A pint of chardonnay and a packet of crisps

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Male or female drinks are nonsense, of course – so why is the industry still suffering under a ‘boys club’ mentality, asks Sadie Wilkins.

A dry white wine for the lady, and I’ll have a pint please. When it comes to drinking alcohol, for years society has happily categorised certain beverages as being either male or female. The gender debate in wine has always been an interesting one. We even see grape varieties receiving the stereotype treatment – Bordeaux belonging to men and the likes of pinot grigio and rosé winning the hearts of women only. Now, of course we know this isn’t true, but these outdated labels unfortunately do crop up every now and then still.

Remarkably, the labels applied to the drinking of alcohol are almost role reversed when it comes to producing, sourcing and selling wine. The ‘glass of vino’ no longer belongs to women, the very people who we previously labelled as being the stereotypical drinker.

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It’s a man’s wine world

We are proud to be a mostly female team at Vineyards, in a very male dominated arena; don’t get us wrong, we know both awesome women and men in the wine and spirit trade, who do marvellously at their jobs and know their stuff. But there is a definite sense of pride in knowing that you are helping to buck a trend.
The last couple of years have been incredible for us; we’ve climbed the ranks of Harpers’ Wine Top 50 UK merchants to number five, and we moved premises to expand our business. But we would be lying if we didn’t say it wasn’t noticeable that we were the only females on the finalist award ceremony zoom call for Harpers. As we sat in anticipation for our placement, we stared back at 9 other squares for the top ten and were surrounded by men. It made us proud yet saddened in equal measure.

Shattering the walls of the industry

One thing that we love about International Women’s Day (this year on Tuesday 8th March) is the spotlight it shines on some amazing people achieving wonderful things in their given industries. This month we wanted to share the love for some of our incredible producers – who just so happen to be women.
Let’s start with the awesome Kathy from Brighton Gin. Back in 2012 Kathy decided to trial making a gin – and thank goodness she did. We have stocked Brighton Gin since 2015; it’s made using 100% organic pure wheat spirit and 100% vegan. This gin really is a great addition to anyone’s drinks cabinet, distilled in small batches in Brighton this juniper- led gin really has a flavour punch but with a subtle smooth undertone.

Samantha O’Keefe, owner of the Lismore Estate, is one of our favourite producers in South Africa. Samantha has managed to keep smiling throughout the last couple of years when alcohol sales were banned in South Africa, and her winery was caught in a bushfire (thankfully not all her stock was in storage there). I am a real fan of her Age of Grace Viognier. Simply sublime, oily, fleshy peach and orange blossom notes roll onto the palate which stays ripe but perfectly balanced.
Another winemaker we have been impressed with for a while has been Marinette Garnier from Burgundy House Jaffelin. Marinette is producing not only amazing still wines but also sublime Crémant too. We were lucky enough to have Marinette host a customer tasting evening a couple of years ago. She can recite the start dates of each harvest; it is that kind of dedication that leads to the most beautiful wines. Whether you are drinking her Meursault or her Vin de France Pinot Noir, you know that she has overseen the whole process.

Please feel free to pop in and sample some stunning wines that have been made by amazing winemakers who just happen to be female. Starting on Tuesday 8th March until Friday 11th March, we shall have a selection of wines open for customers to try. Don’t just take our word for it, let the wines show off themselves. Cheers!

(a fascinating further read on sexism issues in the wine industry is Women and wine – a tipping point’ by Jancis Robinson here)

by Sadie Wilkins, Indie Wine Merchant : Vinyards of sherborne

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