Wines made where no one believed vines would grow. Enologists who strive to get the most out of the...
A Woman’s Place
Winery owners and managers, enologists, sommeliers and specialized critics. Without a doubt, women are staking their claim in the world of Malbec, Carménère and Tannat.
As successful entrepreneurs and professionals, women have confidently made the transition into what has long been an exclusive boy’s club: the world of wine. A lot has changed in this sensuous world, with increasing numbers of women working among the vines, barrels and bottles. And now, they say that they know just what men want.
This phenomenon became progressively more evident throughout the 1990s, with women becoming active in the wine market in a number of different roles. Today, you’ll find women working as impresarios, enologists, journalists, sommeliers and, increasingly, as active consumers who not only buy knowledgably but train their palates at tastings. There are even events like the National Women’s Wine Competition, in Santa Rosa, California, which features an all-female jury and a gender-specific competition, the Women Winemakers’ Challenge.
It’s no coincidence that some of the largest Chilean vineyards have had women create some of their most famous wines, experts like San Pedro’s Irene Paiva and Santa Rita’s Cecilia Torres. Women have also played key roles in brand image and marketing, like Isabel Guilisasti at Concha y Toro.
This trend, evident in a number of wine-producing countries, is winning fans among younger generations and is reflected in innovative projects like Viña Las Niñas in Apalta, the only winery in Chile managed entirely by women. According to Laurence Real, a female enologist and General Manager of Viña Las Niñas, women “bring more sensitivity and order” to the winemaking process. Real worked as a “flying winemaker” for one of the most prestigious wineries in the world, Château d’Yquem, in Bourdeaux, the cradle of the famed Sauternes. She also made wine in Australia and Mexico. Real came to Chile as part of a French investment, and since 1996, she has overseen Viña Las Niñas. This original enterprise combines sensuous and exclusive wine lines – Aromas, Las Niñas and Tacón Alto – with attractive packaging.
Another example, Patricia Ortiz, a physician and social psychologist, confesses that her love for wine and fine dining led her and her husband to tour different wine-producing regions until finally buying their first property in Tupungato, Mendoza. “That was the beginning of what is today the winery and Club Tapiz, a boutique hotel with a restaurant that serves regional cuisine,” explains Ortiz, the president of Bodega Tapiz.
A different story – set amid vineyards and lovely country scenery – stars Margarita Carrau, the first president of Uruguay’s Enological Tourism Association. Carrau belongs to the prosperous Catalonian family of vine growers who founded Bodegas Carrau. Today, she is dedicated to professionalizing wine tourism in Uruguay, while also exploring wine as a journalist and sommelier.
Makers of Fine Wines
They charm with their style, personality and character, like the wines that carry their signature. In fact, an estimated 30 percent of all enologists in Chile are women. This noteworthy group includes Andrea Léon, from Casa Lapostolle, a vineyard run by another woman, Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle (see our interview with Madame in this issue); Cecilia Torres, from Viña Santa Rita; Constanza Schwaderer, from Viña Augustitos; Ana María Cumsille, from Viña Altaïr; and Cecilia Guzmán, from Haras de Pirque, to name just a few.
In Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina, you’ll find talented enologists like Susana Balbo, the current president of Wines of Argentina who hails from Bodega Dominio del Plata, and Estela Perinetti, from Bodega Caro. Perinetti created one of the country’s most distinguished wines, the fruit of a union between Nicolás Catena and Château Lafite Rothschild. Younger standouts include Romina Carpanelli, winemaker for Mendoza’s Bodega Margot, dedicated to the production of premium sparkling wines and a Malbec marketed under the brand name Maula.
Another important woman in wine is Uruguay’s Estela de Frutos, known as “the mother of Tannat.” She’s an agronomist, instructor, enologist and technical advisor to the winery Los Cerros de San Juan. As we talk, she can’t hide her love for Uruguay’s signature grape, or her work, dedicated to the land, the vines and her great passion for this noble libation.
The Gift of Gab
This feminine touch is not restricted to the winemaking process. Women also have a considerable presence as specialized journalists and sommeliers. Or both, like Mariana Martínez, an Argentinean who has lived and worked in Chile since 1996. Martínez is the editor of the Website planetavino.com; she is also a professional sommelier, a leading educator in the field and co-host of the wine show “Entre Copas” on the Cooperativa radio station. Her many publications include El Vino de la A a la Z and Vino y Compañía, which, along with journalist Ana María Barahona’s Mujer & Vinos guidebook, are well-respected references in Chile. “Our strength lies in public relations, communications, sales, administration and winemaking. All in all, everything that requires meticulous and responsible work,” explains Martínez.
