It's a truth universally acknowledged that the world of wine, in all its vastness and diversity, is still a man's world. In industry publication The Wine Economist, writer Mike Veseth noted how many women fall into a specific category of wine drinker (which he calls "Satisfied Sippers") and, according to the 2005 Constellation Brands' "Project Genome" survey:
"Satisfied Sippers actually represents the smallest market segment. This predominantly female group knows what to buy and buys it, often in 1.5-liter bottles. ... Although they are 14 percent of all wine buyers, Satisfied Sippers buy just 8 percent of all wine and generate 7 percent of the profits."
It's like Constellation Brands codified the stereotype of the female wine drinker. Women buy things like "cougar crack" (chardonnay) or "sweet wine," or they go out and split the bill six ways for a bottle of Gruet. And if the group with the highest percentage of women only buys 8 percent of all the wine out there, why write an article appealing to them to explore their place in the wine world?
To close out this Women's History Month, I want to ask both women and men who are allies of women to change that. I think wine can be empowering to women on all levels: as consumers, as makers and as professionals in the industry. For example, out of 149 Master Sommeliers listed on the Court of Master Sommeliers' website, only 24 are women. To change that statistic, the contributions of women to the world of wine have to be recognized and celebrated. Specifically, as consumers, we can embrace how wine is uniquely tied to the people who make it, and seek out wine made by a woman.
One of the things I am always going to ask in this column is to stop looking at wine as a "brand" and start connecting to the people serving it, selling it and making it. People come into the La Casa Sena Wine Shop and ask about Grand Cru Burgundy with an expectation of high quality. But if you ask about the wines of Anne Gros, you will get something much more specific and personal—the work of one artist versus the general categorization of their art. It will be a step towards affirming that womens' taste is an important and valued contribution to the wine world. The following list, by no means exhaustive, is merely an introduction.
After taking over her family's vineyards in 1983, Schröck went on to be named the Falstaff Vintner of the Year in 2003, becoming one of only a handful of women to acheive the award. All of her vineyards are situated near the village of Rust, in the province of Burgenland, five miles from Austria's border with Hungary. Her south-facing, lakeside vines lie on beds of calcareous clay mixed with sand, and see more hours of sunshine than most in Austria. The results are undeniably impressive. Every year Shröck puts out a rose called Biscaya. It's inexpensive (last year it was $17) and the current vintage is due in a few weeks. It's also a strong and dry style of rose that is perfect for summertime red wine drinkers.
Not only one of the most prominent estates in Alsace, Domaine Weinbach has been in the hands of women since 1979, when winemaker Théo Faller passed away and left the estate in the hands of his widow Colette, who managed the winemaking alongside her two daughters, Laurence and Catherine. They would go on to make some of the most powerful and beautiful wines in all of Alsace, if not all of France. It was under Laurence Faller that the winery began and completed the conversion to biodynamics, a uniquely sustainable method of winemaking. Tragically, Laurence died at age 47 from a heart attack in 2014, and in 2015 Colette passed away at age 87. Catherine Faller now manages the estate with her two sons. The legacy of one of the most powerful female-run wineries in the world lives on to this day. Domaine Weinbach possesses 27 hectares of some of the most enviable vineyard land in Alsace, including several Grand Cru holdings, the very best vineyards. Their wines run the gamut of a wide range of price points.
I probably couldn't write a better love letter to Cathy Corison's endeavors than Eric Asimov did two years ago in the New York Times (just an excerpt: "… It was clear to me in tasting these wines that Corison is among the greatest producers of cabernet sauvignon in Napa Valley today"), but I can add to the sentiment. She's been making wine in Napa for over 40 years under her Corison label, and makes two cabernets that are hard to put into words—they're so good. They are also very, very different from anything else in Napa Valley, a vast departure from the big, almost slightly sweet, fruity and ripe style that is characteristic of the region. Both are expensive; the cheaper of the two is around $90 retail (still kind of a deal to me, though, as a bottle of Caymus is $85). These wines age remarkably well, so if you're looking to store wine long-term, Corison is the perfect place to start.