Women in the wine industry have overcome a lot! As a female founded wine business, we want to take a moment to celebrate some female wine influencers and female winemakers (hello Widow Cliquot), and hear their perspective on the state of the wine industry for females (Grande Dame not included).
And what a better time for this discussion than April! This month is full of conversations about beaches, the hot sun, good wine and, well, the reminder that women continue to be paid less than men around the world. With Equal Pay Day falling on multiple days within April around the world, we acknowledge once again that women make a national average of 80 cents on the dollar compared to men.
So with those already bleak stats, how do women fair in the wine industry, which is often acknowledged as a male dominated industry? While, yes, the industry is known for being an “old boys club”, fortunately, there are many women who have been breaking barriers and paving the road for other women to come. And because women continue to shift the field, the number of women within wine and within power positions in the industry have been increasing significantly.
And although there is a long way to go, we want to take a rare moment to celebrate the accomplishments of women within wine.
Vinley is both female founded and led by CEO, Erin Vaughen, who has paved her path within the wine industry and continues to break her own barriers daily, so we are always captivated and empowered by seeing other women kick butt in the wine world! And there is more than plenty of girl power within this industry to celebrate.
Original Trail Blazer “Widow Cliquot”
While in the 1800s women were essentially segregated from all positions of power in all areas of interest, at only age 27 Barbe-Nicole Clicquot broke those barriers and took control of a family run wine business when her husband, François, passed away making Cliquot not only a widow but also the first woman to run a Champagne house. She became the the original trail blazer for women in wine and transformed her family’s brand, Veuve Cliquot, which literally translates to “Widow Cliquot”, into one of the largest champagne houses in the world.
Her accomplishments don’t end there! While other sparkling winemakers were using two bottles to deal with the yeast buildup from secondary fermentation, she felt that constantly agitating the bubbles rid the wine of its special nature so she devised riddling. Riddling consists of turning the bottles upside down to allow yeast to gather in the neck of the bottle instead of at the bottom. This process is still used by champagne makers today. Through her knowledge about wine manufacturing, she produced the first ever 1811 vintage wine from an 1810 harvest. Known as the “Grand Dame of Champagne” she powered her way not only a leadership position, but to the top of the industry.
Her passion, knowledge and willingness to continue despite the odds against her allowed women to pursue their passions way into the future.
Badass Women in Wine of the 21st Century
Victoria James, sommelier for the Michelin-starred Côte NYC, recently detailed in a wonderful article for Hello Sunshine her struggles being the youngest female sommelier in the country. She wasn’t paid for a wine event, “a dick-swinging content of epic proportions” she says, when men who were working the event were.
While there are certainly struggles, we were fortunate enough to interview some of our favorite ladies in wine, Casleah Herwaldt of By the Stem and Raquel Royers of Watch Me Sip, as well as our founder Erin Vaughen, about the their perspectives on being a woman in wine, hopes and excitement for the future.
Biggest challenge you’ve overcome in the workplace?
Vaughen: Honestly, being a woman in the wine industry is a challenge! It’s a space that’s dominated by male baby boomers who like to call you sweetie and patronize you like you’re a little girl. Plus, they tend to be super out of touch with how to market to my gender and demographic. This is what inspired me to start Vinley Market. Prior to a career in wine, I worked on dozens of marketing campaigns for big and start up fashion brands before going in house at a mid-sized and long established wine importer. I was native to millennial marketing when I entered the industry, so that’s what got my wheels turning about the opportunity to sell wine to female millennials.
How do you feel women are positioned in the wine industry?
Herwaldt: I definitely feel like it’s becoming more and more that female winemakers and Influencers are being recognized! I’m currently studying for my CMS 2 exam and a lot of the study materials I’m using are by female authors in the wine industry. It is definitely a male dominated industry but I feel like the gap is getting smaller!
What advantages/disadvantages do you feel as a woman in the wine industry?
Herwaldt: I feel like a disadvantage is sometimes I’m prejudged for my wine palate preferences because I’m a woman. People assume my go to is Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc or a cheap rosé! But I definitely feel like there’s some advantages as well because we are the majority consumer so wineries are interested in what we like and want to cater to us.
What do you think it takes to be a successful woman in the wine industry?
Royers: The exact same things it takes for anyone else to be successful in this industry. Drive, dedication, hard work and most importantly, passion.
How have you broken the boundaries, overcome any challenges as a woman?
Royers: I'm not sure if I've broken any boundaries in the industry per se, as there were many women before me who led the way for women working in the wine industry. Since I've been working in the wine industry, I have however noticed an increase in women working in wine, which is great! I think there is still some progress that needs to be made in regards to women working in leadership roles within the industry, as this is still very male dominated.
Do you see any changes occurring with regards to women in the industry?
Herwaldt: Absolutely! I’m seeing more and more female winemakers and they are being celebrated! I’m seeing female winemaker shops, wines celebrating women and more overall respect for women in the wine industry!!
Royers: I've noticed an increase in women working in the cellar, the vineyards and as winemakers, which is a big step in the right direction. I think an area of growth lies within the executive leadership, stakeholder and sales positions within wine and beverage companies. Women are just as talented and knowledgeable as men and it is time the gender gap is broken, in all industries!
Cheers to Us!
So a toast to you and a toast to Equal Pay Day, ladies! We wont be stop bringing girl power to the wine industry and you shouldn’t either. We’ve come a long way, and even though there is more to go, let's just take a much needed moment to celebrate ourselves -- cheers!