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Women Behind the World of Wine - Part 1

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

Not only do female consumers outweigh men, but the number of women in leadership positions, from female winemakers to sommeliers and CEOs, continues to grow yearly. Here are but a few women in wine from around the world who 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.

Australians consume, on average, a little over 13 million gallons of wine annually. The rest of the world makes up a big difference. A Shiraz is always a great start if you want to explore more Australian wine.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Cullen Wines

In 1971, Kevin and Diana Cullen had an idea that began 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 Vanya Cullen.

Kevin passed away in 1994, and Diana passed away in 2003. 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 region's only biodynamic and carbon-positive winery and restaurant. 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 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" by 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 adopting 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 British rule. 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 that 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, 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 supports an initiative called "Waves for Change," which provides a child-friendly mental health service to at-risk youth 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, bringing that European wine culture back. Agricultural restructuring at the time also played a hand in the expansion of this booming business.

It has since been 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 visiting the idyllic Waiheke Island.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Ata Rangi

1980 this wine story began when Ata Rangi founder Clive Raton dreamed of obtaining suitable land for his grape-growing. He leaped faith, 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, 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 with a renowned reputation for Pinot Noir today. Located at the southern end of the North Island in 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 wanted to work in wine again. Masters took other jobs between multiple harvests before returning to Ata Rangi as an assistant winemaker.

In 2004, Masters became a head winemaker at Ata Rangi and still works there today. Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine's team recently awarded her the 2019 NZ Winemaker of the Year 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 the vineyard to the customer."

Masters is 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 annually.

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 worldwide.

Regarding wine tourism, 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.

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

The Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs estate works on over 37 acres of land, and well-experienced and seasoned winegrowers supply the further 321 acres. 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 wine-growing 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; in this position, Boudrot helped growers develop environmentally sustainable grape growing methods.

“We lean on her competence, her perfect knowledge, and her experience of more than ten years in the vineyard field,” says the team at Pierre Sparr about Boudrot.

Boudrot has been working with Pierre Sparr as an oenologist for twelve years now. She was also a Terroirs and Vine growing specialist at Sparr, where she helped winegrowers show the best of their vineyards.

“In Alsace, most wineries are run by men, but things have changed over the past few years. Today, more women are heading wineries or becoming oenologists than ever before.” Boudrot shares.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Abruzzo, Italy

Italian winemaking dates back 4,000 years. It is home to some of the oldest winemaking regions globally and is the world’s largest producer of wine, housing over one million acres of vineyard cultivation.

In 2018, Italy accounted for 19 percent of global wine production. Their wine is exported around the world. However, Italians consume 11 gallons of wine, making them fifth in wine consumption worldwide, beating France and Spain.

Their wines are produced throughout the country. Tuscany, Sicily, Umbria, and Piemonte are a few notable regions. There are over 350 varieties of grapes in Italy and countless wines on offer, including Moscato, Primitivo, Barbera, Sangiovese, Chianti, Super Tuscans, and Montepulciano.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Masciarelli Winery

Masciarelli Winery was founded in 1981 by Abruzzo native and notable bon vivant Gianni Masciarelli. Starting with only five acres, the estate has grown to almost 900 acres and has become one of the most lauded wineries in Italy.

Gianni Masciarelli focused on vineyard sites and management, which, in turn, allowed bringing new ideas regarding vineyard planting to the table—this significantly increased fruit quality.

This winery broke the mold by using techniques to handle the fruit gently and precisely and introduce a high-quality substance that extends aging, adding depth to the wines and better integrating tannin. He took the Montepulciano in the region from quantity to quality wine.

The winery is headquartered in San Martino in the house Gianni took over from his grandfather years ago. Under the headquarters is the cellar where he vinified his first vintages.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vine

Marina Cvetic Masciarelli, Gianni Masciarelli's wife, was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1967, growing up in her grandfather's small-scale vineyard.

Cvetic moved to Italy in 1987, where she met the larger-than-life Gianni Masciarelli, the fabled winemaker. The two married, and together, they produced the Marina Cvetic bottle. This was only the beginning of the line designed by Marina Cvetic Masciarelli.

When her husband, Gianni, suddenly passed away in 2008, Cvetic took over Masciarelli Winery as a winemaker, owner, and Operations Manager. With her new position, she took the task head-on. They were outputting thousands of bottles under Cvetic's leadership, increasing production into the millions.

