Article - RareWine Academy

12 Prominent Women In The Wine Industry | Pioneering, Successful And Significant

Women have entered the world's wine scene with quality and vigour. They are modernising and excelling - side by side with men in a traditionally masculine arena.

There are countless examples of women historically not being allowed to follow the same career paths as men. Fortunately, there are also examples of strong-willed women who have ventured into the impassable paths and paved their way to outstanding success.

Men still dominate the industry, but the presence of women is increasing year by year. 10-15% of all winemakers in the US are women, and the number has gradually increased in recent years. Similarly, the University of California, which has one of the leading oenology programmes in the US, reports that the percentage of female graduates has increased over the years. And the same trend is seen in Europe. But while men occupy the majority of wine jobs, there are women in the industry who have made a historic mark on the wine world - and we want to honour some of them here.

Clicqout And Bollinger - Two Women In The Wine Industry Who Paved The Way

An example is Madame Clicqout "The grande dame of Champagne", who was born in 1777 in Reims and took over the Veuve Clicquot Champagne House at the age of 27 after her husband's early death. With passion, creativity and innovative spirit, she created many innovations in Champagne: The first known Vintage Champagne in 1810. The first known rosé Champagne in 1818. She was also behind the revolutionary invention of the Riddling table, in which Champagne could be placed neck down, allowing the yeast to settle at the top of the bottle and be pulled out with the cork - the result: crystal clear Champagne.

We also cannot ignore Lily Bollinger, who took over the Bollinger Champagne House from her husband in 1941. Lily Bollinger was an intelligent strategist and businesswoman who insisted on an unwavering commitment to quality. She made sure Bollinger only produced Champagne of the highest quality. She built a reputation for reliability and excellence.

She was open to innovation if it could improve her product. She expanded ownership of vineyards, giving her greater control of the quality of her grapes. She travelled the world to promote Bollinger, which helped create a closer connection between the brand and its customers. Her personal commitment and charisma helped humanise and popularise Bollinger worldwide.

These two women cleared a bit of the impassable path. They married into power, but took power into their own hands, advanced significantly and became role models for the world's future winemakers.

Champagne Bollinger Champagne Bollinger

Lalou-Bize Leroy - Queen of Burgundy

When it comes to women in the wine industry, there is no doubt that Lalou-Bize Leroy is one of the most powerful. For decades she has been one of the most influential producers in the world and has deservedly held the unofficial title of Queen of Burgundy - at the head of the exceptional Domaine Leroy.

Lalou Bize-Leroy was born in 1932 and had barely entered the world when her father Henri dipped her lips with 1929 Musigny from the family's own parcels in the legendary vineyard. Parcels from which Lalou would later go on to create marvellous wines that few wine lovers in the world ever get to taste. Leroy is still involved in both the vineyard and the cellar, which is why she, if anyone, has left a massive and long-lasting mark on the wine world.

In addition to being the woman behind Domaine Leroy, Lalou is also behind the cottage house Domaine d'Auvenay. Here, she lives and makes wine according to biodynamic regulations. It is often referred to as her hobby project, but it is a project that has become an exclusive reference point in Burgundy - an elitist micro-production: only for a selected few to taste.

Leroy-Bize Leroy is a living legend, so it is no wonder that her family has been (and continues to be) involved in arguably the world's most iconic winery: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Lalou-Bize Leroy played a central role in the management of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from 1974 to 1992, when she served as co-director with Aubert de Villaine.

However, she decided to focus on her own project, but today owns 25% of DRC. But Leroy lives on in DRC through her daughter Perrine Fenal, who since 2019 has been the director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti - together with Bertrand De Villaine. And according to Perrine, she was lucky to have been born with winemaking in her blood, soul, and heart - thanks to her grandfather (Henri Leroy). Her mother. And a large family that has given her plenty of know-how. Enough know-how to be behind the world's most prominent winery.

From a young age, Lalou dared to trust her own intuition and her approach to winemaking is based on the principle of minimal intervention, giving the terroir its own unique voice. She pioneered organic and biodynamic winemaking, to which she has devoted herself wholeheartedly. She was ahead of her time and laid the foundations for the path that many great winemakers follow today.

