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  • Writer's pictureWomen's Adventure Travels

Women Behind the World of Wine - Part 1

Updated: May 22, 2021

Although large gender divides continue in several industries, in the world of wine, women are closing that gap, one grape at a time.

Not only do women consumers outweigh that men, but the number of women in leadership positions, from female winemakers to sommeliers and CEO's continues to grow each year. Here are but a few women in wine from around the world that are crushing it.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Margaret River, Australia

Australia is one of the world's largest wine exporters, with 211 million gallons produced annually and exported to overseas markets. The country's wine industry plays a big role in Australia's economy, employing people in production, employment, export, and tourism.

On average, Australians consume a little over 13 million gallons of wine annually. The rest of the world makes up a big difference. If looking to explore more Australian wine, a Shiraz is always a great start.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Cullen Wines

In 1971, Kevin and Diana Cullen had an idea that began simply with some trial vines, one acre of land, and a small dash of encouragement. Those trails led to 17 acres of vineyards planted and the beginning of a dream. Their first grapevines planted were Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.

Kevin and Diana’s vineyard wasn't the only thing growing; their family quickly grew as well, with the addition of their children Rick, Shel, Stewart, Digby, Ariane, and finally Vanya Cullen.

Kevin passed away in 1994 and Diana in 2003. Both Kevin and Diana have been awarded life membership with the Margaret River Wine Industry Association. Cullen Wines is now jointly owned by the six Cullen siblings.

Cullen Winery is the only biodynamic and carbon-positive winery and restaurant in the region. They are far from following a trend as the chemical intervention was minimal and the family’s concern for the environment paramount since 1971 when the Cullen Estate was first planted.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vine

Growing up in a winemaking family, Vanya Cullen was initially drawn to the artistic aspect of the art of winemaking offers. After graduating from Roseworthy College with her Oenology degree in 1986, she later took on the winemaking role in 1989. Vanya is the current managing director and senior winemaker at Cullen Wines.

She was the first woman to chair a wine show in Australia and was awarded "Australian Winemaker of the Year" from Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine in 2000. She was also the first Australian to ever receive "Woman of the Year" by a UK wine magazine in 2008.

She has since transformed the family business into one of Australia's best and most environmentally sustainable vineyards. Cullen Wines has been run according to biodynamic farming principles since 2003 after having adopted organic methods in 1998. She's a pioneer and a leader of biodynamic grape-growing.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Kommetjie, South Africa

The South African wine industry dates back to the Dutch East India Company's explorations, bringing about a supply station in Cape Town. The first bottle of wine was produced in Cape Town in 1659. It boomed in the 19th century when South Africa was under the British. South African wine flowed freely in the British market at that time. Tariffs later favoring the French changed the once British boom.

During the 20th century, South African wines received little international attention. It was not until the 1990s after Apartheid ended when the world's export market opened up, and South African wines got their reawakening and the recognition it so well-deserved. If you know anything about South African wine, you know that Pinotage is the reigning grape.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Trizanne Signature Wines

Trizanne Signature Wines has been producing assorted wines since 2008. They are based in two different wine regions in South Africa. The Elm region is located on the southernmost tip of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. The other region is Swartland in the Western Cape Province.

Trizanne used grapes from the cooler temperature vineyards of Elm while also using grapes grown in the dry, hot ground of the Swartland to produce all-out red wines.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vine

South Africa's celebrated winemaker Trizanne Barnard currently lives in Kommetjie, a village on the Southern Peninsula. Outside of her passion for wine, she enjoys surfing. "I feel that the ocean recharges me and teaches me patience and respect for nature." she shared.

Barnard graduated in 2002 from the acclaimed Stellenbosch University with a degree in viticulture and enology. She jump-started her career by working abroad with multiple wineries in Australia, France, and Portugal. After graduation, she returned to South Africa with a wealth of information and experience to join the esteemed winemaking team, Klein Constantia. In 2004 she began working with Anwilka wines, a new brand owned by Klein Constantia.

