Five Top Women Winemakers
Five of Our Top Women Winemakers
The world of winemaking was once nearly exclusively the purview of men, but in the last two decades, the number of women in wine has dramatically increased. Not only are women making some of the most dynamic and exciting wines, they are doing so all over the world. Here are five of our top women winemakers who are making excellent wines from an array of wine regions.
Agnès Paquet – Domaine Agnès Paquet
Agnès Paquet is one of our very favourite white Burgundy wine producers, although she also makes red Burgundy in a smaller quantity as well. Her wines are stylistically very elegant, mineral, and polished, with an emphasis on purity. She uses oak sparingly and bottles her wines unrefined and unfiltered.
Agnès hadn’t necessarily meant to take over the family business, but jumped into winemaking when her family threatened to sell some of the vineyards they own in Auxey-Duresses. Instead of letting the family domaine be dismantled, she took the reigns and gradually increased her vineyard holdings with some savvy purchases to include vineyards in St-Aubin and Chassagne-Montrachet.
Auxey-Duresses is where she started out, so if you are new to her wines, we have a limited number of the cracking 2016s left; we would try the 2016 Auxey-Duresses Blanc or the 2016 Auxey-Duresses Rouge. The 2017s are also now available en primeur here for delivery later in the year.
Amélie Berthaut – Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet
The clamour that now surrounds this domaine is quite extraordinary. Amélie has only been in charge since the 2013 vintage but already her wines are highly sought after and mostly sell out en primeur.
Based in Fixin, she has inherited vineyards from both her father and her mother, who shares a domaine with her sister (Amélie’s aunt) in Vosne-Romanée. As a result, she has amassed a fascinating array of appellations, from Côte de Nuits Villages up through to various Grands Crus. In many ways it is what she has done with her vineyards in Fixin that really excites and marks her out as a winemaker of great talent.
In a bygone era, Fixin used to command both a reputation and a price on a par with the most illustrious vineyards of neighbouring Gevrey-Chambertin, yet for the past few decades it has been languishing in the doldrums. To highlight its undoubted potential, Amélie has separated the various parcels she has and produced a string of different cuvées which show the complexities and intriguing characters that would have got drinkers excited in previous generations.
Alix Millot – Domaine Jean-Marc Millot
Jean-Marc’s dynamic and highly motivated daughter, Alix, is now running the domaine, having assumed control in 2014. She is very much part of the generation of twenty and thirty-somethings who have set Burgundy alight in recent years with their ambition, insight, energy and sheer talent.
Confidence with no hint of arrogance seems to be one of the key ingredients in the make-up of these stars of the future, and Alix has it in spades, being very focused and clear about what she is trying to achieve and how she should do it. She and her father have been a part of the new guard, taking their vineyards back that had been previously contracted and have been doing extraordinary things with the fruit.
The domaine is run organically, although not certified, and is blessed with various parcels of old vines. New oak is sensibly handled, varying from around 20% to 35% depending upon the cru and the volumes made, and extraction is light and delicate. Alix generally prefers pumping over (remontage) to pumping down (pigeage). Stylistically, the wines are cool with silky tannins and precise detailed flavours and, whilst she has some grand appellations in her locker, her entry level wines really show off her innate skills as a vigneronne.
It is no secret that Elena Fucci is Basilicata’s superstar producer. Basilicata still flies too often under the radar in the south of Italy, tucked between the Calabria and Puglia regions between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas. Since she began making wine in 2000 to save her family vineyard from being sold off, she has also become a darling of the critics as well.
Elena and her father Salvatore started bottling their own wine in 2000 (they previously had been selling off the fruit) after facing the choice to either sell the beloved family vineyard or start making their own wine. This choice was the catalyst that started Elena down the road of winemaking; she joined a viticulture and oenology course and began working in the vineyard with her father.
They have a lot of old vines (60+ years old) with some younger vineyards planted from massal selections of their oldest vines. This unique site on the south side of the Vulture mountain has many layers of volcanic soil: lapilli, ash, lava and layers of clay which translates into complexity in the wine.
Her 2015 Aglianico del Vulture ‘Titolo’ is stunning, and her 2013 Aglianico del Vulture Superiore Riserva – the first vintage of the Riserva – received an incredible 97 points from Monica Larner of the Wine Advocate.
No list of women winemakers would be complete without Diana Snowden Seysses, who is the winemaker for Snowden Vineyards as well as the oenologist of the illustrious Domaine Dujac.
Snowden is her family estate in Napa Valley, where the Snowdens have tended the vines since 1955, selling the fruit off to other vineyards, maybe most notably Stag's Leap Cellars. It wasn't until the 1990's that the Snowdens began holding back some fruit to vinify and bottle under their own name, a story which mirrors many domaines in Burgundy who are now taking back their family vineyards from négociant contracts.
Diana, representing the third generation of Snowdens in the family business, was already working at Domaine Dujac when she took over as winemaker for the 2005 harvest after stints across California and France, including Robert Mondavi Winery, Mumm Napa Valley, the Araujo Estate, Fleur de Boüard, Domaine Leflaive and Ramey Wine cellar.
Under Diana's management, the estate has moved towards organic and sustainable vineyard practices. We caught up with her last year to talk about how she started in the wine business, her work in the vineyards at Snowden Vineyards, and the future of the winery.