Top Women in Wine
Like many industries, the wine industry has traditionally been a male dominated field. This has continued all the way into modern times, and today we still can feel the inequality in the industry. In all facets of the wine industry, from sales to production men still account for the vast majority of workers, while women only account for a small percentage. In California and Oregon only 5% of wineries are independently owned by women, in Washington this percentage drops to 3%. While great strides have been made to bring more equality to the wine industry in the last 100 years, there is still plenty more progress to be made.
Historical Progress of Women in Wine
Going back to when humans first discovered wine, believed to be over 8,000 years ago, women were much more involved. In fact, some believe that it was actually a woman who first discovered wine. It is generally believed that wine was discovered accidentally when a container of wild grapes was left forgotten. Finally, when the forgotten container of grapes was found again it had turned to wine. But certainly much to the taster’s surprise the wine had a pleasant effect once consumed. And just like that, humans began making wine. Because this occurred in a hunter-gatherer society, and women were in general the gatherers it is assumed that a woman was the one responsible for making the first wine, and probably the subsequent wines after that.
However, it didn’t take long for men to take over all things wine related. By the time of the Ancient Greeks, men had assumed control of the wine industry. In fact, women were forbidden from attending the famous wine drinking parties of the Ancient Greeks called symposiums. Although by the age of the Romans, women were allowed to consume wine and attend similar style parties. Similarly, in Ancient Egypt women in the higher classes were allowed to consume wine. Although in all three societies men controlled all areas of the wine industry.
By the time of the Middle Ages, women were allowed to consume wine, but still were barred from participating in the industry in most other ways. Although there were a few powerful women who had a big impact on the wine industry in this time period, they were few and far between.
By the 18th century and 19th century, women were still left out of much of the wine industry. However, there were some strong willed women who were able to find loopholes and earned a place in the industry in this time period. Many of these women inherited wineries when their husbands or family members passed away. This was the case for one of the most famous women in wine, Madame or Veuve Clicquot. She took over her husband’s Champagne house after he passed away. She not only grew the business, but also invented new technology to improve her wines; technology that is still used in Champagne to this day.
It wasn’t until the women’s movement in the 1960’s that women even started attending winemaking schools. And it took until the 1980’s for more women to start owning and operating wineries.
To learn more about the famous women who defied their cultures and societies to make their mark on the wine industry, check out the timeline below. It’s full of interesting strong-willed women in the wine world.
“Women in Wine: Systematic Exclusion & the Success of Tenacious Women.” n.d. Www.guildsomm.com. https://www.guildsomm.com/public_content/features/articles/b/tanya-morning-star-darling/posts/women-in-wine-history.
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