Winemaking has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, but female winemakers are on the rise.
To celebrate Australia’s female winemakers, Cellarmasters is hosting Meet the Makers: Women in Wine on International Women’s Day on March 8. The event is an opportunity for wine lovers to meet some of the country’s best female winemakers and taste their wines.
“There are so many amazing, female winemakers in Australia, so we wanted to take a day to celebrate them, and give consumers a chance to taste some exceptional wines on International Women’s Day,” said Christine Ricketts, Cellar Director at Cellarmasters.
Event: Cellarmasters Meet the Makers: Women in Wine
Where: View By Sydney, Pier 2, 13 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay
Date: Thursday March 8
Time: 6:00pm - 8:30pm
Tickets: $39 * (includes a glass of sparkling on arrival, cheese and canapes, and tastings of over 40 different wines. *Plus booking fee.)
Renowned winemakers from all over the country including Kathleen Quealy, Sarah Pidgeon and Gwyn Olsen will be serving their wines at the event.
“Winemaking is a tough job for anyone with long work hours especially during harvest, and it’s great to see women thriving in this great industry, and using their voice to promote the wines and the regions that they love,” said Gwyn Olsen, Head Winemaker at Briar Ridge & Pepper Tree Wines in the Hunter Valley.
According to Wine Australia, the number of women employed in wine manufacturing have increased to 38 percent, from 35 percent in 2011. However, when it comes to leadership and senior roles, female representation has been estimated at 10 percent or less, meaning the industry still has a long way to go to reflect the broader population.
Christine Ricketts, Cellar Director - Cellarmasters
Samantha Brett, Author - "The Game Changers"
“Australian wine history shows that women have made a tremendous contribution to wine over the years, from Mary Penfolds to the modern day. The Women in Wine awards we sponsored in London last year celebrated the continuing contribution to the Australian wine community not just as winemakers, but as researchers, grapegrowers and marketers,” said Wine Australia’s CEO, Andreas Clark.
MC for the evening is Samantha Brett, journalist and author of "The Game Changers", a book that features success secrets from inspirational women changing the world.
"The world of wine has been a man's game for so long, so I'm thrilled that more women are making their mark by creating award-winning and game-changing wines. That's certainly something to celebrate with a glass of wine - or three - on International Women's Day," she said.
See below to find out about all of the winemakers who will be in attendance!
Gwyn Olsen, Briar Ridge and Pepper Tree Wines, Hunter Valley
Gwyn received the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Wine’s Young Winemaker Medal in 2014, and is a rising star of the Australian wine industry. Gwyn studied Oenology at Roseworthy University in Adelaide, graduating in 2005, completing her first vintage in France, with a further six in New Zealand, and three in the Hunter Valley.
In late 2015, Gwyn became the Head Winemaker for the well-known Briar Ridge and Peppertree Wines based in the Hunter Valley.
Kathleen Quealy, Quealy Winemakers, Mornington Peninsula
Kathleen is a pioneer in the Australian wine industry and, in 2016, became the first female ‘Legend of the Vine’ awarded by Wine Communicators of Australia. A job on the McWilliams bottling line in the late 70s led to Wagga Wagga, where Kathleen studied viticulture and winemaking under the tutelage of Pinot Gris advocate Max Loder. Word of the burgeoning Mornington Peninsula and its cool, Pinot-friendly, climate piqued an interest upon graduation. Kathleen has spent the subsequent years cultivating a reputation for elegant Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris, innovative skin contact white wines and characterful, site expressive Pinot Noir.
Sarah Pidgeon, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Coonawarra
Sarah Pidgeon grew up in a wine-loving family in Armidale, NSW, and went onto study winemaking at Roseworthy Campus in South Australia. Vintages in Margaret River, Swan Valley, Napa, Coonawarra, Griffith, and Paso Robles cemented Sarah’s love of Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1998 she was appointed winemaker at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, and has since won several accolades for the estate, including Winemaker of the Year at the 2016 Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Awards for Excellence – sharing this award with colleague Sue Hodder.
