Since centuries, it is often said that wine is a man’s business. And what about women? Today, mentalities evolve and women gain a more prominent role than before. 8th March was International Women’s Day: the perfect time to bring light on these incredible women!
During the antiquity, women earned a place in the wine world. 3000 years ago, the first women sommeliers were working in Babylon. Some Egyptians engravings confirm predominant position of women at work in the vines. Indeed, their role was to choose and serve wine. But luckily, they could drink as well!
However, during Greek and Roman periods, women were not considered as equal citizens. Thus, they were not allowed to enjoy Bacchus/Dionysus drink! It seems that from that time, women and wine entered in a conflictual era. Over centuries, women remained apart from the sacred drink. Nevertheless, a few women have resisted and became one of the most influential people in the wine world.
In 1772, Philipe Clicquot established Clicquot wine production and trade. His ambition? Go beyond the borders. As a family run Champagne house, François, Philippe’s son, succeeded his father few years after its creation. Unfortunately, in 1805, Francois prematurely died.
After his death, Barbe, François’s widow, took the lead of the little company. She was only 27 and became one of the first business women of modern times. She developed the house and seized growth opportunity with her pioneering spirit.
Barbe improved vinification techniques and imagined the “table de remuage” used now by other Champagnes houses. “La grande Dame de Champagne” achieved to dispatch bottles in Russia, braving the European embargo. At a time when women were banned from business and wine world, Barbe managed the house masterfully.
Today, Veuve Clicquot house perpetuates the audacity and determination of Barbe. Every year the Veuve Clicquot prize rewards women entrepreneurs or business leaders.
In the 19th century, Monsieur Pommery was an influent in the wool sector. However, at that time, wool industry faces a major crisis. To secure his young daughter’s future, he went into Champagne trade.
Regrettably, the gentleman died one year after. His young widow, Jeanne Alexandrine, took over the business and started a new era of the Pommery house.
“I took the resolution to continue the business and to replace my husband” said the young widow. Over time, she built up the promotion of Pommery champagne: style, brand, communication, public relations … Her ambition was to conquer national and international markets and to spread her power all over the world. As a big-hearted woman, she even established pension funds and social protection.
Nowadays, Madame Pommery heritage is still living through one special cuvee. The Cuvée Louise is an extremely pure Champagne, that meet the requirements of the famous widow. Pure, elegant, sharp just like Jeanne Alexandrine Pommery.
Hannah Weinberger is quite well-known in California. Indeed, she was the first recognized woman winemaker in the US at the end of the 19th Century. John and Hannah Weinberger acquired a 240-acre estate located in Napa Valley. Unfortunately, in 1882, a tragic incident took John’s life: he was murdered by a mad former employee. As the stories highlighted before, Hannah became influential after her husband’s death.
In 1882, Hannah took the lead to run the winery and continue to grow the business. The lady was relatively brave and curious for the time. In fact, she crossed the Atlantic to attend the Paris World Fair in 1889. She was the only California woman winemaker to receive a silver medal in the Fair’s wine contest! Hannah supervised the Weinberger winery until Prohibition law that became effective in 1920.
Pascaline Lepeltier has become legendary by being the first women “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (best Craftsmen of France) in the sommelier category. Imagined in 1913, this competition gathered more than 200 categories, from pastry to butchery ad even floral design. The same year, she also won the title of “Best Sommelier of France”.
However, Pascaline was not intended to follow his path. During her early years, she studied Philosophy with the desire to become professor at the University. Nevertheless, she eventually changed her mind and decided to start career in wine and restaurant industry.
Years after years, she made her own way in the wine industry. Pascaline made her name in New York since she was Beverage Director of Rouge Tomate. In 2017, the restaurant even won the Best Long Wine list in the world. She and other women in the world represent the new generations of females that gained recognition from their peers.
Currently, women are an integral part of the wine industry. Indeed, they represent 50% of oenology students in France. In 1988, females were only 13,5% to manage a vineyard against 28% in 2010. A true rise for women that will maybe one day led to parity in this men’s world. Finally, one of our co-founder is a woman, that is always up for a glass of wine (or two!). And don’t forget that women do not need a deceased husband to shine in society 😉
Who runs the vines? Girls!