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Women in Wine

Better the balance, better the world #BalanceforBetter is the theme and hashtag for this year’s International Woman’s Day. As a woman working in a male-dominated industry, the significance and meaning of this is important not just for me but all woman working in the industry.

So how does the Australian Wine Industry gender parity stack up? From latest data available, gender equality has moved in the right direction, though in leadership a significant gap still exists.  According to Wine Australia, the number of women employed in wine manufacturing increased to 38 percent in 2016, from 35 percent in 2011. However, when it comes to leadership and senior roles, female representation is estimated at 10 percent or less.

In honour of International Woman’s Day, we feature three female senior winemakers who are leading the wine revolution by sharing a commitment toward sustainability and making wines with traditional methods where the fruit is the hero. We are also featuring two of their wines in our March Women in Wine pack

Josephine Perry, Charlotte Hardy and Melanie Chester are all award-winning senior winemakers, recognised for their skill, passion and, above all, tasty wines! They are from three different wine regions juggling work, family and, at this time of year, vintage, but still found time to speak with WR.

For information on global gender parity we referred to the 50|50 by 2030 Foundation. We found the latest insight report from the World Economic Forum: The Global Gender Gap Report 2018Out of 149 countries surveyed, at 85% the most gender-equal country to date is Iceland, New Zealand ranks 7thand Australia 39th

 

Josephine Perry. Owner and Winemaker Dormilona Wines. Margaret River, WA 

Josephine’s first vintage was in Margaret River at just age 14 years, and before setting up Dormilona worked extensively in Spain, France and the Canary Islands. Dormilona is a small batch winery, owned by Josephine,  Jimmy Perry and their two children. They make their wine using fruit from certified organic and biodynamic vineyards (as well as some conventionally grown fruit). In the winery the ethos is very much European, making wine with no additives, fining and very little intervention. A touch of sulphur at bottling. Amphora clay pots feature in the winery which her kids use at chalkboards.

The aim is to make tasty wine with little input. “I do everything by touch, smell and taste”, says Josephine.

The Dormilona range of wines sells out every year. Fabulous ‘day of the dead’ inspired wine labels  by Sean Edward Whelan, which you can purchase on their website 

Wines to Try

Skinnie vin 2018
Rosado vin 2018

There have been many women trail-blazers in the Australian Wine Industry, is there anyone specific you admire/influenced you?

Virginia Willcock. I still have old black & white film of her when I was 14 at Cape Mentelle jumping across tanks in her Jurassic park boots. She’s a legend.

What’s your winemaking style? 

Working closely with the vineyard to make to express the best possible version on the variety in that season in its purist form.

Do you have a particular varietal you love working with? 

Chenin baby all the way.

 

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

Dropping it on the half pipe last keeps making me smile. (clearly alright at surfing too!)

The spotlight is on sustainability across all industries. How important is it to the wine industry to do their bit? 

Very. I do strongly feel we need to change the way we deliver & present wines to the people.

How has the industry changed in terms of gender equality and opportunities, particularly in leadership roles? 

There is a focus on women at moment which is nice. I do think it’s a very hard industry for women to work in due to pressures of harvest with small children / young families. The industry it is changing & becoming more flexible with this for men & women in that regard plus being aware of gender.

Regardless of gender, what do you consider to be the most important attributes to be a successful winemaker?

Being touch with their senses & attention to detail.

Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be a winemaker? 

Follow what’s important to you & trust your gut.

 

Charlotte Hardy. Owner and Winemaker Charlotte Dalton Wines. Adelaide Hills, SA

A labour of love, Charlotte Hardy makes wines because that is her passion, she simply says “I love wine.” Having made wine all over the world for 15 years, she has been drinking wine all over the world for longer. Whether walking through the vineyards., or immersed in the journey of turning grapes into wine, she loves to watch the personalities develop in every single barrel and to observe the effect of the years passing on bottles of wine. Charlotte thinks wine can be felt, and gets so much joy making the Charlotte Dalton wines that surely you will feel joy when you drink them. Charlotte Hardy wines are small batch wines and sell out every year

Wines to Try

2018 Charlotte Dalton Eliza Pinot Noir
2017 Charlotte Dalton Love You Love Me Semillon

 There have been many women trail-blazers in the Australian Wine Industry, is there anyone specific you admire/influenced you?

