International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8 to honor women’s social, political, economic and cultural achievements, to evaluate the advancement in women’s rights and call for improvement in the life of women who shaped the history of nations.
Throughout human existence, women have played an exceptional role in all spheres of life but remained underappreciated, underrepresented and considered inferior to men in a male-dominated world. They were valued for their looks and not for their work and expected to be submissive, delicate and caring. They were deprived of notable roles in social, economic and political sectors and given only the roles of wives and mothers, if not servants. Even in today’s world, after the continuous struggle for the betterment of women in countries like Afghanistan, women are deprived of basic human rights. They are subjected to violence and gender inequality. Afghanistan is ranked as the worst country to be a woman.
Despite having limited roles and opportunities, women always had extraordinary participation in all walks of life. The wine industry is not an exception. It is believed that a woman first discovered wine. According to an ancient Persian fable, she was the princess of King Jamshid and suffered from severe migraine headaches. She also lost the favors of the King. One day she found a jar of spoiled grapes that were considered unsafe. Being disappointed in her life, she ate those grapes in an attempt to end her life. But the grapes tasted delightful, cured her headache and elevated her mood. She eventually regained the favors of the King too.
The first Gods of wine were also women. The first goddess of wine, Gestin, was worshipped as early as 3000BC. Here are the Goddesses of Wine who changed the fate of the wine industry and paved the way for today’s women.
Barbe Nicole Clicquot, the Grande Dame of Champagne, was the first woman to run a champagne house. She was widowed at 27 after her husband died of typhoid. She ran a successful business in a male-dominated sector and became a leader. She paved the way for other women in the wine industry.
“In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company, a role she undertook with passion and determination.” Veuve Clicquot website
She also introduced innovative ideas. Wine at that time was sparkling, sweet and cloudy. She introduced the process of riddling remuage. In this process, wine bottles rested at an angle where all yeast collected in the neck of the bottle and was expelled upon opening the bottle. She also worked for better branding to appear as a luxury brand.
Isabelle Simi was another woman with a very important contribution to the wine industry. She was a pioneer in the American wine industry. When she was 18, she was put in charge of the family business when her father and uncle died accidentally. She managed to save her vineyards in The Great Earthquake of 1906. Her business was one of few that kept making wine during the prohibition from 1930 to 1933. Most of the other wineries were closed during this period. She also has a rare rose species in her vineyards. She planted a new rose bush with each president, except for President Herbert Hoover, due to his implementation of prohibition.
Sarah Morphew Stephen is a significant figure in recent wine history. She is the first woman to earn the title Master of Wines. She was interested in wine when she was only 11 years old and made table wine with a friend. She studied enology at Bordeaux University. She worked every job imaginable in the wine industry.
Stephen opened Glasgow’s first wine warehouse after moving to Scotland with her husband. Due to ill health, the Barrel Selection developed into an agency to supply wine to the Scottish wholesale trade. Sarah retired from the wine trade in 1997 and lives in Edinburgh.
Get a glass of your favorite wine and celebrate this Women’s Day as an honor to these extraordinary women.