guest at a festival was told I was appointed to be her host, she asked if I could send over a male colleague instead,” another told me.
Does any of this make a massive difference to the style of a wine? Of course not – women make all kinds of wine, from powerful reds to delicate whites – but I think it’s fair to say that they generally have a more collaborative approach. There are plenty of opportunities to test that theory for yourself. My local wine bar, Bellita in Bristol, has an all-female winemakers’ list, so you can drink the likes of Les Granges Paquenesses La Pierre (12.5%), a thrillingly pure wine from the Jura that is astonishingly only the second vintage from its young maker, Loreline Laborde; and Veronica Ortega’s Quite Mencia (13%), a marvellously vivid, crunchy red from Bierzo. (You can buy both from Bristol independent Vine Trail for £18.38 and £14.51, respectively; minimum order of one case.)
Oddbins’ head buyer, Ana Sapungiu, bigs up the cause with a dedicated Women Winemakers case for £90.25, which includes an elegant, peppery syrah from Samantha O’Keefe of Lismore, while Marks & Spencer has three in-house women winemakers: Sue Daniels, Belinda Kleinig and Jeneve Williams. Try Kleinig’s lush Barossa Viognier 2017, on which she has collaborated with veteran Aussie winemaker Louisa Rose of Yalumba.
It must be slightly galling, too, when a man’s name appears on the label instead of yours, as is the case with Laure Colombo’s sumptuously peachy Saint Péray La Belle de Mai 2016 (£20.24 Penistone Wine Cellars, £24 Hennings; 13.5%), which features her father Jean-Luc’s name prominently on the front, though she tells me about her proudest moment: “Someone said: ‘Jean-Luc is the father of Laure Colombo’ – being recognised not as ‘the daughter of Jean-Luc’, but in my own right.” Buy these for £11.99 (£9.99 on the mix-six deal) at Majestic, 14%.
Four of the beat wines made by women
£8.50 The Wine Society, 13.5%
Fresh, fragrant white from pioneering Argentinian winemaker Susanna Balbo. Brilliant with tacos or ceviche.
£10 (25% off if you buy two six-bottle cases), 13.5%
Weighty, peachy and lush. Exactly what you want from viognier. Drink with a korma.
£26.36 corkingwines.com, £29 Oddbins, 13.5%
Fine, elegant, peppery Côte-Rôtie-inspired red to enjoy with a venison steak.
£11.99 (£9.99 on mix-six) Majestic, 14%
Lush, smooth, intensely fruity – and Fairtrade, too.
- Visit Fiona Beckett’s website, matchingfoodandwine.com
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