When you have six acclaimed female winemakers around the table, gathered in connection to International Women’s Day, the subject is inevitable; Is there a specific female style of winemaking? And if so, how can a female wine be described?
They have come from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and all the way from Washington state in the US. Have come to Sweden to join TWWD2015, Terrific Women’s Winemaker Day, at Ästad Vingård in Sweden.
TWWD is a play on words. Starring in the event are these terrific female winemakers, but they have one more thing in common, apart for being female. They are all represented in Sweden by the importer Terrific Wines, the organizer of TWWD.
This was the third, and last, edition of the event. So it was decided from start, I was told. Three years, three events where the winemakers present themselves and their winemaking with winetasting seminars. However, while the previous two, 2013 and 2014, only were held in Stockholm, this year became a two day event. The first day in Stockholm, holding a long list of winemakers, and the second one, to the joy of us westcoast wine lovers, at Ästad, in the countryside outside the city of Varberg.
It is a sunny, but very windy and chilly day, the 10th of March. The vines in Ästad’s vineyard still sleeping their beauty sleep. Outside the entrance gate, photo session. Jackets on, hair blowing in the wind. A short stroll, we admire the garden around the spa, and more pictures. Some minutes later, cups of hot coffee on the table in the Wine house. And a chat around male and female in the world of wine.
Around the table, from Austria and Carnuntum Dorli Muhr. From France and Burgundy, Clotilde Davenne, Chablis and Francoise Feuillat-Juillot, Montagny. From Germany, with vineyards in Pfalz and Rheinhessen, Marie Menger-Krug. From Italy, the Barolo girl Giulia Negri. From Hedges Family Estate in Washington state, US, Anne-Marie Hedges with daughter and winemaker Sarah Goedhart.
Back to the question, are there gender related differences in winemaking? To generalise, and based on the summarised experience around the table, the answer seems to be a clear Yes. A difference in attitude and in style. To generalise.
While men can have a more technical attitude, women winemakers seem to nurture and take care about their wine, almost as if they were children.
“For me, the best example is my husband,” says Marie. “He is a winemaker too. For him it is much about to hunt for the best wine. For me, it is to find the wine, to go with it, all the way to the bottle, to take care about it.”
Dorli, who also has worked with international PR in wine for 25 years, confirms. There is a difference, probably related to self confidence. “Men come and present their wines as it was an heroic thing to have made it. They are heroes. Women present their wines as ‘oh, you see my children and how beautiful they are’.”
Hunting heroes and caring mothers. Caricatures to describe differences, but there is an essence related to how to approach the task, how to build and develop the winemaking skills. Humbleness?
A female wine, how is it then described? The suggestions come quickly around the table; a wine that is good with food, don’t compete with the food. Clotilde summarises: “A wine to better show the food and not to take over, not to dominate.”
Healthy, not to powerful, light in alcohol are other characteristics. Another important one is that the origin of the wine is there, something that Francoise includes when she describes her winemaking style: “I produce the wine very pure, from the soil, with not too much oak and very much terroir. Very elegant, very fine.”
However there are differing views. Giulia shares the passion for what the soil can give, but emphasises the power in her Barolo. Style is more about personality, than male or female:
“For me it is to make a wine that really represents me, the work I’m doing each year,” says Giulia. “It is a little bit of myself, my soul inside it. A wine that touches my heart, that is a wine where I feel the producer inside it.”
Marie means thar female wines not always are elegant and soft: “To my taste, it could have a little corners, a little acidity and not a smooth character, but to be a vivid and sometimes loud wine. When you smell it you will have a symphony of aromas and I love the wines to be long in your mouth. So harmonic wines, but with tense.”
More and more women become winemakers, but it is still mostly a men’s world. New winemakers are most often learnt the profession by men. It takes time to find your own style, to give the wine the female touch, the personal touch. Unlike most other jobs, you just get one chance per year. Regardless if you are a man or a woman.
Time flies, chat is over. “Anyone interested in tasting Ästad’s wines from tank?” Lars Torstensson, consulting winemaker to Ästad Vingård, poses the question and everyone jump up at once. Lunch can wait, the opportunity to taste Swedish Solaris is of higher priority. (The first still wine, to be released this summer, is worth a trip to Ästad, I dare say.)
Evidence of excellent winemaking, we will get in plenty during the afternoon. A big audience has come to Ästad for the seminars and the following winemakers dinner. We meet six regions, six winemakers, six personalities and taste some really great wines.
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