By Claire Corbin
As March quickly approaches, our Wine Club prepares to kick off Women’s History Month by celebrating female winemakers and appreciating all that they contribute to the ever evolving, and always exciting, craft of winemaking.
Why specifically female winemakers? Well, I won’t bore you with a detailed timeline of inequality throughout history but I will mention that there are far less female identifying persons in winemaking (as well as in the wine industry) and they need to be both acknowledged and supported!
Before I delve in any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Claire and I’m one of the managing catadoras here at Grand Cata Latino Wine Co. I am part of a wine-and-spirits-loving, supportive, diverse staff where all voices matter and education is key. I have the pleasure of working beside some cool wine nerd ladies who know their stuff (say hola to Gabi, Sabrina, Ronnie, or Rachel whenever you’re in the shop next)!
Unfortunately, my situation isn’t the norm in this business. Like many industries, the world of wine is male dominated; from vintners to importers to sellers to educators to authors to sommeliers.
I’ve dabbled in a few areas of the wine industry from wholesale, to serving, to harvest interning in a winery, to retail. In many instances I’ve had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously ("You probably won't be able to help me, but..."); I’ve often been overlooked professionally (“Wait, you’re my rep?”); I’ve been called interesting names (“sweetie”, “princess”, and my favorite, “cutie pie” while in a meeting), and I’ve also been comically outnumbered (“Hello, gentlemen...oh, and...lady”). As antiquated as these interactions sound, they're still happening, although the women of wine before me have had to overcome much more trying hurdles.
Historically, women were neither expected nor encouraged to be educated about wine. At a restaurant, for example, the male patron would order wine on the part of his female companion; her input was not sought. He tasted it first, and only then she was allowed to drink it, and told to like it. This is assuming she was even allowed in the restaurant to begin with. In the winery itself, there were little to no women performing labor intensive duties, such as pressing grapes with their feet (that "I Love Lucy" episode doesn't count, folks). And today, taking a closer look into the sommelier arena in the U.S., the Court of Master Sommeliers currently has 149 professionals who have earned the title, only 24 of them are women
The bottom line: representation is needed!
Thankfully, women's relationship with wine has transformed drastically over the past century, from studying to the way in which it is imbibed. Stereotypes continue to be shattered and the female demographic has become the heart and soul of wine from a marketing standpoint as well as socially. Female winemakers are now popping up all over the world, and gracing the grapes with their precision, natural wine-making techniques, and a new feminine energy the wine world is responding to quite well.
From my personal experience in the winery, I came to find that making wine requires not only intense physical endurance, but also chemistry, mathematics, and most importantly creativity and intuition. I think women can change the game, and perhaps even improve upon it. Check out some female winemakers we have in the shop such as Filipa Pato (Portugal) and Arianna Occhipinti (Italy) after you've tried these amazing wines for Wine Club!
That is why this month is important and dear to me - we’re taking the time to learn about these terrific wines and truly relish in their uniqueness, and in doing so we are paying due respect to all women in the winery and outside of it - from the harvest down to the last delectable sip.
About Claire: Growing up in a small town in northern Florida, I wasn’t exposed to the wine world but I was bred on southern hospitality, destined to be in customer service somehow. I graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Studio Art and International Affairs with an unofficial focus in "tasting" wine. I went on to teach English in South Korea and Thailand as well as travel all over Asia. When I returned I decided to pursue wine seriously, so I packed up my life and moved down to St Thomas, Virgin Islands, where I was a sales rep for a wholesale wine & spirits company. Ready to explore other facets of the industry and also be closer to family, I relocated to DC. Since moving here I’ve become a part of the amazing Grand Cata family as well as interned for a harvest season at District Winery. I’d like to further pursue winemaking, but for now I love learning about and drinking good wine with even better people. She's a Wine and Spirits Advanced Certified (WSET) and enrolled in the Court of Master Sommeliers initial course work.