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International Women’s Day 2022

A benefit of the UK wine scene as a relatively ‘new kid’ on the industry block is a clean slate, and a vision to start as we mean to go on. Values such as sustainability and diversity are naturally part of the English and Welsh wine industry’s DNA, (and not just in its grapes’)!

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we reached out to several notable women, all passionate role models in the local wine industry.

What makes this group of women unique as a collective is their genuine passion and joy for what they do. Diving into the industry (at times feet first into a vat of grapes), their varied and sometimes challenging roles make them inspirational, creative multi-taskers.

Even though ‘grapes, vines and wines are gender blind’ (thank you Wendy Outhwaite for that lovely nugget), there is still work to be done in terms of diversity in our wine industry. Men still outweigh women when it comes to Masters of

Wine, Master Sommeliers and senior positions in wine companies and boardrooms. Yet the traditional wine industry tanker is slowly turning, moving with, rather than against a wave of innovation, sustainability and progress. And surfing on its crest is diversity. The percentage of women working in wine in the UK is increasing every year across all areas, from the vineyard and the winery; to the back office, front of house and everything in between.

According to Drink Aware an average of 31% of men aged 16 years or older drink wine or champagne each week in the UK, (without bingeing, most importantly). This is in comparison to a mighty 60% of women. The case for diversity is clear, if not just to reflect the wine market itself.

Here we celebrate some of the leading lights of the UK wine scene and discover how diversity is evolving in the right direction. The future for our wine industry looks bright – and not just for women.

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I’ve made wine all over the world and (experienced) different challenges as a winemaker, and as a woman, but it has made me the person I am today. Luckily, in the UK, being a woman in the industry is not unusual. The wine industry has changed massively in the last couple of decades, from women not being permitted to drink wine to women bringing bad luck to the winery during fermentation. When I was teaching winemaking at Plumpton College almost half of my students were women. It makes my heart sing to see this big change from a male dominated industry.

ANA DOGIC
Vineyard Manager & Sales Director, Sugrue South Downs

www.sugruesouthdowns.com

“I am pleased to say it’s no longer unusual to be a ‘woman in wine.’ My day job puts me in touch in with lots of talented women working in all fields within the sector. We now have four fabulous women on the WineGB board – Sam Linter, Tamara Roberts, Ruth Simpson and Wendy Outhwaite. The future of women in wine is bright. Increased access to wine education and a variety of roles on the job market has helped. One of the few positive things born out of the pandemic was the attitude towards flexible working. The wine industry is now becoming more inclusive and considerate towards its staff, and that can only be good for women.

PHOEBE FRENCH
Membership Coordinator and SWGB Scheme Manager, WineGB

www.winegb.co.uk

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“Women are disproportionately underrepresented but are becoming more prominent in production and promotion rather than just in the office. I work regularly with women in production areas, and they are lovely, cheery and mega efficient – must be our ability to multi-task. I’ve been lucky enough to enter the industry when there have been some strong women making amazing wines, this has helped inspire me to get involved in other wine related spin offs such as wine tourism and experiences – the world is our oyster!

GAIL GARDNER
Managing Director, Ashling Park Estate

www.ashlingpark.co.uk

“The ability to grow something, make it into something delicious and witness others enjoying it – how many people get that opportunity? I have always found it an honour to work with people who have the same passion for wine that I do. In English wine we are possibly in a bubble compared to the wider wine industry, it’s not right that people don’t have equal opportunities to get to where they want. They should get there through hard work, talent, and experience, and shouldn’t be judged on anything else. However, it is slowly changing – I don’t think the fight has finished but it’s moving in the right direction. We need to keep the focus, make changes and push opportunities – it’s exciting.

SAM LINTER
Managing Director & Head Winemaker,
Bolney Wine Estate

www.bolneywineestate.com

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“What first attracted me to the wine trade was meeting winemakers and witnessing their passion – it was a fundamental part of their lives and not just a job. My job has taken me to some of the most beautiful vineyards in the world but what is truly exciting, unlike 20 years ago when you had to get on a plane to visit world-class vineyards, we now have a flourishing wine industry right here in the UK. When I started, the majority of high-profile roles in the industry were occupied by men. The challenge going forward for the wine trade is to encourage diversity on every level and not just gender. It is a wonderful industry, and everyone should feel welcome to join the party!

