Women of Wine, Ann B. Matasar

Published by Sally on February 27, 2011

Title of book:   Women of Wine
Author: Ann B. Matasar
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 2006 (2010 for paperback)
ISBN      Hardback 978 0 520 24051 3        Paperback 978 0 520 26796 1
Pages: 270
Price:   Hardback £17.95; paperback £12.95

 This is subtitled “The rise of women in the global wine industry”. We have the occasional woman in wine breaking the glass ceiling – the widow Clicquot was arguably one of the earliest, but this book occupies itself with charting the rise, with reasons, of 21st century icons, mostly but not exclusively, renowned producers from across the world.

Context for the book illustrates that wine has evolved beyond its early domain of men. It is not just in the UK that women now comprise a core group of wine buyers by virtue of their doing the supermarket shopping.  And the production of wine, especially at the top end is peppered with iconic women who have carved their niche, and continue to polish it.

Rather than individually profiling each woman Matasar neatly threads their stories into themes across countries, contextualising each location before illustrating women who have succeeded, for example, despite the chauvinistic attitudes of France, albeit some inheriting ‘accidentally’ by dint of no (interested) male heir, such as Corinne Mentzelopoulos of Château Margaux, Anne Gros and Anne-Claude Leflaive, both of Burgundy. 

Italy too, has its prejudices, she outlines, countered, in part, by a formal network – Le Donne del Vino (women of wine) – which now spreads beyond the country’s borders.

The new world has arguably less tradition to equally preserve and overcome, and women in California, for example, comprise 10 to 15% of the state’s winemakers, though ‘disproportionately linked to the upper end of the industry, making coveted wines in minute quantities that sell for enormous amounts of money.” Something that sounds a little similar to the old world situation.   

In Australia, Matasar points out, the august Roseworthy college admitted its first woman – Pam Dunsford – as recently as 1972.  Women now comprise some 40% of oenology graduates, including the poised Louisa Rose of Yalumba.

Academics and educators such as Prof. Dr. Monika Christmann, Dr. Ann Noble, Dr. Carole Meredith and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, are highlighted in one chapter before looking at the cream of high profile sales and promotion which focuses on folk like Serena Sutcliffe, Hazel Murphy and Becky Wasserman-Hone.

This book’s discursive structure makes it an easy read, a stroll through the vineyard reviewing the whole, rather than a list of each vine comprising the vineyard.  And it’s a stroll laden with the succulent fruit of personal histories and evolution.

Please feel free to comment on this article

Jump to the top of this page