The wine buff: Women in wine
Next Friday is International Women's Day and the theme this year is Balance for Better. It's about getting a more gender-balanced world. This, of course, doesn't happen overnight, which is why it is important to focus on careers that are often considered to be male-oriented, as well as the notorious glass ceiling.
So yes, coming close to the top of that list is the wine industry. In a book she wrote about women in wine in 2010, author Ann B Matasar said that, "No business or industry reaches further back in history or is more global in scope than the wine industry. And no industry has so resolutely excluded women from positions of influence for so long." Ouch! But she also points out that things have improved, and we've moved on considerably from the symposia, the exclusive male drinking clubs of ancient Greece where women were only present as a menu item, to be enjoyed with a glass of wine.
But it all depends on how you define progress. How about this - only four women have been awarded the prestigious Decanter Man of the Year since it was launched 35 years ago (the clue is probably in the title). Taking a bow last century were Laura and Corinne Mentzelopoulos of Château Margaux, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, and wine writer and Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, who picked up her gong in 1999. So yes, not a single female has been deemed worthy of the award in the last 20 years.
When it comes to supporting women in wine, mentoring and financial support are critical, and increasingly women's networks and leaders in the industry are making a difference. Kathy Jordan, winemaker and joint owner of the Jordan Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, has been running a Women in Wine programme since 2013. As well as providing an international scholarship, there is a local programme aimed at educating women working in the wine industry who come from a disadvantaged background. It involves visits to participating wineries, where participants get hands-on experience in the vineyard and in the winery, and opens up a network which has led to advancement and better job opportunities.
Another high-profile woman in the wine industry in South Africa, who has driven her business with social responsibility as one of the key tenets, is Nora Sperling-Thiel of Delheim winery. She will be visiting Dublin this week for the launch of Ireland's new network, Wine Spirit Women, founded by Lynne Coyle, a Master of Wine who is Director of Wine at O'Briens, and Justine McGovern, Director of the California Wine Institute. Their aim is to provide a meaningful network for females in all aspects of the wine and spirits industry in Ireland, connecting them locally and globally, and providing support and mentoring. Part of the programme will include scholarships to study wine with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and it is open to people working part-time as well as full-time.
Delheim Chenin Blanc 2018
€13.95, 13.5pc, from O'Briens and obrienswine.ie
Chenin Blanc is a grape that is particularly suited to the climate in South Africa, and this wine filled with fresh flavours of ripe peach and lemon is made from hand-harvested old vines in Nora Sperling-Thiel's vineyard.
Jordan Chardonnay 2017
€22, 13pc, from Baggot Street Wines, Corkscrew, Lilac Wines, McHugh's, Martin's, Nolan's, Redmond's, Jus De Vine, Donnybrook Fair, Londis K.C.R. and Malahide, all Dublin; 1601, Kinsale and O'Donovan's, Bandon
A wine from Kathy Jordan, this is ripe with some tropical fruit flavours, and is balanced by a stylish mineral character that runs through the wine, giving it a quality, refreshing edge.
Casa de la Ermita Lunático 2015
€15, 14pc, from SuperValu
Made from 100pc Monastrell, this lush Spanish red has been aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, bringing a touch of spice and cocoa to the ripe plum flavours. Perfect with roast meat and stews.
There are plenty of bargains in the SuperValu Spanish Wine Sale running until March 6, with Cavas for €12 and €20, and Paco & Lola and Martin Codex Albariños down to €12. Offers on Rioja include Marqués de Cáceres Crianza for €13, down from €16.49; Marqués de Riscal Reserva for €16, down from €21.99; and Marqués de Cáceres Reserva at €20, down from €30. Plus buy six bottles and save €10.