Women and wine. While your facebook feed might be full of not so clever memes about women drinking wine, how often do you hear about women who are in the wine world as major players? The wine industry has historically been a man’s game, but that has been changing at a rapid pace. A significant part of that is a change in societal norms and opportunities but another part is a significant change in how wine has moved from a mysterious industry taking place quietly along the vines, in the darkness of the cellar, and among the elite who were in the know to a social, user-friendly experience thanks to the Internet, wine writers, and a vast shift from pretension to an openness and appreciation from all sides of the industry. The Internet has opened wine up to everyone and created outlets for all sorts of people to engage, influence, share, and enjoy wine. Here are the # women moving and shaking the wine world that you should definitely get to know.
1. Karen MacNeil; The Wine Bible
When we asked Karen MacNeil to talk to us about her advice to wine writers to know wine deeply she deftly drew the parallel that wine, itself, is deep, “Wine, by its nature, pulls us deeply into it. More than any other beverage, it inspires creativity and propels us to want to know more about it. I think one of the most captivating aspects of wine is the way it draws us all in and then sets us off on a mind journey that lasts a lifetime.” Reading MacNeil’s writing on wine is like reading a beautiful piece of literary fiction. At the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Corning, New York, she spoke of how when her editor called her while she was in South America studying Malbec she said she had to go because, “one can never truly understand Malbec without watching the tango.” MacNeil got her start writing about food (her first paid, published piece was about butter) but after Elle magazine asked her to write about wine and her youthful, artful prose hit the pages a transformation happened in wine writing. MacNeil has made reading about wine interesting, as she artfully describes and expertly teaches readers everything, EVERYTHING, about wine. She has won every major wine writing award and her Wine Bible is a definitive, engaging text now in its second edition.
2. Madeline Puckette; The People’s Somm
The name Madeline Puckette might not jump out at you, but chances are you’ve seen one of her brilliant wine-related infographics. Madeline is better known as WineFolly – and her geek chic approach to wine is a tremendous breath of fresh air. Whether she’s tasting a really bad chocolate wine, teaching us to decant, or going through the many colors of red wine, Madeline’s approach is unpretentious, humorous, and spot on. She’s a sommelier but doesn’t bring any of the old school elitism to the table. I recently emailed with Madeline to talk to her about being a woman in wine and her insight was as keen as always. Madeline, like all of the women on this list don’t hide behind or fear being left out in the cold based on gender and instead focus on “making something great and getting it out there.” Madeline believes that it is her job to simply fit in no matter with whom she’s sipping, eating or discussing. “When it comes down to doing business gender doesn’t matter, what matters is your attitude with respect to the people with whom you spend time.”
3. Jeannie Cho Lee; Pairing Genius
While many of us enjoy wine with European and South American cuisine, Cho Lee is making it easier to understand how to pair wine with the unique spice profiles of Asian cuisine. The Seoul born, US-raised, Smith and Harvard Educated author eventually started writing about wine. As is always the best idea, she found an area of wine that was lacking and conquered it. As Asia grows as a player on the world wine stage and increases its love of good wine Cho Lee has provided the rest of us with a better understanding of how to pair our Asian and Asian-inspired cuisine with wine.
4. Deborah Brenner; Connecting Professional Women of Wine
Deborah Brenner is the founder and President of Women of the Vine. This professional association is a forum for women in the alcohol industry and allows for networking, professional development, mentoring and more. In addition, the association hosts symposiums, tastings, and all other events. In an industry where women are just starting to gain equal footing Women of the Vine connects, empowers, and celebrates women involved in the alcohol industry.
5. Ann C. Noble; Wine Aroma Wheel
Ann C. Noble is a chemist. Not the typical profession one thinks of when thinking about wine, right? But… Have you ever enjoyed a glass of wine on your own but dreaded doing it with others? Those people who swish and ponder and then talk about how they smell wet stone, brine, and clove? How do they do that? Chances are they can thank Noble! While working for the University of California Noble created the Wine Aroma Wheel which has brought wine tasting terminology to the masses. The basic premise is to start at the interior of the wheel with the most basic of descriptors and then work out to get more specific. Tasters learn to start easy: maybe the wine tastes “Fruity”. From there drinkers can work their way out through each rung to get more specific. Many enjoyers of wine have learned using the wheel and can thank the chemist, Ann Noble, for their ability to sound like pros!
6. Louisa Rose; Viognier Whisperer
Viognier is a grape native to France that is tempermental, but when a winemaker knows how to handle it, it produces fantastic, aromatic whites or can be sued in blends to bring out aromas that might be missed otherwise. Louisa Rose, Chief Winemaker at Australia’s Yalumba, has learned the secrets of Viognier, including exactly when to harvest it and is bringing the warm climate loving grape into the common experience. With 20 years working for Yalumba, it is not surprising that this trailblazing Aussie was selected to take the helm.
7. Maureen Downey; Wine Sleuth
The wine world sees its fair share of scandals, many of which involve con artists attempting to pass off counterfeit wine. That’s why the wine industry needs people like Maureen Downey. Downey is the expert on fine wines and serves as a consultant to world’s most impressive collections. She has aided the FBI, Department of Justice, and other law enforcement agencies. Her work has been integral in several major trials.
8. Vanya Cullen; Keepin’ It Green
Australian Vanya Cullen has melded brilliant winemaking with stewardship of the land. In addition to a fantastic palate; understanding of soil, trellis management, and viticulture, and making phenomenal wines Cullen also prides herself in producing completely natural wines that use no chemicals, being a carbon free company, and producing biodynamic wines. Green, ethical, and delicious – the trifecta for many wine drinkers!
9. Alie Shaper; Urban Oenologist
Brooklyn has got wine. Yes, the hip NYC borough is home to its own label: Brooklyn Oenology, a catalog of impressive wines made by accidental winemaker Alie Shaper from Long Island and Finger Lakes grapes. While not made on site, Shaper rents space and makes her own wines after hand selecting the grapes she’ll use. Whether enjoying the deep Petit Verdot heavy Motley Cru, crisp Shindig, or the experiment gone oh so right orange Gewürztraminer there is a great selection of high quality wines to be drunk. Shaper, a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Engineering, understands the grapes of New York and has perfected several styles including off-dry Riesling, which is becoming a huge hit out of the Finger Lakes.
Whether making wine, writing about it, or helping women in the industry to connect and grow, it’s no secret that there are women trailblazers out there and these nine are certain to leave their mark. Learn more about them to deepen your understanding of wine on many levels!