So many amazing woman (and men) have my adoration and have definitely inspired and influenced me.  Namely the woman are Kerri Thompson, Natasha Mooney and Sue Bell – these 3 women were some of the first female winemakers I encountered in Australia and I admire them for their strength and resilience, their unwavering dedication to their brands and their bloody delicious wines.  Their winemaking journeys and knowledge in the industry are incredible.

What’s your winemaking style?

I don’t have a style per se, When I started my brand, I let the fruit dictate the style somewhat and I still buy my fruit from the same growers. I guess my style is all about letting the fruit be the leader and I just sort of gently guide it back if it looks like it’s going in a direction that is going to lead to something not delicious!

Do you have a particular varietal you love working with?

I love all the varieties I make.  But Semillon, Semillon is like my baby, I think because it is so damn hard working, so hard on itself.  I like to back the underdog and show it some love!

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Well outside of wine – my children, I can’t believe I made them, they are amazing.  Wine – so much, I guess manly how far my brand has come, the amazing awards and acknowledgements I have won and had in the last few years (especially the last few months) – really this all means people like my wine and that still spins me out and brings tears to my eyes.  I still get the biggest buzz seeing it on a list or in a bottle store.

The spotlight is on sustainability across all industries. How important is it to the wine industry to do their bit?

I find this sustainability spotlight so interesting.  Surely every person in every industry who has ever owned a business wants it to be sustainable, to be future proof, to survive the coming years.  It is very important for the wine industry to do their bit. I think the rapid cessation of the use of herbicide and other sprays in the vineyard is just one thing that gives me hope that the industry is moving toward having a sustainable industry, environment, planet, everything…..

 

Melanie Chester. Senior Winemaker Sutton Grange Winery. Bendigo, VIC

Melanie has an impressive CV for her age: experience at d’Arenberg, Wolf Blass, Quinta do Crasto (in Portugual) and Seppelt; theyoungest scholar to be selected for the Len Evans Tutorial; extensive wine show judging, Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine’s 2015 Young Winemaker of the Year, and 2018 Young Gun winemaker People’s Choice and Top 12 Finalist. We first met Melanie at the 2018 Young Gun tasting and her enthusiasm and passion for her craft and wine she produces was effortless and catching. The wines were delicious too! We then spent time in the winery tasting our way through the range, in awe of Melanie’s genuine love for the wine she makes.

Wines to try

2018 Fairbank Sangiovese.
2018 Fairbank Field Blend.

There have been many women trail-blazers in the Australian Wine Industry, is there anyone specific you admire/influenced you?

There are so many women in our industry that I admire – from Sue Hodder from Wynn’s, to Corrina Wright at Oliver’s Taranga, Sarah Crowe from Yarra Yering and Sam Connew from Stargazer – just to name a few. There are many more! Most of these women are good friends as well as mentors.

What’s your winemaking style?

My outlook about winemaking is that wine should be delicious and yummy first and foremost. From there my winemaking style is focused around vineyard and site. Our wines at Sutton Grange talk more about the farm and land the come from than my hand. From that philosophy stems some of the winemaking techniques – keeping them fresh, low oak and other winemaking interventions (like unnecessary additives and filtration).

Do you have a particular varietal you love working with?

I love some of the Italian varieties that we have planted at Sutton Grange – Fiano is a textural white and is great fun in the vineyard and the winery. But I am also a sucker for Syrah.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Every time I get a wine to bottle I feel an immense sense of achievement – not just because I am proud of the wine but I am also proud of myself for surviving one of the most stressful days of the year! But being named Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine’s Young Winemaker of the Year in 2015 was pretty damn special too.

The spotlight is on sustainability across all industries. How important is it to the wine industry to do their bit?

It’s huge – we are quite a wasteful industry. For example, it takes a lot of water to make wine, the way we package wine is also extremely environmentally unfriendly. At Sutton Grange Winery we farm organically and sustainably – trying to focus on the biological health of our vineyard rather than adding lots of chemicals to the farm. In the winery we use rainwater caught off our roof, we are always trying to reduce our environmental impact by changing our packaging are just a couple of examples.

Regardless of gender, what do you consider to be the most important attributes to be a successful winemaker?

The most important attribute is you have to have passion. The job of a winemaker encompasses all parts of your life – you have to love it. From there, attention and good problem solving skills are critical. And you have to love cleaning! You can tell the calibre of the winemaker by the cleanliness of their winery.

Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be a winemaker?

My advice is the same for all people – go and do it! Find an opportunity to work in a winery during harvest and get stuck in to the fun of winemaking. Work hard, ask questions, taste as many wines as you can.  Follow your nose to what interests you.