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Women Behind the World of Wine - Part 2

In celebration of wine pioneers worldwide, we are stepping off the beaten vine this week to explore some lesser-known vino regions.

These regions may be newer to some of you; however, the wine history is rich and interesting, with one region claiming to be the oldest in the world. Grab a glass, tip back, relax, and read on to see which one it is.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

The Kakheti Region in Western Georgia

The country of Georgia claims to be the birthplace of the first-ever wine. Georgian winemaking methods were developed 8,000 years ago and are still practiced today. This practice involves fermenting and storing the wine underground in egg-shaped clay jars called kveri. This form of winemaking is listed on the 2013 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Georgia ranks second, behind Moldova, in the volume of grape production in the former Soviet Union. There are five wine regions in Georgia, Kakheti being the critical region. There are nearly 400 grape varieties, 38 of which are used. Thousands primarily make the wine of small farmers.

Georgian wine is highly sought after in the Russian market and has recently found its way to many American glasses.

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Baia’s Wine in Obcha Village

Baia’s wine consists of a two-hectare vineyard and bottling plant in Obcha, Georgia. They grow a local grape called Tsolikauri, also known as Obchura. This is one of the main grapes used for their white Wine, Tsitsa-Tsolikouri. Many Georgian wines are a blend.

The winemaker Baia Abuladze’s wines are known to be floral and bright. About 90 percent of Baia’s Wine is exported to the U.S. Abuladze has steadily added to her organic farmland. Her goal is to buy another 15 acres to help with the demand in production.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vines

Baia Abuladze, fourth-generation winemaker and founder of Baia's Wine is Georgia's youngest female winemaker at just 22 years old. The idea to start working in wine came to Abuladze while studying in Tbilisi. "I was part of a casual wine club. There were men, women, older people, young people. I realized that anybody could make wine."

Established in 2015, Baia Abuladze has since been leading a generation of young winemakers while working to preserve the world's oldest winemaking tradition. Baia's wine has been awarded an enterprise grant from the government and has already won a Silver medal at the Wine Grand Prix.

Abuladze is a biodynamic winemaker taught by her grandfather. He showed her how to prune vines and pick grapes according to the moon cycle, a practice seen today. "I follow the old traditional methods and rules. They knew what to do and how important the land is." Abuladze shared.

Baia is now looking to expand her business into exports and agritourism as she also encourages young women worldwide to embark on more entrepreneurial opportunities. "Never give up, never stop focusing on what you love to do, and keep trying again and again until you succeed!" says Abuladze.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Kfar Saba, Israel

If following the vine in Israel, it goes back some 2,000 years as it dates back to biblical times. Israel's location is part of a historical trading route, bringing more winemaking knowledge to the area. This area includes the routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Wine played a significant role in the early Israelites' religion, leading to Roman times. Production was disrupted around the seventh century AD when the region was a part of Muslim Palestine. Islam had strict bans on alcohol. Many of the old vines were destroyed.

Then, a Frenchman came into play. Baron Edmond de Rothschild brought vines over from France, mainly Bordeaux. That was the start of Carmel Winery, Israel's longest continuously running vineyard. It has since gone from quantity to quality wines, making dry Bordeaux-style wines since the '60s. Today, the wine industry focuses on French grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

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Saslove Winery

Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Barry Saslove first moved to Israel as a volunteer in 1967. She later moved to Israel permanently, unknowingly the start of Saslove history.

Barry Saslove, the founder of Saslove Winery, created a wine cellar in the 1990s. All due to his curiosity, he began making wine for fun. As an early wine importer, Barry started to teach wine classes, leading him to become a partner in creating the Soreq Wine School.

1998, Saslove Winery was born, becoming one of Israel's most well-renowned wineries. Saslove has multiple vineyards, all located on the Upper Galilee, mostly on a volcanic rock over limestone soil.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vines

Canada-born, Israel-bred winemaker Roni Saslove is paving the way for a new generation of winemakers in Israel. Roni began helping at the family winery, and from then on, it was clear that she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps. In 2004, her father suggested that Roni make her wine, creating Kadita, a dessert wine.

In 2008, Roni graduated from Brock University in Canada with a degree in enology. She has more than a strong passion for wine, "To make wine from a scientific perspective is not challenging, but to make delicious wine, you need so much more than academic knowledge - it requires passion, soul, and energy." says Roni.

In 2013, Saslove Winery was sold, and Roni moved away from the winery with another idea brewing, The Tasting Room. The Tasting Room concept was to have 40 wines available by the glass at any time using an automatic pouring system.

