As a female-led company, WWX values and cherishes opportunities to celebrate women power. Today we share the stories of timeless legends and amazing women in wine. What inspires us all lies not only in how great their achievements are, but also how unwavering their wills are in face of adversities. Happy Women’s Day!
The Grande Dames of Champagne
Madame Clicquot was the first woman to run a champagne house, when she found herself widowed at the age of 27 after 6 years of marriage. Her husband left her a three-pronged business: banking, wool, and champagne. Instead of keeping to this diversified portfolio, Madame Clicquot chose to focus only on Champagne – an “audacious and intelligent” decision reflective of her personality as was told and remembered officially by the company she brought to fame. To-day, Madame Clicquot was most accredited for her inventing the technique of riddling as a way to remove the dead yeast and sediments from secondary fermentation. Her despise of cloudy sparkling wine – which was a norm back in 1800s – sowed the seed to us having the pleasure to enjoy crystal clear champagnes today. Sante!
Madame Pommery was the first to create the “Brut” style in champagne, to which it found a huge pool of fans including the famous Queen Victoria. Like Madame Clicquot, she also took over the business as a widow at 41 years of age when her husband Alexandre died in 1860. She left an important legacy to both the house of Pommery and the region of Champagne – a beautiful Roman-era limestone and chalk champagne cave in the city of Reims which she has bought and further added a artful sculpture of Bacchus the God of Wine. Her move to create the “Brut” style was certainly a daring one, after all, by then in the mid 1800s, most consumers prefer their Champagne with a noticeable taste of sweetness. She was remembered to have said, ‘Damas [Pommery’s Cellar Master at the time], we need a wine that is as dry as possible, but without rigidity… It should be soft and velvety on the palate… Above all, make sure it has finesse’.”
The modern female wine legacies
Known as the ‘Great lady of Albariño,’ Marisol Bueno is the founder and owner of Pazo Señorans. In her hands, Albarino was crafted to show its complexity and ageworthiness. She has shown tremendous faith in what was once an almost-forgotten local variety of Spain. She became the first President of the Rias Baixas D.O. (the spiritual home of Albarino) in 1979, same year when she and her husband bought the 8-hectare Pazos Señorans property. At that time she has just become mother of four, and her husband jokingly said that the winery will simply be the fifth child. Marisol Bueno raised this fifth child of hers well – as the winery grew 3 times its original size to its current size of 22 hectares, where a collection of award-winning, distinctive and ageworthy Albarino are made year after year. The old vine-only Seleccion de Anada is a must try for wine connoisseurs. Crafted from average 45-year-old Albarino vines, these wines spend an extended 36 months on lees and represent the most singular, precise, definitive and ageworthy expressions of Albarino from the region, and perhaps, the world.
Virginia Willcock is a real Margaret River wine expert. With 30 harvests under her belt, she is one of the most awarded female winemakers in Australia and has been winemaker for Vasse Felix since 2006. Her love for wine came from childhood, beginning with her father and his friends acquiring a small vineyard just north of Perth. She brought her sense of intuition into the winemaking process – “There are two types of winemakers – technical and intuitive,” says Virginia. “I’m the latter – I enjoy that beautiful process of learning and understanding what the fruit wants to do.”
One of the founders of FEVB: Virginie Taupenot Merme
Together with Chantal Michel (below) and 4 other incredible female winemakers of Burgundy, Virginie Taupenot Merme found the Femmes et Vins de Bourgogne in 2000. The historic, male-driven world of Burgundy has long been a tough playground for women. Traditionally, female involvement was banned, slowly women were allowed to work behind the scene, and it is only until the past 2 decades when the women of Burgundy become more visible, outspoken and present in the community. Coming from a wine family with over 7 generations, she conquered that ingrained family pressure to excel with pride and guts, “To be equal, a woman must work twice as hard. But once she proves she has the capacity, she is respected, and even more acclaimed than some men.”
Financier turned winemaker: Chantal Michel Tortochot
Chantal Michel Tortochot was in finance for 15 years before she returned to her family domaine, joined her father and became one of the three (only!) female winemakers in Burgundy in late 1990s. Being one of the earlier advocate of women power in the Burgundy scene, Chantal Michel was a steadfast believer of hard work – and we mean – very hard work. “For me the question of a balanced family life and professional life does not exist, I had no choice, and I had no right to make a mistake.” Her very high standards and adherence to precision and excellence enables her to not only sustain but also enhance her family domaine’s reputation. She summed up the female touch on wines as “honest” – “women winemakers allow wine to ferment and age with less manipulation… so these wines have a certain level of restraint, along with delicacy and complex aromas.”