Bize-Leroy adapts her farming and winemaking practices to each vineyard, recognising that each parcel of land has its own unique terroir. She carefully assesses factors such as soil composition, drainage, sunlight and the age of the vines to determine the most appropriate approach to maximise the expression of terroir in the resulting wines.

Lalou-Bize Leroy represents the past, present and future of winemaking - and she has been (and is) a beacon for other winemakers to follow.

Read much more about the mesmerising Lalou Leroy in our article: Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy - The Most Powerful Woman In The World Of Wine

Anne-Claude Leflaive - Burgundian Biodynamic Pioneer

And when it comes to excellent female producers in Burgundy, you cannot go past Anne-Claude Leflaive. She was born into the famous Leflaive family in 1956. The family has been involved in winemaking in Burgundy for generations. She was the great-granddaughter of Joseph Leflaive, who acquired Domaine Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet in 1905. It was therefore only natural that her path in life would also be paved with a passion for wine. Anne-Claude Leflaive studied engineering at École Centrale Paris before pursuing her passion for wine. She later attended the University of California, Davis, where she studied oenology and viticulture.

Today, Anne-Claude Leflaive is widely recognised for her pioneering work in revolutionising winemaking practices - particularly in biodynamics.

She implemented biodynamic farming practices at Domaine Leflaive in the 1990s, which involves treating the vineyard as a holistic ecosystem and using natural preparations to improve soil health and vine vitality. This approach was unusual at the time but has since gained wide recognition for its ability to produce high-quality grapes and terroir-driven wines.

Under Anne-Claude Leflaive's leadership, Domaine Leflaive became synonymous with uncompromised quality. She implemented strict standards in the vineyard and cellar, including rigorous grape selection, gentle fruit handling and minimal intervention in winemaking methods. This focus on quality helped elevate Domaine Leflaive to the top of Burgundy's wine hierarchy, where their wines consistently receive recognition.

Furthermore, Anne-Claude Leflaive was a vocal advocate and pioneer of sustainability and eco-conscious gentleness in winemaking. By embracing biodynamics, she demonstrated a commitment to farming practices that respect the soil, promote biodiversity and minimise chemical inputs. Her efforts helped raise awareness of the importance of sustainable viticulture in preserving Burgundy's unique terroir for future generations.

Domaine Leflaive Domaine Leflaive

Anne Gros Proved Her Worth

Anne Gros is one of the producers who has seen both Leflaive and Leroy triumph. In 1988, Anne Gros took over her father's domain - at the age of just 23. And by the time she was 25, she had expanded the domain's parcels from 3 to 6.5 hectares. Anne originally studied art but decided to study oenology and viticulture in Beaune instead. She knew that as a female winemaker, she had to prove herself and convince sceptics that she could run a domain as a young woman.

And Anne Gros proved her worth. She had the drive, passion, knowledge, confidence and confidence to take the family domain to the top of Burgundy. Today, Anne Gros is training her two eldest children in the marvellous world of wine, incorporating her successful efforts into the mindset of the next generation - even though she herself is a big advocate of change and freedom in her winemaking process.

Caroline Frey - Styleless wines and modernising the Rhône

Caroline Frey was born into a family with a long history of winemaking in Bordeaux. After studying oenology at the University of Bordeaux, she took over the management of the family château Château La Lagune in 2004. Since then, she has not looked back and two decades later she is recognised as a pioneering winemaker who introduced organic methods at La Lague and Paul Jaboulet Aîné, which she acquired in 2006, and Château Corton in Burgundy, which she acquired in 2014.

Under Caroline Frey's leadership, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné has undergone a remarkable transformation, focusing on improving the quality of the wines by introducing more sustainable and organic farming methods and modernising the production facilities.

Frey has also invested significantly in research and innovation to improve the vineyards and understanding of terroir in the Rhône Valley. She has established herself as an advocate for sustainable winemaking and is committed to preserving the environment and supporting the local community.