In 2008, after four years at Anwilka, Barnard took the plunge and started her brand, Trizanne Signature Wines. The rest is vino history.

Wine-success aside, Barnard also gives back by supporting an initiative called "Waves for Change," which provides a child-friendly mental health service to at-risk youth living in unstable communities. Cheers to that.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Martinborough, New Zealand

New Zealand's wine history began in the early 19th century. However, it started to take off more recently in the '60s and '70s. Young Kiwis were spending time abroad in Europe and brought that European wine culture back with them. Agricultural restructuring at the time also played a hand in the expanse of this booming business.

It has since been much further developed and expanded in the early 21st century. New Zealand produced approximately 78 million gallons of wine in 2019. Locals consume a little over five gallons of wine per year per adult. The Brits, Aussies, and Americans consume a fair bit of their wines as 90% of New Zealand wines are exported.

There are wine regions throughout the country. Marlborough is the largest, most known, and where you are most likely to sip an iconic Sauvignon Blanc. Don't stop there. Head to Hawkes, Bay, Nelson, and you can never miss a visit to the idyllic Waiheke Island.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Ata Rangi

In 1980, this wine story began when Ata Rangi founder, Clive Raton, dreamed of obtaining suitable land for his grape-growing. He leaped faith and sold a small herd of dairy cows and bought a little over 12 acres of land in a small village. His sister and later his wife, who was a winemaker, joined him in this endeavor.

His move proved to be a smooth one. Ata Rangi, meaning dawn sky” or “new beginning,” is a small New Zealand winery today with a renowned reputation for Pinot Noir. Located at the southern end of the North Island in the village of Martinborough, it is owned and managed by that family trio – Clive Paton, his wife Phyll, and his sister Alison.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vine

Helen Masters is a vastly talented and highly respected Winemaker. Her vino career started after she finished high school in 1991. Masters spent a year at Ata Rangi, "Ata Rangi was the only one that answered. I did every job possible for a year." she says.

Masters continued her education at Massey University in New Zealand, where she earned a degree in food technology and then took a corporate job with Nestle. Soon after, she decided a corporate job wasn't for her, and she wanted to work in wine again. Masters took other jobs between multiple harvests before she eventually returned to Ata Rangi as an assistant winemaker.

In 2004, Masters became a head winemaker at Ata Rangi and still works there today. She was recently awarded the 2019 NZ Winemaker of the Year for Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine's team for her passion for Pinot Noir.

Masters shared, "I think the region is quite true to itself. Quite true to its personality and the fruit that it produces. The best thing about being a winemaker is that it doesn't feel like work. I love the change and the challenge winemaking offers. Every year is different. I also like being involved at every stage from vineyard to the customer."

Masters maintains a reputation as one of the New World's most respected Pinot Noir producers.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Alsace, France

French wines began their history in the 6th century BC, dating back to Roman times. Wine is produced throughout the country. They remain one of the world's largest wine producers, with seven to eight billion bottles per year.

It's impossible to talk about wine without mentioning the French. France is the source of many grape varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes have been planted, and their wine styles are adopted all over the world.

As far as wine tourism is concerned, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, and Provence are but a few regions worth a vino visit.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Maison Pierre Sparr

The history of the Maison Pierre Sparr family vineyard dates back to 1680. Inspired by François Pierre Sparr, in 1785, the vineyards were increased, and business began to develop, but tragedy struck. During WWII, the vineyards were destroyed.

With a lot of courage, Pierre Sparr rebuilt one of Alsace's most beautiful territories. His sons contributed to the growth of the vineyards and the European markets' development.

The Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs estate works on over 37 acres of land and the further 321 acres supplied by well-experienced and seasoned winegrowers. Today, things continue with the help of the 9th generation.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vine

Alexandra Boudrot grew up in Nuits-Saint-Georges. She was born into a winegrowing family, which pushed her to follow a wine career.

After graduating with a degree in science and viticulture, she learned winemaking at the University of Dijon. In 2003, she started at the Oenological and Winemaking Council and then started at Cave de Beblenheim; i