Consider how wine tends to express feminine qualities, like sexy textures, soft tannins, voluptuous fruit and delicate floral aromas. It’s even been suggested by Yale University scientists that women have a better sense of taste than men.Yet, a few millennia in, the wine industry remains very much a male-dominated one internationally.
Regardless of whether this is changing or will change, it’s worth noting that there are those women among us blazing trails in the business.South Africa’s female vintners are in fact making news headlines, clinching top awards, getting recognised for their wines internationally, and producing some of the best wines around. To celebrate International Women’s Day which is fixed for the 8th of March every year, we’ve compiled a list of top female winemakers:
Rianie graduated from the University of Stellenbosch and began her career working vintage in Burgundy in 1996 before moving to St Emilion Bordeaux in 1998. She traveled extensively through Europe, America and Australia soaking in as many foreign processes as she could. She then spent 10 years as the winemaker at Morgenhof Estate and after honing her skills there decided, in 2004, to take up the dual role of acting as General Manager and winemaker at Haskell and Dombeya Wines in Helderberg.
This move propelled the wines to award-winning status. The Haskell Pillars Syrah 2007 won three trophies at the 2009 Tri Nations Challenge and it was the first time a South African red wine had risen to such an acclaimed status. She is responsible for creating Dombeya in 2005 and Haskell’s first release in 2009, which started raking in awards the moment it was released. She proudly holds the trophy for the first 5-star wine, which was the Morgenhof Premier Selection of 1995.
Rianie combines her love for science and nature in her winemaking and the results are distinctive, elegant wines which are totally unforgettable, yet affordable. She has since judged various wine shows and is passionate about improving the breed of South African wine.
Mullineux, a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild like Rianie, moved from the United States to South Africa in 2004 from Napa Valley. Born and bred in San Francisco, Andrea had studied Viticulture and Oenology at UC Davis and gained all of her experience at Cakebread, Viader, and El Molino wineries. She began her South African journey with six months at Waterford Estate.
Today, with Mullineux Family Vineyards, Andrea focuses specifically on dry farmed Mediterranean varieties and insists on it being produced as naturally and classically as possible. She is passionate about harvest and aims to one day win the Pichon Longeville Comtesse Laland trophy.
Ntsiki is the first black female winemaker in South Africa, which came as a surprise to her as she really fell into the industry by chance. She earned a scholarship at the University of Stellenbosch and moved to Cape Town to study Oenology, prior to which, she had never tasted wine. But she earned her degree anyway, and went on to conquer the industry.
In 2004, Ntsiki settled in Stellekaya as the resident winemaker. Stellekaya is a small boutique winery which has received various international awards thanks to Ntsiki’s genius. She has won the Landbouweekblad Woman Winemaker of the Year and currently judges various wine competitions.
Nieman started her illustrious career in 2007 at Beaumont Wines in Bot River as the estate’s assistant winemaker. During these years, she spent a lot of time travelling and completing internships abroad in Burgundy (France), Priorat (Spain), Duro (Portugal) and Rhône (France). In 2011, she started her own label called Momento.
Nieman searches for the perfect fruit and method combination, uses a gentle hands-off approach to the making of her wine and injects as much passion as she can muster into the creation of her passion. She is passionate about the uniqueness of the South African soils and vines and trying out new and different methods of winemaking, such as open concrete tanks, whole bunches, and natural yeasts.
Raised to believe in doing whatever she does to the best of her ability, Erica has led Graham Beck into award-winning status on more than one occasion. Her first harvest in fact, which she claims to be her pride and joy, produced the Pheasants Run Sauvignon Blanc in 2005. This wine remains the only one featured in the Wine Magazines Sauvignon Blanc Top 10 Awards since 2007. Her Ad Honorem earned a five-star Platter rating as well as landed her the title of the Landbouweekblad South African Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2008.
Erika began her career in 1999 at Kleine Zalze, where she worked for five years with trips to France, America, and Australia. She joined Graham Beck in 2005, a few days before harvest, and took over the terroir insisting on getting to know it like the back of her hand. She describes her style as elegant, earthy yet touched with finesse. She makes use of the old world elegance of winemaking and delicately pairs it with new world fruit, styles and sunshine