In fact, Frey and the rest of the team at Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné have won The Amorim Biodiversity Prize at The Drinks Business Green Awards in 2021. The competition aims to reward the houses that lead the way in the fight for environmental protection and sustainable development, as well as to raise awareness of ecology in the wine world. It is the biggest competition of its kind and therefore a great endorsement of Frey's work.

She does not want her wines to have a certain style, because style is fashion and fashion is fleeting. She talks about the identity of wines - their DNA. She believes that the quality of any wine comes from its terroir, and it is the terroir and environment that gives identity to Frey's marvellous wines.

Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

Chiara Boschis - The First Female Winemaker In Barolo

In 1990, Chiara Boschis took over the small property E. Pira & Figli, which, with the passing of Luigi Pira, had no natural heir. And because Chiara Boschis' family had a close relationship with the Pira family, Chiara became the new owner. The takeover came in the wake of a clash between traditionalists and modernists in Barolo that started in the 1980s, and probably still exists today.

In the 1980s, the new generation of Barolo producers introduced new winemaking methods to the Nebbiolo region. The aim was to speed up the production process so that Barolo wines could be enjoyed earlier. New technologies and new ideas were emerging, and this did not please the traditional Barolo producers. Why change something that works?

When Chiara took over the management, the transformation of the previously very traditional winery began, and she became an important player in modern Barolo. She decided early on to use small barrels, which today does not seem strange, but at the time it was highly unusual. Furthermore, she extended the maceration and fermentation times and reduced the amount of grapes per vine - also known as green harvesting.

Today, Chiara has 11 hectares between Barolo, Serralunga and Monforte and is dedicated to sustainable viticulture to preserve the beauty of nature, generation after generation. And her sustainable focus has led to her receiving the Robert Parker Green Emblem in 2022, awarded to producers who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in sustainability and environmental stewardship.

50 wineries worldwide have received the label, which only emphasises how unique an achievement it is to receive the label. Probably the most prestigious appellation in Barolo is the 46-hectare Cannubi vineyard, and Chiara had a desire to grow her parcels here organically - but it required her to convince her 27 neighbours. And although it seemed like a utopian goal, she has managed to convince 25 out of 28 producers to produce organically at Canubbi.

In 2010, Chiara was joined by her brother Giorgio, his wife Daniella and their three daughters Elena, Vittoria and Beatrice when they became part of E. Pira & Figli. Watch as RareWine visited the winery:

Camille Thiriet - Authentic And Emerging Burgundian Winemaker

It might seem that as a winemaker, you should be born and bred in French vines - and in many cases, this is certainly true. But there are exceptions, and one such exception is Camille Thiriet. She may be French, but growing up in Paris, it was never in the cards that Burgundian winemaker would be her title.

In fact, she wanted to make perfumes, but she decided to do a master of wine at the INSEEC Wine Institute. And it turned out to be a good decision - especially for the wine lovers of the world.

But she was not given anything for free. After all, it is not easy to make it in a conservative industry where you do not have a name and where your network has to be built from scratch. But Camille worked her way up. Acquired parcels - and convinced Bernard Noblet (now retired winemaker at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) to help her with her first harvest. And so, she did.

Since then, Camille Thiriet has only gone one way - and that is up. Her focus is on the lesser known appellations. She keeps yields low and quality high. Everything is done by hand. The grapes are trodden with the feet and the labels are neatly applied by hand. Domaine Camille Thiriet has cemented its place in Burgundy, and that is due in particular to Camille Thiriet. 

Géraldine Godot's Role In Increasing Quality At Domaine d'Arlot

Behind the prestigious Burgundian winery Domaine d'Arlot is winemaker Géraldine Godot. Her work and influence have had a huge impact on the reputation of the house and the quality of its wines.

Géraldine Godot holds a degree in oenology and has extensive experience in the wine industry. Before joining Domaine de l'Arlot, she worked in various other prominent wineries, giving her a deep understanding of both traditional and modern winemaking methods.