In Argentina, one of the most famous wine writers is Elizabeth Checa, author of the guide Los buenos vinos argentinos. “Women know the subject well. They know about wine and also have something interesting to offer,” declares Marina Beltrame, director of the Escuela Argentina de Sommeliers. Beltrame was a visionary who founded the first school for sommeliers in Buenos Aires because she felt that “something was missing.” The school now has a branch in Mendoza, and schools in Bogotá, Colombia, and San José, Costa Rica. “Female participation in the courses has always been high, with an annual average of between 40 and 50 percent,” she says. “Nowadays, if a woman wants to learn about wine, she won’t want for opportunities.”
Other Women to Watch in Chile
Casa Marín owner and enologist, named Best Enologist of the Year in Mujer & Vinos 2008.
María José Zañartu, partner in The Wine House and creator of the annual Cata & Vino fair.
Elizabeth Díaz, domestic market manager for Wines of Chile.
Irene Paiva, advisor to Viña Santa Ema and creator of the “garage wine” i Latina.
Daniela Gillmore, agronomist and owner of Gillmore Winery & Vineyards.
Margaret Snook, sommelier and editor of Vinos para todos.
María Elena Cerna, founding partner and general manager of Bacoring, a company that designs and produces wooden packaging.
Carolina Arnello, director of Chile’s Enological Agronomists’ Association; enologist for the Portal del Alto winery.
Tamara de Baeremaecker, Viña Concha y Toro enologist.
Other Women to Watch in Argentina
Andrea Marchiori, Viña Cobos, enologist.
Laura Catena Zapata, Bodega Catena Zapata, director.
Mariela Molinari, Bodega Catena Zapata, enologist.
Ana María Urrutia, general manager for Diageo in Argentina and Chile.
Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano, Bodega Noemia de Patagonia, owner.
Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, Bodega Flechas de los
Andes, socia-propietaria / co-owner.
Catherine Père-Vergè, Bodega Monteviejo, owner.
Adriana Martínez, Bodega Mitos, enologist and owner.
Diane Jojaux, Bodega Fabre Montmayou, owner.
Anne-Caroline Biancheri, Bodega Antucura, owner.
Sofia Pescarmona, Bodega Lagarde, director.
Anabelle Sielecki, Mendel Wines, co-owner.
Jimena Jofré, RJ Viñedos, vice president.
Flavia Rizzuto, Argentinean Center of Wines and Spirits sommelier.
Sisters Jimena, Maricel & Fernanda Jofré, RJ Viñedos, owners.
Leticia Lariviere, Bodega Lariviere Yturbe, owner.
Ana Puelles, Bodega Vistandes, enologist.
Lucía Romero, Bodega El Porvenir, owner.
Alicia Mateu de Arizu, Viña Alicia, owner.
Matilde Pereda, Bodega Montequieto, owner.
The world of wine has its share of unfounded but widespread myths about women:
Women favor white wines and rosés: FALSE
• “If a woman chooses the wine, she’ll do so according to the information at her disposal. More discerning consumers have a wider and more sophisticated spectrum, while the less trained favor sweet wines, whites, wine coolers or demi-sec sparkling wines,” explains enologist Romina Carpanelli.
• In her study “What Wines do Chilean Women Drink and Why?” Mariana Martínez discovered that women drink whites and reds equally, and that their four favorite varietals were all reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carménère, in that order.
• “It’s like the myth of feminine wine (lighter) and masculine wine (more concentrated). I have many female colleagues who make tremendous wines that are super-concentrated and tannic. And I know male enologists who make sublime and delicate wines,” says Clos Apalta enologist Andrea León.
Women don’t pick the wine: FALSE
• “Before, the woman would cook, and the man would buy the wine. That’s not how it is anymore: he cooks, while she chooses the wine. Now women pick the wine, buy it and love it,” declares Marina Beltrame.
• “In Chile, women spearhead the shopping at supermarkets, just as in other developed countries like the U.S. and England,” explains Mariana Martínez, from planetavino.com.