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Snooth User: EMark

Women Winemakers

Posted by EMark, Oct 1, 2012.

On Mondays the business section in the local periodical is, usually, pretty sparse, unless there was some M&A activity over the weekend.  So, there are often little articles that do not have much news urgency but are, generally, informative and fill up some column space.  Today, there was a little article on research from two Santa Clara University professors on women winemakers.

The two main conclusions are:

  • Nearly 10% of California wineries now have women as the main or lead winemaker.
  • Female winemakers tend to be more highly acclaimed than their male counterparts.

The summary article that I read (and is linked, above) reports a 9.8% population of female winemakers in California wineries with the comment that that number was lower than expected. 

There was no other information to support the second conclusion.  I think that is unfortunate, because I would have been very interested to understand that measurement.  I haven't looked, but, perhaps, the entire report is available on-line someplace.

The article also includes a brief biography of and some quotations from Cathy Corison.  Interestingly enough, she provided a good hypothesis as to why the researchers found the second conclusion.  "'There's pretty good evidence that women have perhaps better sensory abilities. So that's one issue,' Corison said. 'And, I believe that winemaking is all about details. So perhaps if there's a difference in attention to details? I don't know. I don't feel strongly about that.'"

So, I guess that, at least in the world of California wines, I should be looking for more wines made by women.


Reply by Craig Donofrio, Oct 1, 2012.

Hey EMark,

I actually posted a short piece about this study in July:


There is a full report if you go a little deeper into the Santa Clara website. It is definitely an interesting study/argument and worthy of debate. Yes, bottom line is that female wine makers have, deservedly, started to get recognition for crafting some of the best wines in the world...Nothing like a little battle of the sexes to raise the bar on quality!





Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 1, 2012.

The late Kathryn Kennedy, Lane Tanner, Anne Moller-Racke, Helen Turley, the list could just go on and on, but the numbers of men overall are still disproportionate, even as women excel in quality.  Like other things, I expect that it could even out over time.  Interestingly, it could be child-friendly and, if we could get our heads right about moderate drinking during pregnancy (sip, swirl, spit anyway), it could be a good option because it wouldn't necessarily be interrupted by childbearing and rearing, obligations that our society still hasn't divided equally.  (I know, the child bearing issue isn't really one we can divide yet.  Seahorses, we aren't.) I've got a daughter who is a supertaster and, if she ever learns to like wine and doesn't become a pop star or clothing designer (current obsessions of a pre-tween) , look out.

Reply by EMark, Oct 1, 2012.


I am sorry that I missed your article, but thank you for bringing it to my attention.  It was quite interesting, and, using the links you provided, I found the .pdf for the second Gilbert/Gilbert study.  I'll read through it see if I can digest it.

Reply by outthere, Oct 1, 2012.

Cathy Corison, Karen Cakebread, Dianne Wilson, Shelly Raffanelli, Kathleen Inman, Carol Shelton, Merry Edwards, Margie Wierenga, Susie Selby...the list goes on and on.

Reply by duncan 906, Oct 6, 2012.

I am surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the world's most famous female wine-maker,one Barbara-Nicole Ponsardin.In 1797 she married Francios Cliquot who was a champagne maker amoung other things but he died in 1805.Although only 27 years old, a wealthy woman in her own right by inheritance,and there were a lot fewer women in business than there are today, she took over the champagne business and was very successful with it.She is credited with developing the 'riddling' technique.She became known as the'Grand Dame of Champagne' and in 1810 the company was renamed Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin,the word 'veuve'meaning widow in French.The company is of course still going strong 

Reply by outthere, Oct 6, 2012.

Most famous? What about Lulu Peyraud?

Reply by GregT, Oct 6, 2012.

Some professors do a "study" on the rankings of a book and actually draw conclusions?  What is Opus Vino?  An encyclopedia of wine.  I should be careful because I know and like some of the authors, but whatever the case, it's just another collection of winery reviews.

So what does it mean to be "more acclaimed" ?

Does it mean the winemaker is known to the general public or to the wine world or what?

Heidi Barrett, Helen Turley and Mia Klein are probably the most well-known and have been involved with the most famous wines from Napa. Are there other winemakers who are women?  Sure - Pam Starr, Kris Curran, Cathy Corison, and many others, but how many of them have turned out wine that's acclaimed year after year and how many people actually know their names?

On the other hand, there are legendary guys like Draper and Dunn and Grgich, as well as guys like Randal Graham and Brian Loring, putting out their own wines, and people like Melka, Foley, Levy, Rivers-Brown and others who are essentially the newer generation of acclaimed winemakers working at many places like Barrett, Turley and Klein do.

