In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to recognize some of our favorite women owned and women made wines. Thankfully, the wine industry has started to become more inclusive in the past several years so the list is ever growing. We think this is a great positive for many reasons.
Historically, the wine industry has always been a very male dominated industry from the winery owners, the winemakers, the sales/marketing people down to the vineyard workers. In the 19th century and even into much of the 20th century, if a spouse died and did not have a male heir, the winery would be sold or closed. The famous Veuve Cliquot and Lily Bollinger were exceptions. They were both widows and took over their late husbands’ champagne houses with very successful and revolutionizing results.
California has over 4,000 wineries but only 10% have female winemakers and only 4% are female owned. However, that trend could be changing. Now half of the University of California at Davis’ viticulture and enology program are women and in 2020, women made up 45% of the graduating class of the Institut des Sciences de la Vignes et du Vin at Bordeaux University.
There may even be scientific reasons to include females on the winemaking teams. There have been several scientific studies that show women have a finer sense of smell due to more cells in the olfactory bulb of the brain. This may give women an advantage to picking up more subtle nuances that can make a difference in winemaking decisions. Not to say that will mean that women make better wine than men, but there could be some softer differences in flavors and textures.
Here are some of our favorites wineries that are either owned by women or the wine is made my women. We hope you agree and want to support them as well!
Elena Walch is a leading winery in the Alto Adige region of Northeast Italy. Elena was an architect and married into one of the oldest wine families of the region. Elena brought new, modern concepts to the traditional winery. She has gained international esteem for helping head the Alto Adige quality revolution. Now, her two daugthers, Julia and Karoline, are starting to take responsibility for the family winery.
The Elena Walch winery make beautiful wines with many different price levels. They earn high ratings and awards from wine critics all over the world. Their grand cuveé, Beyond the Clouds, is a white blend of mostly chardonnay that is absolutey stunning!
When Susana was younger, she applied to study nuclear physics in a different city of Argentina. This was a very unconventional choice for a female to study at the time, so her parents refused to let her leave Mendoza. At that point, Susana decided to work in the family business of viticulture. In 1981, she became the first woman in Argentina to receive her degree in enology. From there, she worked at many well-known wineries like Catena Zapata. In 1999, she started her own winery with Susana Balbo Wines. Since then, she has been recognized as the “most influential women winemakers” in 2012, “Woman of the year” in 2015, and made the list of “the 10 most influential women in the wine world” in 2018.
The winery has become a family business now with her son, Jose, and her daughter, Ana, joining the winemaking team. Together, they make everything from the affordable Crios line to the classic Susana Balbo line to the iconic Nosotros Malbec that has received 100 points from James Suckling in recent years.
The Quiot family has been winemakers since 1748. It started with their Domaine du Vieux Lazaret property in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France and then expanded to Domaine Houchart in Provence in 1890. Since then, the Quiot family has added three more estates in Southern France to their portfolio. When the family patriarch, Jérôme Quiot, passed away in 2018, his daughter, Florence, became the CEO of these beautiful wineries. Her brother, Jean-Baptiste, is the head winemaker and together, they are the 13th generation of this well-regarded winemaking family.
With Florence at the helm, the estates are continuing in their tradition of 90+ rated wines. The Domaine Houchart Rosé is constantly highlighted as a best buy and it is one of our favorite summer wines to enjoy. We cannot wait until travel opens up and we can enjoy it in Provence!
This organic and biodynamic winery in the Alsace region of France is run by Celine Meyer. Her sister, Isabelle Meyer, is the head winemaker. The winery was started in 1963 by their grandfather but the family négociant business dates back to the mid-1800’s. They produce different price points of wine but they are most known for their artist series. These wines are single varietal white wines that are expressive of their variety (think riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris). Each wine has a label that depicts the wine as imagined by a local Alsatian artist. The labels change every two years.
The winery makes about 16,000 cases a year and not all of it is imported into the US. Their dry riesling “Le Kottabe” receives 90+ ratings in most vintages and is a beautiful example of Alsatian dry riesling.
Cakebread Cellars is a highly regarded and well known winery in Napa Valley, California. Their wines continuously receive high ratings and are served at the finest restaurants all over the world. In 2017, they hired Stephanie Jacobs as their head winemaker. She became only the fourth winemaker in Cakebread’s five decades as a winery. Stephanie first became interested in wine when she was an exchange student in France in high school. After that, she graduated from UC Davis’ Viticulture and Enology program. She joined Cakebread in 2004. Stephanie continues to bring both state of the art technologies to Cakebreak and reintroduce historic techniques that are less common in California.
The Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic example of Napa Valley cabernet. It tends to have bold fruit flavors up front mixed with many layers of complexity. Perfect with a nice steak!