CLARE MALEC
Owner, Island Media (producer of Three Wine Men)

www.island-media.co.uk

“Sipsters are doing it for themselves! Great Britain is the most exciting place to make wine right now, so it’s no surprise to find so many talented women contributing to our new wine world. We’re lucky – there is no past to hold us back. I am thrilled to be part of such a rich, dynamic and evolving Sipsterhood. In vineyards and wineries, as vintners, wine journalists, Masters of Wine, wine critics, wine judges, educators and influencers – wherever there is good wine, there are great women. I cannot conceive of a better life than one macerating in wine.

WENDY OUTHWAITE
Founder, Ambriel Wines

www.ambrielsparkling.com

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Photo credit: Tom Gold

“I didn’t set out to be a wine buyer; like many little girls I wanted to be a ballerina. And while I never made it on stage, the work ethic of repeated practice is ingrained in me – tasting all the time is like barre work. Over time, you get better, more precise. Today’s UK wine trade is full of energy and excitement. I’ve been in the industry for some time, I found it intimidating initially, there were fewer women in the trade back then. I see more women in key positions now, it’s getting more balanced, and that’s exciting. There are still fewer women in top leadership roles, but that’s partly about role models, education, work-life balance, childcare. But in my opinion there has been no better time to get involved in the wine industry.

REBECCA PALMER
Head of Commercial Buying, Corney & Barrow

www.corneyandbarrow.com

“My journey into English wine has been more than just a learning curve – it’s a whole new chapter. It started when my husband Adrian sold his music business, craving green hills. A Londoner, I baulked. But we’re both relentless optimists and wine lovers to boot, so we headed for the hills with a dream of starting our own vineyard. I have spent most of my working life writing music, tucked away in smoky basement studios –a thousand miles away from researching obscure grape varieties. The English wine industry is fast evolving with a huge number of inspirational, innovative women joining all the time. It’s empowering to be part of that industry change.

GALIA PIKE
Designer, Westwell wines

www.westwellwines.com

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“The wine industry has traditionally been a very male (and pale) world which had very few women involved. Fortunately, English wine, as a new world winemaking industry, bucked the trend from the start and has many women at the forefront, so as a woman of colour I felt like I was surrounded by other supportive females. As English wine is in its relative infancy, we have the opportunity to learn from old world wines but most importantly change those aspects that we don’t want to continue and that is why it is so exciting to work in it! There are female pioneers in this industry that other women can be supported by, learn from and be inspired by – the opportunities are there, you just have to have the confidence to take them.

ELISHA RAI
Co-Founder, Folc

www.drinkfolc.com

“The world of wine in the UK has historically been male-dominated – this is changing (especially) in the domestic production industry. Winemaking in the UK is not bound by the traditions one might find in Europe or established New World regions. (Having worked) in wine all my adult life, I have encountered sexism and misogyny on occasion, but I have also seized opportunities to my advantage. Winemaking can be tough, but it also relies on qualities often associated with female traits – tasting ability and building relationships. The seasonal nature of making wine is somewhat predictable and (family) can be planned (around work). It is a rewarding career; no two days are the same – enjoying your job is key to being happy.

EMMA RICE
Director and Head Winemaker, Hattingley Valley

www.hattingleyvalley.com

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Photo credit: Felicity Crawshaw
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“Being part of an industry that straddles agriculture and manufacturing and is breaking down barriers in terms of the quality of the wines that England can create year after year is very exciting. We are a small, dynamic and collaborative industry with big ideas about how to do better for diversity in inclusion. I have seen significant steps forward since I started with Ridgeview 18 years ago and will actively support the continued momentum in this area.

TAMARA ROBERTS
CEO, Ridgeview

www.ridgeview.co.uk

“To be a part of this brave new world of cool climate viticulture and wine making is incredibly stimulating and exciting, it is not a job, it is a way of life…. there’s a great community and lots of collaboration between other vineyards. The future for women in wine is bright. There are no barriers to entry and the number of women (in) the wine industry are growing all the time. Not only are women a significant proportion of those employed in the wine industry, we are a significant consumer group . Historically the industry may have been male dominated, but this is far from the case now. The English wine industry has had a strong female presence from the beginning – some of the pioneers of the industry are women, and very inspiring ones at that!