Today, Roni runs multiple wine appreciation courses, often held at the Kerem Montefiore Tasting Room. "Behind every glass of wine, there is the grape, the winemaker's story – and your own story," Roni shared.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Saillon, Central Valais, Switzerland

The tradition of wine and viticulture in Switzerland dates back to the Roman era when the first ceramic bottle was found in a Celtic tomb of a lady of the 2nd century B.C. Today, Switzerland ranks in the top ten per capita consumption of wine. That may be why less than two percent of their wine is exported. You may have to head that way if you search for a tasting.

Switzerland's two most common grape varieties are the red Pinot noir at around 30% and the white Chasselas at about 27%. Nearly 40% of all Swiss wine is produced by the steep and exposed vineyards of the Valais. This principal wine region boasts more than 50 varieties.

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Cave Valentina Andrei

Cave Valentina Andrei was founded in 2012 by Valentina Andrei. Here, there are 18 red and white wines displayed. Today, falling on 10 acres of land in Saillon, Switzerland, the winery produces approximately 20,000 bottles yearly.

Valentina's approach to her winemaking is very intuitive. Valentina offers several single-varietal vintages and blends depending on the years and harvests. "My vines, I listen to them, I talk to them, I accompany them as best I can."

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vines

Romania native Valentina Andrei moved to Switzerland to continue her education at 20. Upon arriving in Switzerland, she became intrigued by the world of vines, falling in love with the vintner life. Valentina began working at Domaine de Beudon, where the owners Marion and Jacques Granges became her wine lifeline, showing her the ropes of the vintner life.

She attended Châteauneuf's Agricultural School in Sion, Switzerland, and continued her education, becoming an Oenologue. For four years, she worked at Domaine de la Liaudisaz for Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, who has worked in wine since she was 17. Here, Valentina perfected her skills, learning about biodynamic viticulture and enology.

In 2012, Valentina was hungry to create her legacy. Starting from scratch, she purchased approximately three acres of vines along the slopes of Valais. Unfortunately, in 2013, she had to share winemaking facilities, hindering her freedom and ultimately pushing her to find another location.

One year later, she was making her vintage in a small garage. Valentina created an original blend containing one-third Roussanne and two-thirds Petite Arvine, with no malolactic fermentation, becoming a massive success in this little garage. His favorite grape varieties are Chasselas, Arvine, Gentile, Roussanne, Gamay, Humagne, Cornalin, and Syrah. Her cellar is in Saillon, where she welcomes- enthusiasts to taste and share her passion.

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Therasia, Greece

Wine has been produced in Greece since ancient times. The region became significant in the Middle Ages when Crusaders gained control of the island from the Byzantine Empire in 1203.

1336, the Crusaders lost control, and the Venetian maritime state, Duchy of Naxos, took over the area. With Venetian influence, Santorini wines were exported and introduced throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. Today, Santorini's island is most famous for its indigenous white grape varieties: Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani.

Say WAT WAT - The Winery

Mikra Thira Winery

Mikra Thira is a new winery established by three well-known Greek winemakers: Vangelis Gerovassiliou, Vassilis Tsaktsarlis, and Ioanna Vamvakouri.

Mikra Thira was built in Therasia, a small island you can see across Santorini's caldera. This small island was a part of Santorini until the great volcanic eruption of 1600 BC. The name Mikra Thira derives from a reference in literature during the 10th century BC in Therasia.

The idea behind the winery was inspired by this island's raw, natural beauty and its unique "terroir" that also includes Santorini's typical characteristics.

The first harvest took place in 2018, and the two wines of the estate were bottled under the Protected Designation of Origin Santorini. Santorini is a 100% Assyrtiko of Santorini grapes, and Terrassa is a different expression of the same variety with grapes from Therasia.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vines

Ioanna Vamvakouri studied enology in Montpellier and Toulouse and worked for a winery in Cahors, France. Shortly after, her husband got a job in Greece at Santo Wines. Upon moving to Greece, Vamvakouri applied at Boutari Winery and was hired.

Greece has a history of male-dominated wine culture. Women working in the wine industry is a very recent phenomenon, shared Vamvakouri, "I welcome the opportunity."

"Women in the wine industry and viticulture represent a small proportion of the total industry workforce, so I needed to break down some barriers and be proactive to make my voice heard." Vamvakouri shares the difficulties of working in a male-dominated industry when asked about them.

Today, Vamvakouri has been working on a new project and has been working as the vice president of Mikra Thira for the last three years. Vamvakouri proved herself, and today, she assists in making some of the best, most distinctive white wines in Greece.