Godot's approach to winemaking is characterised by a deep respect for terroir. She strives to express the unique character of each vineyard through minimal interference in the vinification process. This means working with natural yeast strains and avoiding excessive use of sulphites and other additives.

Géraldine Godot has managed to preserve the proud traditions of Domaine de l'Arlot while introducing new ideas and techniques that give it a dynamic edge. Under her leadership, the quality of the wines has increased significantly. She has introduced precision vinification and selective harvesting, leading to more complex and nuanced wines. Her commitment to detail and pursuit of perfection has led to high accolades from both national and international wine critics.

As a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated industry, Géraldine has also served as an inspirational figure. Her success and approach have not only influenced the winery but has also inspired others in the industry to follow sustainable and innovative practices.

Véronique Drouhin - Success In Burgundy. Success In Oregon

Unlike Géraldine, Véronique Drouhin grew up in a winemaking family and represents the fourth generation at Domaine Drouhin. She has an extensive education in oenology and winemaking, including studies at the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon, and in 1988 she became responsible for wine production at Drouhin - in both Burgundy and Oregon.

Véronique was a key figure in establishing Domaine Drouhin Oregon in the Willamette Valley in 1987. This was a bold move that showed the family's ambition to expand their terroir-focused philosophy to a new region.

Véronique has always been open to innovation and has introduced a number of modern techniques in winemaking. She also works closely with researchers and oenologists to find new ways to improve wine quality while respecting traditional methods.

She has been recognised for her expertise and influence in the wine industry. Her work has not only strengthened Domaine Drouhin's position but has also made her a respected figure in the wine world.

Domaine Drouhin Domaine Drouhin

Spanish Wine Magic - Sara Pérez And Mas Martinet

Sara Pérez is one of Spain's most recognised winemakers and a central figure in the Priorat region. She is known for her deep respect for nature and her innovative approach to winemaking.

Sara Pérez is the daughter of José Luis Pérez, one of the pioneers in the resurgence of the Priorat wine region in the 1980s. Her father founded Mas Martinet in 1986 and Sara has been involved in the winery's operations since the 1990s. She studied biology and oenology and has a strong scientific background, which she combines with a passion for sustainability and natural winemaking methods.

She has continued and reinforced Mas Martinet's focus on quality and terroir. Her approach to winemaking is strongly influenced by sustainability, ecology and biodynamic principles.

Pérez has been widely recognised for her work and is a respected voice in sustainable winemaking. Her wines have been praised by wine critics and loved by wine lovers around the world for their quality, character and deep connection to Priorat's unique terroir.

She is not only a steward of her family's heritage, but also an innovator and leader in modern Spanish winemaking who continues to set new standards of quality and sustainability.

Celia Welch - North American Star Producer

When it comes to Napa Valley, Celia Welsh is a significant figure. She works as an independent winemaker, producing wine for prominent wineries such as Keever Vineyards, Staglin Family Vineyard and Scarecrow, the latter of which is perhaps one of the most notable wines from the Californian stronghold of fine wine.

Welsh is one of the most important winemakers in Napa Valley. Growing up in Oregon, the daughter of a wine collector and home winemaker, she was exposed to the mechanics of winemaking at a very early age. She graduated from UC-Davis with a degree in oenology and then sought experience in both Australia and New Zealand before settling in Napa Valley. In addition to producing wine for the aforementioned wineries, she also produces wine under her own brand - Corra

Scarecrow Scarecrow

12 Women Who Only Represent A Fraction

Today, more and more women are dominating the traditionally masculine world of wine - as a natural progression. And it is certainly because women like Bollinger and Clicqout dedicated their time and skills to winemaking - showing the world that women could excel despite the masculine labour code of the time. And the above 12 women represent just a fraction of the many talented women who can/could call the wine industry their livelihood. And they represent only a fraction of the areas of the world where world-class wine is made every day.

There is no longer a dominant masculine code that keeps women out of the wine scene. And thankfully so. Side by side - and in close collaboration - women and men are now working together to create unrivalled wines from all corners of the world.

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