The Feminine Charm of Wine

Wine can have a sensual taste, with soft tannins and a strong or smooth structure. But it took 800 years before the first women were admitted to the ‘Jurade de Saint-Emilion’, one of the oldest and most influential Bordeaux brotherhoods. Today female winemakers seem to be nothing unusual. We owe this to a number of oenologists.

Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti with daughters (left to right) Chiara Lungarotti and Teresa Severini

Teresa Severini is one of them. She was one of the first oenologists in Italy when she joined the company of her father, Giorgio Lungarotti. Oenology, the science and study of wine and winemaking, refers to the science of vinification and pressing of wine. ‘Yes, my path was unusual at the time’, remembers Teresa Severini. ‘But it was actually my own decision. I was simply fascinated by the world of wine, which in the 1980s was far from what it is today.’ The employees in the Cantina Lungarotti wine cellar were not used to talking to a young woman at eye level or even following her instructions. ‘I earned their recognition by working side by side with them and implementing some of the innovations I learned during my studies.’

Lungarotti Winery Torgiano Vigna Monticchio

Photo: Lungarotti Winery

Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti with daughters (left to right) Chiara Lungarotti and Teresa Severini

Photo left to right: Chiara Lungarotti, Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti and Teresa Severini

The New York Times wrote about the path she had paved for Italian women in the wine industry. Then CNN showed up at her door unannounced. Chiara Lungarotti, Teresa’s half-sister, became CEO of Cantina Lungarotti in 1999 after the death of the patriarch. When she was elected to the management board of the two largest wine associations in Italy, she was not only their youngest member but also the only female member. It took another 10 years before more women joined. Although studies by the Smell and Taste Research Centre at the University of Pennsylvania and the Social Issues Research Centre at the University of Cardiff in Wales show that women have better sensory skills, wine has been a male domain for thousands of years. In ancient Rome, women were not even allowed to serve wine. If a woman was caught drinking, she was threatened with death. It was not until the year 2000 that the ‘Jurade de Saint-Emilion’ took accepted the first two women.

The only girl in the vintner training

Today, there are a number of women in the wine business. Maison M. Chapoutier practices biodynamic viticulture in the Provence. Michel Chapoutier made the winery, which has been in his family for over 200 years, one of the largest wine empires in France with vineyards in France, Spain, Portugal and Australia. As Group Commercial Director his daughter Mathilde is in charge of the 90 people strong commercial and oenotourism team. Did she ever want to make anything other than wine? ‘I was French champion in rifle-shooting and was at the beginning of a promising sports career’, replies the 29-year-old. ‘But at the end of the day I preferred to drink. That’s way nicer than shooting’, she adds laughing.

Mathilde Chapoutier, Copyright M. Chapoutier

Photo: Mathilde Chapoutier


Photo: Metzger Winery

Young winemaker Lea Metzger, junior manager of the Metzger winery in Asselheim, Palatinate, knew at the age of 15 that she wanted to become a winemaker. She was the only girl in vocational training, but in oenology studies she was not alone. ‘Perhaps as a young woman in this business you are still perceived somewhat differently than a man’, she says. ‘But the overall acceptance is now much higher than a few years ago.’ The 27-year-old works side by side with her father.

Are there any advantages to being a woman in the wine industry? None of the winemakers we are presenting here can clearly confirm it. Chiara Lungarotti says: ‘It is not a matter of gender but of having a grounded sensitivity and a holistic view of things, while at the same time being able to pay great attention to details, organise their work and attach great importance to the environment and its protection. I would even dare to call the wines we make our ‘children’.

Wine Tourism as an Economic Sector

People have been making wine for 8,000 years. It is closely connected with culture, religion and family. ‘Our mother Maria Grazia was the one who led our father to a vision that was far ahead of its time: To look at wine and everything associated with it as an expression of our civilisation, which is part of our cultural heritage.’ Maria Grazia Marchetti Lungarotti was the one who founded – upon an idea of her husband Giorgio – the Wine Museum in Torgiano in 1974, one of the most prestigious in the world. She was also responsible for the fact that the Olive and Oil Museum was founded in 2000 and that wine has been closely linked to tourism for several years now.

Photo: Wine Museum

It has even become an economic sector in its own right, thanks to the willingness of winegrowers to share their work and the traditions and innovations associated with it with the world. Here too, the Lungarotti family was one of the pioneers in Italy. Nowadays, an entire department within the company takes care of tastings and hands-on programmes in the vineyards and museums.

At Maison M. Chapoutier, Mathilde Chapoutier is responsible for the tourism segment. ‘Wine means to share a meal, to live in the moment, to discover a region. Everything is connected. The development of wine tourism allows us to show the background, the inside and the heart of the wine industry’, she says. Mathilde Chapoutier never talks about advantages as a woman in the wine business. She feels that nowadays gender doesn’t have any impact if you choose this profession. She and her father share the same philosophy when it comes to wine: ‘Letting the terroir express itself.’ To them, ‘wine is made for pleasure.’

Good to know

The widow Barbe-Nicole Cliquot (1777-1866) inherited the estate at the age of 27 after the death of her husband. Because she did not like the yeast at the bottom of the champagne bottles, she developed the technique known today as ‘shaking’, where the bottles are periodically turned by hand during fermentation. This allows the yeast to settle in the bottleneck, so it can be easily removed once the maturing process is complete.

Zuccardi Family: Wine With Many Facets

The Zuccardi family runs a diverse and award-winning wine production in Argentina. The company owns several wineries, including the ‘Bodega Santa Julia’, which is run by Julia Zuccardi. ‘Wines are made to be enjoyed,’ she says. In addition to a special focus on environmental protection, Zuccardi is committed to fair working conditions and equal rights with her business and has been certified as ‘Fair for Life’. The family business also includes the wines of ‘El Bar Argentino’, which give a contemporary twist to the traditions of the past. In 2020 Zuccardi was voted the best winery in the world and the best winery in South America for the second time by the International Wine Challenge. Together with METRO, Zuccardi family - owner of Santa Julia winery - also created a unique blend for the Wine Of The Year 2020.

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