Multi-regional blend shines in push for more women in wine

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By David Sly

The annual Australian Women in Wine Awards – announced on November 16, with South Australian winners including Sarah Marquis (Mollydooker Wines), Kate Goodman (Penley Estate) and Nicole Pitman (Kingston Estate) – don’t just celebrate achievement.

The organisation hopes it can provide a beacon of inspiration for more women to join the wine industry and achieve outstanding results.

This has become a significant issue; women comprise less than 10% of the Australian wine industry, with numbers dipping further in viticulture. Representation of women in leadership and senior roles is even smaller.

To help rectify this imbalance, Australian Women In Wine Awards aims to start a scholarship that supports young women undergoing tertiary wine education – and a unique style of SA shiraz is being created as this endeavour’s major fundraising platform.

The Wine Creators’ Project recently came together in a rustic vineyard shed at Irvine Wines in the Barossa’s picturesque Eden Valley.

Three revered female winemakers from different regions – Sue Hodder from Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga in McLaren Vale and Rebekah Richardson of Irvine Wines – sat around a wine blending bench, mulling over the possibilities for their historic project that involves only females. This included winemaker Emma Norbiato of the Barossa’s Calabria Family Wines supplying one quarter of the wine to be blended, right through to graphic designers Denomination that created the wine label.

Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga, left, Sue Hodder of Wynns Coonawarra Estate, and Rebekah Richardson of Irvine Wines.

Each winemaker donated an elite barrel of 2018 shiraz to the project and they were determined to create a bold and unique wine from the resulting blend.

“We didn’t just want to make a typically pretty wine; that would be such a boring, cliché statement about female winemaking,” says Sue Hodder.

“We’re happy to step far beyond what we’d usually do in our own wineries to celebrate a true collaboration of ideas.”

Indeed, the challenge of producing a multi-regional blend from the one grape variety represented a first for each of the winemakers.

They agreed on a very elegant and excitingly modern blend, with enticing aromas of violets and bright plum but also striking mid-palate plushness and generosity. In addition to its attractive juiciness, the shiraz has great flavour length thanks to ripe tannins and crisp acidity.

“A great multi-region blend is a proven Australian tradition, yet it’s not something that any of us have had the opportunity to do before,” says Rebekah Richardson. “This really has been an exciting exercise.”

The wine will be aged in the Barossa Valley, in older oak barrels so the fruit quality speaks rather than winemaking artifice. The limited release of 500 dozen bottles will be launched in April 2019 – coinciding with the 125th anniversary of Australian women gaining the right to vote.

With SA being the first state to give women the vote in 1894, the winemakers think it entirely appropriate that a forthright modern women’s organisation should produce a distinctive SA shiraz to embrace the spirit of the occasion.

The blending session in Eden Valley.

The Wine Creators’ Project provides a lightning rod for positive change in the Australian wine industry. “We want to promote the development of career opportunities for women in the wine industry, to show what is possible and what can be achieved,” says Corrina Wright.

“The wine industry is – and it certainly needs to be – in a state of transition, but we’re still not seeing the numbers of women coming out of wine and viticulture courses at university.

“Anecdotally, we know that large amounts of women drop out of the wine industry because they try to juggle too much, especially when they start families, because the path to advancement seems out of reach. This organisation wants to show them there is a better way.”

Sue Hodder adds that larger community concerns fit into this picture. “Beyond the wine industry, we’re worried about the future of rural Australia generally,” she says.

“Where is our next generation of rural workers going to come from? I reckon the Australian Women in Wine offer a pretty good solution. Get a whole lot of young women out there taking up opportunities in regional vineyards and wineries, and a whole lot of interested young men will surely follow.”

Outstanding women winemakers are also being promoted in leading Adelaide venues, with Level One at Electra House continuing its series of Women in Wine dinners by featuring the Wrattonbully region on Thursday November 22 – with Jane Richards of Eight at the Gate, Susie Harris of Land of Tomorrow, and Sue Bell of Bellwether Wines – and the McLaren Vale region on Wednesday December 12, with Corrina Wright from Oliver’s Taranga, Vanessa Altman from Switch Wines, and Gill Gordon-Smith of Fall from Grace.

At these dinners, each winemaker matches one of their wines to a course from Level One’s modern Asian menu, followed by a discussion with the winemakers about their work. More details and tickets are available via Eventbrite.

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