Women have long played second fiddle in the world of wine. However, things have started to shift. Although men are still the dominant producers, especially at volume, many women are creating beautiful wines and making their presence within the industry known. Below we round up some of our favourites; Caitlin McConnell and Ashley Santoro, the female proprietors of downtown NYC wine shop Leisir, weigh in with a couple picks as well. Cin cin alla salute!
Lalou Bize-Leroy, Burgundy
By no means a new name—she first started making wine in 1955—Lalou Bize-Leroy has continued to blaze new trails in the winemaking industry, defining herself as an early champion of biodynamic wines which is an ethos she maintains to this day. Her wines are amongst the rarest and most expensive in Burgundy and are regarded as a barometer of excellence for the region.
Kate Norris, Oregon
After learning to make wine across France, Kate Norris moved to Oregon and established Division Winemaking Company. Using grapes from different vineyards (all certified organic, biodynamic or sustainable), they actually create their wine in Portland—helping to pioneer the urban winemaking concept. ‘She is making some of our favourite wines from the coast right now. Her style is bright, fresh, pure and thoughtful,’ Leisir says. Most vintages sell out, and all garner accolades.
The McBride Sisters, California
Women in wine are rare, and women of colour in wine are even more unique. The McBride Sisters’ wines span the globe, coming from New Zealand and California, and are easy to drink. Their blog features food pairings and engaging stories; the recounting of their history and connection to each other is worth a read in and of itself.
Dr Laura Catena, Mendoza
More than just a vintner, Dr Laura Catena is a mother, physician, author and wine scholar. She manages several vineyards, overseeing all production of wine, and is primarily considered the foremost expert on modern Argentinian wines. Meanwhile, she also is a practising emergency room physician, working in San Francisco, applying her depth of knowledge in medicine to better farming practices and ultimately sustainable, organic vineyards.
Luisella Benedetti, Lake Garda
The third generation of women to run Ancilla Lugana winery, Luisella Benedetti is passionate about the integrity of the wine she produces in this tiny region of Italy. Farmed with fewer pesticides and interventions, the unique terroir and favourable climate yields crisp, mineral-rich wines.
Vanya Cullen, Australia
The recipient of many awards since inheriting her family’s wine business in 1999, Vanya Cullen aims to carry on the decades-long production using biodynamic methods that honour the environment and soil. The vineyard’s onsite restaurant features produce grown in a biodynamic vegetable garden, adjacent to the vineyard.
Elisabetta Foradori, Trentino
Having run her family’s winery at the foot of the Dolomites from the age of 19, Elisabetta Foradori is constantly innovating, maintaining respect for the land and introducing biodynamic farming practices into her 28 hectacres of vineyards. ‘She is a leader and inspiration,’ says Leisir. ‘Her work to encourage responsible farming is incomparable. Her wines range from chillable, to crush-worthy to focussed and age-worthy.’
Beth Novak, Napa
Working alongside her mother in their family vineyards throughout her childhood, Beth Novak eventually came to embrace a career at Spottswoode vineyard, becoming a leader in Napa Valley and a passionate advocate for organic farming in the process. The estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are regularly considered amongst the best in the world.
Margherita and Francesca Padovani, Montalcino
These twin sisters cultivate the family vineyards that produce Fonterenza wines with natural practices. They grow 100% Sangiovese grapes, and vineyard operations follow the phases of the moon and biodynamic calendar. Scoring highly on Wine Spectator, their Brunello di Montalcino is coveted across the world.
María Luz Marín, San Antonio Valley
The first woman to own a vineyard in Chile, María Luz Marín has garnered global success and recognition for her relatively young business. The proximity of the vines to the Pacific Ocean means mineral-rich soil and results in a smaller harvest but with healthier grapes, and the wines typically receive high ratings from the likes of James Suckling and Robert Parker.
The Tessari Sisters, Fittà
Three sisters operate Suavia on land that has been in the family for generations. Specialising in Soave and producing only white wines (plus olive oil), they are passionate not only about what they do but the history of their land and their family. Using grapes from 70-year-old vines, their wines—particularly the Soave Classico—regularly are considered amongst the best.
To order wines from any of the producers listed above, please contact your lifestyle manager for assistance.