She has since continued to spread the name of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo worldwide. In 2006, she was named "Businesswoman of the Year" by Abruzzo Impresa magazine.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Logroño, Spain

The history of winemaking in Spain goes back 1,100 years with the Phoenicians. Some archeologists argue that it dates back further between 4,000 and 3,000 BC. Whatever the date, they are not new to the grape game.

Spain has over 2.9 million acres of grapes, making it the most widely planted winemaking nation and the world's second-largest wine producer. Spain is ninth in the world in regard to the consumption of wine. Spaniards drink, on average, about 5.7 gallons per person per year. With their abundance of native grapes, over 400 varieties of grapes are planted throughout Spain.

There are twelve wine regions throughout Spain, including Catalonia and Rioja.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Marqués de Cáceres

In 1936, the Forner family was on the run. The nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco broke the Spanish Republic, and a civil war broke out, sending the Valencian winemaking family fleeing to France.

They settled in Bordeaux, where they bought and re-established two abandoned chateaux and learned the winemaking practices native to their adopted home over the next three decades. For 50 years, the Forner family has perfected their winemaking as civil war refugees.

The family later returned to Spain as exiles. The Forner family history created a path that made Marqués de Cáceres successful in the winemaking industry.

Enrique Forner, founder of the winery in 1970, learned the wine trade business from three generations before him. At least five generations linked to wine continue the family tradition and character of Marqués de Cáceres.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vine

Today, Cristina Forner carries her family legacy as she became President of Marqués de Cáceres in 2007. Shortly into her new title, she was hit with a difficult period following the global financial crisis towards the end of 2008 in Spain. This was a challenge in a developing market.

"There was a financial crisis all over the world. So, we had to focus even more on quality and on promoting premium wines since we were more competitive in this segment," Forner shares.

She chose to rise above and strengthen the sales of premium wine by focusing on the vineyards' terroir and selected parcels. Creating a beautiful range of wines from high-altitude vineyards proves to be a crucial changing point for the company.

"Terroir is the first requirement for quality winemaking. You can have the most knowledge, but you won't get great wine if the quality soil and quality grapes are not there. This is why we care not only about enology but also about having the sensitivity to interpret the different characteristics of the fruit and then adapting our vinification technique. This is essential to making distinctive wines – wines with a soul." Forner says. We agree.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Colchagua Valley, Chile

When they colonized Chile during the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors brought with them Vitis vinifera vines. A French influence followed in the mid-19th century with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, and Franc.

At the start of the 1980s, Chile was introduced to stainless steel fermentation tanks and oak barrels to enhance aging. Wine exports proliferated as the quality of the wine increased due to this newfound process. Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world. If looking for a Chilean wine on an American list, you will likely see a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.

If you want to do some vino tourism, head to the Colchagua Valley. It's in the southern part of The Rapel Valley, running from the Andes in the east to the Coastal Range in the west. It is Chile's best-known wine region.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Lapostolle Wines

Lapostolle was founded by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, great-granddaughter of the creator of Grand Marnier, and her French husband Cyril de Bournet in 1994. Alexandra and Cyril fell in love with the Colchagua Valley area after visiting Chile together; they saw the limitless potential to produce premium wines.

The location sits between the Tinguiririca, Rapel, and Coastal Cordillera, creating a horseshoe shape. This shape forms an east and west barrier, delaying the sun's arrival in the morning and allowing for good sunshine regulation in this hot climate.

Lapostolle Wines is distributed in more than 60 countries worldwide and is a pioneer in Chile's own wine world. They aim to create world-class wines using the French experience with the terroirs of Chile.

The company owns about 914 acres over three different vineyards in Chile and produces 200,000 cases annually. The vineyards became fully organic in 2006, and in 2008, they also became certified biodynamic. They pride themselves in being a mix of Chilean and French in culture and style of wines.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vine

Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle persuaded her family to invest $20 million into her expanding wine empire. She already had a demanding job, running the business while balancing motherhood with two teen boys.

She envisioned producing premium quality wine blending French proficiency and Chilean taste. The investment paid off as a mere five years after launching, two of their iconic wines, Classic and Cuvée Alexandre, were the highest average prices of any Chilean winery.

Today, Andrea Leon (pictured above) is currently the head winemaker and communications manager for Lapostolle Wines. She majored in economics enology, and viticulture at the Catholic University of Santiago.

After graduating, she landed jobs in the United States, Europe, and New Zealand before returning to Chile to work for Odfjell Vineyards and Santa Helena Winery. Leon worked closely with Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle and her family, starting in 2004 when she was hired at Lapostolle Wines.

Written by Brooke Sherman and Karen Loftus


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