FIONA & CHLOE SHINER
Founder & Director and Business Development & Finance, Woodchester Valley Vineyard

www.woodchestervalleyvineyard.co.uk

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“The UK wine industry is hugely exciting and dynamic, with our national and international reputation soaring and a lot of positivity surrounding not only the wines, but also the people behind them. I have worked in the wine industry for 20 years, initially in the south of France, where the industry was and remains very patriarchal. I have found the UK wine industry much more inclusive and empowering, with some phenomenally talented women across all areas, who in many cases are leading the industry forward. As a relatively new wine production area, the UK has a real opportunity to champion women by providing the necessary opportunities and education to help them succeed

RUTH SIMPSON
Co-Founder, Simpson’s Wine

www.simpsonswine.com

“Working in the UK Wine industry now is a real privilege. I get to witness the growth of a new wine region first-hand. The proportion of women in the global wine industry has always been woefully low, but in the UK, it is becoming the norm to see women taking us forward in terms of winemaking, business leadership and communication. More women will be encouraged by this, so I can only see momentum building in the future.

JO SMITH
Brand Manager, Wine Garden of England
& BBC Kent Wine Correspondent

www.winegardenofengland.co.uk

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“My job is hugely varied – from growing grapes to selling wine and everything in between. Being a woman is a major benefit running a wine business where the jobs are numerous, varied and challenging. The famous multitasking skills many women have come into play every day! I am seeing more women coming into the industry at every level which is brilliant. We have winemakers, vineyard managers, women in operational roles in HR, sales and marketing. Wine is about growing and making amazing products focused on quality – and brand building and communication play a strong part in this – an ideal industry for women.

KRISTIN SYLTEVIK
Wine Producer, Oxney Organic Estate

www.oxneyestate.com

“I have always found the wine industry to be an uplifting place to work, full of passionate people who are always wanting to learn more and share their love of wine. …sadly in some parts of the industry there is still a level of sexism. But I do believe things are changing and I am keen to encourage young women into this exciting industry. The world of wine never stands still, and neither should we. I think we have seen (women mentoring each other) taken to a new level over the last few years – particularly through The Drinks Trust Mentoring Programme and organisations like Women in Wine London. With women holding top positions across the industry there is endless opportunity and high peaks to strive for.

EMMA SYMINGTON MW
Education Development Manager EMEA, Wine Australia

www.australianwinediscovered.com

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“The wine industry to me feels inclusive since it attracts people from all walks of life looking to share their common interest of loving wine. The changes I have witnessed over the past few years is certainly the breadth and depth of careers now available, especially in the UK. (Some women) may feel a career in wine is unsuitable or perhaps have not considered it, (it’s about spreading) the word on just how diverse the job roles can be (which) can suit so many different back grounds, be it educational or practical. I give career talks on what I do as a Winery Production Manager to students at Plumpton College, I certainly didn’t know these job roles existed during my time when I was studying at Plumpton!

MEGAN WARD
Production Manager, Wiston Estate

www.wistonestate.com

“There is an amazing community in the wine industry, particularly among small producers. It’s incredibly supportive. Growers and producers are much closer to their customers now, customers are looking for a close connection to their wines and spirits. We’ve met so many people who love that we use natural farming methods. Historically, the wine industry used to be very male dominated, but it’s been amazing to be part of the growth of the English wine industry for the last 11 years. It’s become very dynamic and creative….there are so many new, diverse voices and people are very open and curious about English wine in particular. We say if you’re interested in learning more or getting involved in the industry as a woman – go for it!

JACKIE WILKS, CAROLINE YORK &
ASHLEIGH GUNGA-WILKS

Wine Producers, Terlingham Vineyard

www.terlinghamvineyard.co.uk

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“Wine attracts gregarious, social types and at the risk of generalisation, these are skills that women so often possess in spades. My first steps into wine were through Instagram where I met a whole network of wine women who were incredibly supportive, encouraging me to taste more, learn more and eventually take to the industry professionally. Offline, however, I have been surprised at how male dominated events are particularly given the wine consumer and audience is predominantly female, but things are changing, and it is exciting to be a part of that change. Wine is a fascinating, ever-evolving subject. It covers culture, science, nature, travel and of course – delicious food and drink. Gender should not be an issue when working in and with such an abundance of pleasure!

LIBBY ZIETSMAN-BRODIE
Wine consultant and columnist for London’s City AM

www.bacchusandbrodie.com