Concha y Toro

Francisca Jara 09/03/2021

Todo sobre el vino

Great women in wine history

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The overwhelming male dominance in different industries has been no exception in the world of wine. Throughout history, this drink has been a common thread of cultures, nations and religions. However, since Roman, Greek and Egyptian times, wine was a privilege reserved for men while women were forced out of it.

Although times have changed, the gap between both genders still exists. That is why today, on International Women’s Day, we pay tribute to those brave women who paved the path for future generations by remembering five of them.

  • Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (1777-1866)
Ph: La Vanguardia

Known as the “Grande Dame of Champagne,” Clicquot was the first woman to run a Champagne house after being widowed at the age of 27. Without formal studies she carried out a successful administration, becoming a leader in a male-dominated industry. Especially in an era where the role of women was relegated to be a mother or wife. Thus, she opened the path for other women to enter the world of wine later. But that is not all. She also introduced innovative techniques that are used until today: the creation of pink Champagne, through the addition of red grape into the base wine; and the riddling process for mass production, fundamental in the elaboration of sparkling wines with traditional method.

  • Antònia Adelaide Ferreira (1811-1896)
Ph: Wikipedia

It is enough to remember the commotion caused by her funeral on the 26th March of 1896, to illustrate the importance of Doña Ferreirinha: a procession followed by more than 300 thousand people who grieve for her loss. That was Antonia’s nickname, a kind soul with a pioneering spirit who changed the direction of Port wines. She is credited by the high quality that Portuguese wines acquired in the 1800s after her trip to England, where she learned the techniques to fight Phylloxera that she later introduced into her native Duoro Valley. Known as solidary, she is remembered for her help towards failed producers, whom she always supported with the strength and passion that characterized her.

  • Sarah Morphew Stephen (Retired since 2019)
Ph: Wine Enthusiast

When the Master of Wine (MW) degree program was created in 1953, only 21 professionals of the industry took the exam. They were all men. It was 17 years after when Sarah Morphew became the world’s first female MW, setting a precedent for future generations of international winemakers, writers, salespeople and female industry workers. As a winemaker from the University of Bordeaux and an expert connoisseur of Port wines, Sarah developed an important career in the European wine industry although she assures that her title didn’t bring her immediate benefits. It took 6 years for another woman to get the title again.

  • Lalou Bize-Leroy (1932- Present)
Ph: The fine wine experience

In the 1950s in Burgundy, of course men weren’t used to taking orders from a woman. Much less of a young one like Marcelle (also called Lalou), who at her 23 year old was already running her father’s business, Maison Leroy. Recognized as an intelligent woman of principle and with a trained palate, one of her greatest contributions was the impetus she gave to organic and biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy. These raised the quality of the wines in the area, giving rise to labels that to this day are emblematic and highly valued.

  • Jancis Robinson (1950-present)
Ph: Cellarhand

Although she prefers to be considered a writer, she is without doubt the most respected journalist and wine critic in the world. Her career started in 1975, but she took off in the 1980s when she became the first person outside the wine industry with the title of MW. She has a big influence through her weekly column in the Financial Times and daily publications on her website JancisRobinson.com. She is the author of iconic books on wine culture and her participation in events or as a jury, are extremely valuable and revered. What to say about her wine tasting notes. Without a doubt, one of the most influential women in the history of current wine.

To toast for them and all the women who have fought for gender equality, we invite you to taste Gravas, Concha y Toro’s super premium brand run by Isabel Mitarakis. Agronomist and Winemaker from the Catholic University of Chile, Isabel started in the vineyard in 2011, after harvesting in important wineries around the world. In 2013 she joined Don Melchor’s team, to later lead the Gravas line in 2019, developing the spectacular Gravas del Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon, Gravas del Maipo Syrah and Gravas del Bío-Bío wines.

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