Finding Women Winemakers

This week Lyon will be hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, and in their honor I am hosting tastings featuring female winemakers, vigneronnes, exclusively.

Are you visiting Lyon for the final? Check out my favorite things to do here

This blog post contains some of my thoughts on the state of women in the wine business, as well as a bit of insight into my journey to find lady-made wines.

Prepping for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in Lyon

When I heard that this major event was coming to Lyon, I was super excited, and I decided that I would serve only wine made by women for my tastings this week.

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I put it out there on instagram and facebook, and that was that. I was committed.

Little did I know that it would be a lot harder for me to find these wines than I had anticipated, and not because they don’t exist.

Male Dominated Wine Industry

Like most every other industry, the wine business is male dominated. It’s a world full of money, power, and booze, and plenty of #metoo in the workplace. And for the record, #metoo, during my first job in the wine trade. (Now I work for myself, with myself, and by myself, woo!)

Like most every other industry, women are underrepresented and often overlooked.

close up of a chardonnay bud in beaujolais with hills in the background
Domaine Hamet-Spay in St Amour, Beaujolais, is run by a sister and brother team

I’m not here to regurgitate statistics or to get in a fight about sexism. If you’re reading and you don’t believe in sexism, please put your phone down, slap yourself in the face, and then go away.

If you’re interested in the numbers about female representation in the wine business, here are some good writings on the subject.

The fact is that there is gender disparity at all levels of the wine industry, which has always been a boys club.

Women Led Wine Organizations

But more and more, women are gaining momentum and getting the credit that they deserve.

I have been lucky enough to participate in some amazing female driven experiences for wine, including as an attendee at the first ever Women of the Vine & Spirits Global Symposium.

Women Do Wine logo

Today, I am a proud member of the brand new French based organization Women do Wine, which seeks to connect women working throughout all sectors of the wine business, promote female-made wines, and host events and functions.

They just hosted their first ever tasting and conference, which was last week in Paris.

Finding Female Winemakers

In fact, it was to ‘Women do Wine’ that I went in my search for female winemakers for these tastings.

I scoured the list of members and made some calls, which took me up to Beaujolais for a trip visiting female winemakers.

Dog peeking out of the backseat of a prius with a full trunk of wine, Beaujolais vines in the background
Cloz de Mez in Fleurie is run by women, and Sasha the dog is also a lady

This trip was amazing, and I got to meet some really interesting women.

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I met Mee Godard, who studied winemaking in Oregon, and makes super high quality Morgon.

When I asked her if her husband was also in the industry, she laughed and said that he’d like to work with her, but she doesn’t let him because then men would speak to him instead of her. Sad, but true!

I also visited one of my long time favorite Beaujolais producers Château Thivin in Côtes de Brouilly. In a classic case of underrepresentation, I was talking about this trip later to the owner of a wine shop and he said that Château Thivin didn’t have a female winemaker.

close up of black, yellow, and pink rocks showing terroir with Beaujolais bottles from Chateau Thivin behind
Terroir at Château Thivin in Côte de Brouilly

I corrected him and said that absolutely it does, just because her name may not be on the label, doesn’t mean Sonja Geoffray isn’t making this wine alongside her husband. She’s a winemaker too!

My favorite story came from Domaine JG Chasselay in Southern Beaujolais, where the Chasselay family has been making wine for over four hundred years.

Winemaker Claire told us that though of course the women of the family were always working for the winery, her mother was the first one to demand to get paid. And she herself is the first female winemaker on the books!

Claire Chasselay of Domaine JG Chasselay in Beaujolais pulling wine from the barrel. The first female winemaker at her family domaine.
Claire Chasselay of Domaine JG Chasselay pulling a barrel sample

During that two day trip I visited 6 different wineries with female winemakers, and bought some fabulous wine.

With a little bit of research, it was easy for me to find wine made by women.

Trying to find Women Winemakers in Wine Shops

So Beaujolais was easy, but then all of a sudden my timeline seemed to be getting shorter and shorter.

I had a big trip to America for my brother’s wedding right before returning for the FIFA final, so I suddenly realized that I was running out of time to find female winemakers for all the other regions that I need to pour.

At this point, I knew I didn’t have time to do vineyard visits, but I also didn’t need a huge volume of wine so I figured I could just rock into some shops and buy a few bottles.

WRONG!

I managed to find what I needed, but it was not easy. I had to go to multiple different wine shops, and it was truly stressful trying to fill in this lineup. It was absolutely down to the wire, I had to get these wines before my trip to the states!

In the end I made it work, but it was disappointing that I wasn’t able to find these wines more easily.

Either the people in the shops just didn’t know if there were female winemakers, or said they just didn’t have them. In one case, I knew there was a female winemaker and again the salesperson said, “no, that’s made by a man”.

Her name wasn’t on the label, just the family last name, so the assumption was that the winemaker was a man. In that case, this estate was run by a brother and sister team, but the sister was just entirely ereased!

I am grateful to Vercoquin in Lyon 7 and Le Troisième Fleuve in Lyon 1 and 9 for their help with getting me these women winemaker made wines!

While both of these shops are run by men, they have good representation of female winemakers, and are both proud of being advocates for wine made by women. These are the best wine shops in Lyon, and will crop up when I do my next list about things to do in Lyon!

I am a proud feminist and an advocate for women in the wine business. I am so excited to share these wines with you, and I will strive to keep my cellar a selection that always features wine made by women.

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