Good wine is good wine and it's kind of silly to imagine that gender plays a role.

I think people look for stories and they love coming up with stuff about women winemakers for some reason, as if there is a kind of "female" touch you can pick up in wine. The foolishness of that argument is illustrated very clearly simply by tasting the wines of Helen Turley and Cathy Corison, which have exactly nothing in common. 

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 6, 2012.

Here here Greg.

The aggregate numbers are interesting, but whatever overall debate there may be, I don't feel inclined to worry about.

Reply by EMark, Oct 6, 2012.

GregT, I agree with you completely.  There is definitely a lack of rigor in the Gilbert/Gilbert study.  Also, Jon has the right attitude, while gender differences may be interesting, the important thing is the wine in my glass.

Thank you to Duncan for bringing Madame Cliquot into the conversation.  She, obviously, deserves recognition for her contributions.

OT, sorry, but this nitwit has never heard of Lulu Peyraud (I'll check her out in a minute).  But hey, Mr. Sonoma, why aren't you bragging about Merry Edwards and Zelma Long?


Reply by outthere, Oct 7, 2012.

In message #5 f this thread I bring up Merry Edwards.

Lulu is the Grand Dame of Domaine Tempier and the producer of the finest Rosés in the world.

Reply by EMark, Oct 7, 2012.

Please accept my apologies, OT.  I must learn to read more carefully.

I did search "Lulu Peyraud."  It made me hungry.  ;-)

Reply by napagirl68, Oct 7, 2012.

I second Susie Selby!!!

Reply by redpoz, Oct 8, 2012.


to be honest I don't know many women runned winemaking business neither in Italy or Europe....

But the few I had the chance to try (Elena Walch in Sudtirol, Agathe Bursin in Alsace...) were always outstanding!

Reply by amour, Oct 9, 2012.

Interesting article and posts...thanks to you EMARK!

Will soon read everything and add comments...but a real quick point...I remember being reminded in Chile that many of the Chilean winemakers are women...probably born and bred Chilean women...that I am not sure about...will check up and return to this thread! Some may say it does not matter whether man or woman...another good point too! But it is very interesting nevertheless and perhaps women do bring a unique perspective to wine...I am not saying one way or the not start fighting on Snooth over any of my comments...CHEERS IN HARMONY!!!!

Reply by amour, Oct 9, 2012.

"Chilean Women Winemakers Take Charge" is the Wine Enthusiast article to read.

Michael Schachner wrote it when he interviewed 4 Women Winemakers of Chile:

Cecilia Torres Winemaker at Vina Santa Rita , Maipo Valley

Mari Luz Marin founder of Casa Marin in the year 2000, coastal San Antonio Valley

Irene Paiva founder of i Wines

Ana Maria Cumsille at Altair, Cachapoal Valley

Reply by amour, Oct 15, 2012.

I am absolutely surprised that this thread did not FLY!

Does anyone really feel that women bring anything different to the wine process(or any aspect, for that matter) than men do?

And if so, does it matter...perhaps it really does not matter 'a fig' ?!


Reply by EMark, Oct 15, 2012.

Amour, I assume that when you mention that you are "surprised that this thread did not FLY," I assume that you mean that you feel that the volume of contributions by different correspondents is lower than you would expect.

Frankly, the volume was right about where I would think it woul be.  I think most of the people who post here are more interested in the wine in their glass than whether the hand that crafted it is male or female.

I also think that not too many here, me included, felt that the study that indicated that women winemakers create superior wine was particularly convincing.  In all honesty, once I was pointed to the original paper, read it and understood the methodology, I felt that the work was little more than a better than average high school  term paper.

If the theory could be proved conclusively, it does matter.  However, "conclusively" to me does not mean "well, we assumed that entry into this list of wineries means that the wines were better than average and the percentage of women winemakers on this list exceeded that of male winemakers, therefore we conclude that women winemakers are better than men winemakers."  I, personally require a bit more rigor.

If somebody can prove it to my satisfaction, then I am interested.  Of course, the next question is "Why?"  Cathy Corison in the original article has some good ideas, but, again, while they may "make sense," in the world of science, they are hypotheses looking for proof.

In the meantime, of course, we all get to enjoy our glass of wine regardless of whether the maker has to shave his cheeks regularly.

Reply by amour, Oct 17, 2012.

Noted, EMARK!

I am about to purchase a few bottles crafted by women and will report on their taste!....on this very thread!


Reply by EMark, Oct 17, 2012.

What fun, A.  Looking forward to it.

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