Vamvakouri advises others in a similar field, "Never lose your confidence because if you don't believe in yourself, then it's going to be impossible to make others believe in you too."

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico

Winemaking in Mexico began with the arrival of the Spanish at the turn of the 16th century, who brought vines from Europe to Mexico. There were indigenous grapes before the Spanish conquest, but the Spaniards found that Spanish grapevines did not fare well in Mexico.

By the 17th century, wine exports from Spain to Mexico fell, and in 1699, the ruler of the Spanish Empire prohibited wine-making in Mexico. Until Mexico's independence in 1821, the wine was only produced on a small scale.

Similar to Israeli history, there was a resurgence in the late 19th century. In 1888, the Santo Tomas Mission was sold to investors, revitalizing the industry and establishing Mexico's first commercial winery, which still operates as Bodegas Santo Tomás. In the 1980s, the wines of Mexico started to emerge.

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Tres Raíces Wine House

The story of Tres Raíces starts about two hours northwest of the Querétaro wineries, just past the tourist hotspot of San Miguel de Allende in 2015. The first hectares of vines were planted shortly after in March 2016, and in October 2018, they opened the wine cellar and the restaurant to the public.

At Tres Raíces Wine House, the harvesting process is done manually, from the de-steaming to the grapes' squeezing. Fermented in stainless steel tanks at an average controlled temperature, and on day 25 of this process, they place the wine in French oak barrels "Seguin Moreau" for 12 months. When bottled, they let sit for another 12 months until it is ready for sale.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vines

30-year-old Alejandra Cordero had no initial plans of working with wine. She has a chemistry background, and her original plan was to become a pharmacist. During her studies, she found herself captivated by the challenges of enology.

"Winemaking seemed to be a lot like life," shared Cordero. "The harvest is just once a year. If you screw up, you have to get up, learn your lesson, and start next year's production. When I realized wine wasn't easy, I thought, Oh, this is for me."

Cordero spent her first five years in the world of wine at another vineyard about three hours northwest of Tres Raíces in Aguascalientes. Here, she was in charge of production but encountered a common problem of sexism in the industry. She asked for a raise after finding out her male coworkers were making double her salary.

"They told me there was no money, that they couldn't help me," she recalls. She quit. Four months later, her male replacement was hired at four times her salary. Thankfully, Cordero has found a supportive place of work with Tres Raíces. Over her past three years working for Tres Raíces, she has been producing 7,500 cases annually.

Say WAT - The Wine Region

Port Moody, Canada

Canadian wine has been produced for over 200 years when early settlers attempted to cultivate grapes from Europe with little luck. The first commercial winery opened in Canada in 1866 on Pelee Island in Ontario. In 1960, there were many improvements to winemaking technology. This enabled more access to cultivate the Vitis vinifera grapes from Europe.

In the 1920s, prohibition halted production. Then, in the '70s, after a five-decade moratorium, things picked back up. Today, 62 percent of the total wine production originates from Ontario. The second-largest wine-producing province, British Columbia, is responsible for 33 percent of Canada's wine production. Ontario's Niagara on the Lake and BC's Kelowna are vital regions and are buzzing with wine tourism.

The locals, too, are wine enthusiasts. As of 2015, Quebec's province is the largest consumer of wine, with each resident consuming, on average, 6 gallons a year.

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Andres Wines

Andres Wines began in 1927 when founder Andrew Peller moved to Canada from Hungary. In 1964, winery operations were established, and 1970, Andrés entered the Ontario market. Andrew's son, Dr. Joseph Peller, joined Andrés in 1965 and subsequently took over as President & CEO in 1970.

The Company's award-winning premium and ultra-premium brands include Peller Estates, Trius, Hillebrand, Red Rooster, Thirty Bench, Sandhill, Copper Moon, and Calona Vineyards Artist Series VQA wines.

WAT in the World - The Woman Behind the Vines

Lynn Bremmer attended Douglas College and the BC Institute of Technology. She started her career working at the BC government dairy lab in Burnaby. Still, when an opening at a wine lab became available, she applied and was hired—making her British Columbia’s first female winemaker.

Quickly after, Lynn became the Assistant Winemaker at Andres Wines. Here, she met her husband, John, the production manager.

After seven years at Andres, Lynn worked with other wineries and vineyards. Today, Lynn is chair of the BC Wine Grape Council and chair of the Lab Proficiency Testing Committee, also known as LPT Testing.

Lynn remains a pioneer in the industry and continues to improve wine procedures with her information from LPT Testing, where she works to inform the importance of wine lab certifications.

Written by Brooke Sherman and Karen Loftus


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