Alexia Roberts, Penny’s Hill, McLaren Vale
At the tender age of 16, Alexia undertook some work experience at the Penfolds winery in Barossa, and she hasn’t looked back since! After studying winemaking, she completed vintages in Italy and France. She found her home in South Australia’s picturesque McLaren Vale, where she has been the Group Winemaker at Penny’s Hill since 2013. She has won an array of accolades for the estate, including World’s Best Cabernet at France’s Concours International des Cabernets and the Best Australian Red in Show two years running at Mundus Vini in Germany.
Julie Montgomery, Avon Brae, Eden Valley
Born in Northern Ireland but relocated to country South Australia as a child, Julie majored in Microbiology at University, then morphed careers from winery lab technician to award-winning winemaker. The meticulousness that saw Julie excel in the field of science has also stood her in good stead in the fields!
Julie creates wines that are distinctive in their character, displaying wonderful aromatics, elegance, complexity and finesse.
Janelle Zerk, Z Wines, Barossa Valley
Z Wine is the partnership of sisters Janelle (winemaking) and Kristen Zerk (marketing), whose heritage dates back five generations at the Zerk vineyard in Lyndoch, Barossa Valley (on which they grew up). Janelle studied winemaking at Adelaide University, and has vintage experience in Puligny Montrachet, Tuscany and Sonoma Valley. Z Wines has a five star winery rating from James Halliday, and continue to impress wine writers and wine shows. They are – to their knowledge - the only “sister” duo that run a wine business in the Barossa Valley.
Sally Blackwell, Hawkesbridge, South Australia/New Zealand
Sally obtained a science degree in microbiology/biochemistry at ANU in 1977, and worked in medical research for three years, but did not enjoy using animals as guinea pigs. After moving to the Barossa in 1981, Sally put her science skills to good use as a wine lab technician at Cellarmasters. At the same time, she started studied winemaking, and joined the Cellarmasters’ winemaking team as a winemaker in 2000. She enjoys winemaking because she can use people instead of animals as guinea pigs.
Josephine Perry, Dormilona, Margaret River
Josephine Perry studied her degree in Oenology by correspondence through Charles Sturt University, which gave her the opportunity to work abroad extensively.
Jo spent seven years managing two wineries in Spain, and has completed vintages in France and harvest in California and New Zealand. She is the founder of Dormilona, a boutique winery specialising in natural wines.
Nicole Samodol, Rowlee Wines, Orange
Nicole started her career working in hospitality and tourism in Melbourne. During this time, she immersed herself with the wonderful world of wine, and became a member of the Victorian Sommeliers Association. She founded Rowlee Wines in 2013 in Orange, where she makes wines from a single vineyard, specialising in cool climate wines including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.
Elena Brooks, Dandelion Vineyards, Barossa Valley
Elena Brooks is the Chief Winemaker and CEO of Dandelion Vineyards, the wine company she created, controls and catapulted into critical acclaim worldwide in just 10 released vintages. Elena, native of Bulgaria, trained in Australia and regularly recognized as not just of Australia’s best, but one of the world’s leading wine producers as her single site Dandelion Vineyard wines continually set new benchmarks for wines of purity, poise and purpose.
Rosie Signer, Heirloom Vineyards, Barossa Valley
Born and bred in Washington State USA, Rosie studied winemaking in her home country and made wine around the globe before landing on the purple patch of South Australia in 2010. Captivated by her adopted nation’s old vine vineyards, Rosie was soon appointed winemaker at Heirloom Vineyards. Some of her accolades for Heirloom include Best Shiraz and Best Wine of Show in Barossa 2015, Chairman’s Trophy for Best Wine McLaren Vale Wine Show 2017, Best Shiraz and Worlds Best Red Wine IWC Vienna 2017.
Jo Gear, Ribbon Hills, New Zealand
After working as a cellar hand in Hawke’s Bay, Jo completed her post-graduate diploma in Viticulture and Oeneology at Lincoln University in Christchurch. In 2001, she joined New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc pioneers Matua Valley wines. She was soon promoted to winemaker, and even took part in a vintage in California’s Napa Valley.Jo joined New Zealand Wine Society in 2005 as its resident winemaker, and has since been making exceptional white wines and rosé wines exclusively for its customers. She has also been an Associate Wine Judge at the Royal Easter Show and Air NZ Wine Awards.