Grape Expectations: Celebrating Women in Wine
The wine and spirits world, like nearly everything else, has been male-dominated for centuries. So much so that, like everything else, it may be easy to overlook the many contributions of women. Jokes on those dudes ― we know exactly how important women are to the world of wine and spirits. From Maria Prophetissima, the ancient alchemist who invented the tribikos, one of the first recorded stills, to Doña Antónia Ferreira, patroness of Portuguese wine, and Hannah Weinberger, Napa’s first female winemaker, women have long been leaders in the booze business. Today’s producers are continuing in the footsteps of their foremothers, crafting wines and spirits that delight critics and consumers alike. In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a closer look at some of the women winemakers on our shelves.
Founded by winemakers Rebecca Materne and Janina Schmitt in 2012, Materne & Schmitt operate out of the Mosel, one of Germany’s most prestigious regions, renown for its steeply terraced vineyards and mineral-rich slate soils. What’s unusual about this duo is that they do not come from winemaking families; Materne and Schmitt are driven purely by passion for vine, and have studied at vineyards in South Africa, Napa Valley, Provence, Austria and the Rhine until they were ready to spearhead their own project. They allow no manipulation in their wine. All grapes are hand-selected and macerated on the skins without added sulphur. No additions, reductions or fining of any kind occur during the winemaking process.
“Wunschkind” Riesling 2017: “Wish child” is the name for Materne & Schmitt’s first wine, which leads with notes of just ripe apricot, white peach, and lime with a touch of wet stone. Nimble and lively, this Riesling is an instant modern classic and every sip will leave you wünschen for more.
It’s no secret that Italy has deeply entrenched gender inequality, especially when it comes to winemaking. Marina Marcarino is at the forefront of those is one of the only female producers in this very old school, very conservative section of Piedmont is shattering that outdated modem and making exceptional wine in the process. As owner/oenologist of Azienda Agricola Punset she’s not only a pioneer for female representation but she also owns the first winery to be certified organic in Piedmont. Marcarino actually comes from a family with history in the vineyards but her parents were dead set against her pursuing a winemaking career. A little rebellion, killer instincts and a lot of hard work made her dream possible--in fact, when she converted to organic viticulture in 1982, all of the neighbors told her parents that she was “crazy” and about to ruin the vineyard. Against all odds, Marcarino turned her family farm into a thriving business, never losing her passion for great wine or her determination to farm harmoniously with nature. We carry two of her wines and we cannot recommend them enough.
Punset Barbaresco (2013): This critically acclaimed red was born and vinified in some of the highest vineyards in the area. Lushly floral and complex, with notes of wild berry, chocolate, herbs, and leather. At nearly eight years old, this wine is just beginning to show its true potential; drink now with a great meal or hold until 2026.
Campo Quadro (2011): This single vineyard beauty boasts notes of cherry, plum, licorice, leather, tobacco, and rosemary, truffle, and even cocoa, charming critics and consumers across the globe. Don’t wait on this stellar, less than 300 cases were produced, and it’s drinking beautifully.
Filipa Pato is the daughter of legendary Portuguese winemaker Luis Pato, but don’t think for one second she’s coasting off the fame and prominence of her father. She’s actively striving (and succeeding) to leave her mark on the up and coming wine scene of Portugal. Since purchasing her own vineyard in the renowned Bairrada DOC, she has climbed to international fame not only for her biodynamic practices but also for her honest pure expressions of indigenous varietals. Felipa’s motto is sem maquillahem or “without makeup,” and her winemaking philosophy revolves around authenticity, born from her genuine love of her land and culture she aims to share the unique qualities and grapes of Portugal.
Post-Quercas 2018: This Baga is hand-harvested, then fermented and aged in uncoated amphorae, the wine is silky on the palate, and full of bright red and black fruit. Finishes with a touch of earth, black pepper, and lingering complexity, the wine is wonderful with a slight chill and easily paired with everything from appetizers to Ethiopian fare.
Wine has been a part of Victoria Ordóñez’s life since day one. Her father, Jose Maria Ordóñez, was has been a pioneer in the Spanish wine industry since the 1950s. Ordóñez earned a PhD. in medicine, but turned to winemaking in 2004 as a way to further employ her work as a health service administrator. Based in Malaga, a nearly forgotten winemaking region, near a nature preserve, Ordóñez is a champion of Pedro Ximenez, an indigenous varietal most widely known for its use in dessert wine such as sherry. Her commitment to producing quality wines in a sustainable way in a historic wine growing area is cause we can raise our glass to.
La Ola del Melillero 2017: La Ola del Melillero is predominantly made of the Pedro Ximenez varietal and stands as a testament to Victoria’s hard working spirit and reverence for the history of the land. Boasting a delicate nose of fresh white flowers, beautifully integrated acidity against round and complex fruit notes with just a touch of bitterness on the finish. Timeless, elegant and harmonious, this wine is an ideal partner for seafood, rice, vegetables, and white meats.