Women in Wine

We at Oddbins like a good bit of flag-waving, particularly if it’s used to land planes full of delicious imported wine. That was a stupid joke; no one lands planes anymore, it’s all done by Sat-Nav. In recent years we’ve stood on our soapbox (or winebox ay? Even inside brackets these dad jokes are embarrassing.) and supported independent brewers, artisan growers, organic, biodynamic and natural winemakers. Whether invited or not, we like weighing in on hot wine topics. That being said we think it’s long overdue that we all have a little chat about gender disparity in the wine trade... Imagine if we now just went on a sexist rant claiming women are too emotional to be at professional tastings or how menstrual cycles upset fermentation in the winery. You would all just have to go “o great we’ve got to hate Oddbins now, where am I going to buy my Primitivo?"  But seriously, there are people in the world that believe *@!$ like that! Whilst, the numbers are increasing dramatically every year, women are still in the minority in the winemaking world. Women winemakers are also less likely than their male peers to own their own winery; just as in so many other industries, the glass ceiling of the wine trade still seems to be pervasive.

With that in mind it’s unsurprising that women have had to fight for their right to ferment, many have done just that though and claimed leading roles in the industry. Our buyers have noticed at trade tastings and on their travels to wine producing areas across the world, a significantly increasing female influence, even in traditionally male dominated regions. The fact is we have a growing number of wines made by women in our wine range (currently standing at approximately 20%). We are not actively searching for female winemakers per se (because we recognise and admire talented men and women winemakers equally) but this growing breadth in the range is happening, we hope, because it is a microcosm of the wider wine world. Throughout 2018 we will showcase some of the finest wines in our range that also happen to be grown, vinified and bottled by women. Below we are featuring 4 female winemakers, that produce some of our top selling wines.

An oenology graduate of the prestigious Adelaide University, Debbie has become a cool climate specialist, having made wine overseas in the cool regions of Alsace, France; Marlborough, New Zealand; Niagara, Canada; Sonoma, California, in Australia at Piper's River, Tasmania and in the Victorian High Country on the mainland.

Now in the role of Senior Winemaker, Debbie relishes the challenge of taking high elevation wines to another level with the impressive resources of Cumulus Estate. In the last few years, she has created some intriguing new additions to the Cumulus range, such as Sparkling Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Moscato and Rolling Pink. We at Oddbins were lucky enough to receive a parcel of her amazing value Rolling Hills Chardonnay and Shiraz that have pushed the perception of these varietals grown in Australia.  Watch this space for more of her innovative work.

Samantha arrived in South Africa seeking the ‘Californian dream’ and bought a former dairy farm in Greyton on the Western Cape. With her nearest wine neighbours over two hours away, the local shop 30 minutes away and a daily school run with her two toddlers taking an hour, she had little time to second guess her decision and so embarked on a 13-year journey that has resulted in the wine world clamouring for her wines.

When O’Keefe was starting her wine career and considering which vines to grow in the then-untried Greyton area, she took advice from Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson, who said: “If you succeed, you will be considered a pioneer; if you fail, no-one will care.”

The pioneer soon found that the barren mountain-top shale soils produced exceptional wines, not least the Syrah, which has gained recognition from Robert Parker in his list of the 50 Best New Releases from 2015, and was highly praised by Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate with 94 points.

The reception of Sam’s wines at Oddbins from both staff and customers, have been truly astonishing. We tried the Lismore Viognier at our annual Oddbins Christmas meeting and from MD to wine advisor, the room was struck dumb.

In 2008, when Karoline was 24 and Dorothy just 22, Karl-Heinz, their father who was running the family winery, was suddenly taken ill. The daughters returned, prematurely, to Sausenheim, and took charge. They have had to finish their education on the job, though they have been helped where necessary by their wider family and by some of the winemakers Karoline did placements with during her studies. There are five full-time employees: the two daughters, their mother, who does the accounts, a female intern and a token man, who drives the tractors. Under Dorothy & Karoline’s tutelage the Gaul range have become a beautifully modern expression of German winemaking. Their Dornfelder and Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) are defined by freshness and intensity of fruit; they’re absolutely delightful if you’re in the business for a lighter red.

Watch this space for our next update on female winemakers.