There have been notable women scattered throughout the history of winemaking like Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin who is better known as Veuve Clicquot and became the first woman to run a champagne house following her husband’s death in 1805. But in recent years a new generation of female winemakers has risen to prominence and their contributions are slowly but surely changing the face of the industry.
Over in America the Women WInemakers of California now has more than 300 female winemakers on its books, while many of France’s top chateau are now run by women. Powerful examples include Corinne Mentzelopoulos who has transformed Chateau Margaux from a forgotten estate to one of the world’s most sought after producers since inheriting the property in 1980. In Burgundy, Lalou Bize-Leroy is the undisputed queen of biodynamic winemaking with her Richebourg typically selling for more than £2,000 a bottle.
This trend also applies to South America where Susana Balbo, who has earned the nickname of “Evita of wine”, has established a reputation as Argentina’s most respected female winemakers. In Chile María Luz Marín became the country’s first female winemaker and later the first female winery owner when she founded Casa Marin in 2000 in the San Antonio Valley.
When it comes to the taste test, of course, it’s impossible to pick out a wine made by a female winemaker from one made by her male counterpart. But nonetheless there are some subtle differences in how men and women tend to approach winemaking. According to Kathleen Inman who owns Inman Family Wines in the Russian River Valley, “women tend to make cleaner wines, and even though it sounds like a generalization, they tend to have detail in tasting notes.”
The growing presence and ambition of female winemakers around the world has been picked up and celebrated by initiatives like Daphne’s restaurant in London who have created a section of their wine list entirely dedicated to women winemakers. Named “Women Behind The Bottle”, the selection features an excellent choice of Italian and French red and white wines including wines made by Anne-Claude Leflaive at Domaine Leflaive, Albiera Antinori at Villa Antinori, and Véronique Drouhin at J. Drouhin.
This trend is also being embraced by the retail sector with shops like Vinovore in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district choosing to dedicate significant space to female winemakers. In Vinovore 95% of the wines on the shelves are made by women with the other 5% boasting female owners or managers.
Coly Den Haan, owner of Vinovore, reports that the customer response to her idea has been “really positive, even from our male customers.” In fact, this fledgling focus on female winemakers has been so successful that Coly hopes to “bring a lady-loving Vinovore to every neighborhood.”