Finding Their Voice — How Women In The Wine Industry Influence The Road Ahead
- Charlene Pulsonetti
In the world of wine, "terroir” (pronounced "ter-war”) is a term used to describe the conditions in which a vine grows that then translates into the unique character of the final product — a delicious wine with complex flavors influenced by the soil and climate in which the vine was grown.
Even minimal differences can be detected and are in accordance with not just natural circumstances, but choices made by the winemakers themselves.
One new element of increasing interest is how gender influences not only how wine is created, but also how it is presented and studied.
According to San Diego-based certified sommelier Meghan Vergara, owner of Veritas Consultants, women have experienced varying degrees of influence and interactions with wine since ancient times. But in recent years, more women are devoting themselves to the industry, primarily thanks to trailblazing role models who opened the door.
"If you’re speaking from the perspective of volume, more younger women are doing it,” says Vergara, citing influencers such as writer and wine critic Jancis Robinson, as well as author Karen McNeil. "However, there are a few older women who really were the pioneers and paved the road for us.”
During a presentation titled "From Muse To Master” at Ramona Ranch Vineyard and Winery on Feb. 3, Vergara illustrated multiple avenues for women to become involved in the wine industry.
Sommeliers use their extensive knowledge and experience to guide diners and tasters in understanding, enjoying and properly pairing wines. Varying hierarchal levels can be achieved within this field, though education needed to pursue this career as a profession can be costly.
Despite this, women of all ages can pursue their passion for the world of wine by simply enjoying it, sharing their experiences and using their voice to shape the future of wine appreciation.
"Find a great mentor, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind,” Vergara advises, recognizing that women, in establishing their standing in a historically male-dominated industry, may be wary when speaking out.
Another route into the industry is to pursue winemaking.
Ramona Ranch Vineyard and Winery co-owner Teri Kerns spoke on the subject at the "Muse” class, where she shared firsthand experiences and described how the region is an ideal location to study the question at hand — as there are numerous female winemakers in the region.
Kerns encourages those with an interest to, "Find where you fit.” Someone who is interested in wine and sustainable agriculture, for example, would fit in well at Ramona Ranch Vineyard and Winery — because that belief is central to their values.
Hailing from Oregon, Kerns and her husband and winery co-owner, Micole Moore, sought to continue living an agricultural lifestyle — as they had growing up — when they first moved to Ramona in 2004. Restoring natural balance and biodiversity is cited as part of their process — to them, these factors directly influence the final product. Kerns and Moore have established insectaries on the property to encourage bugs, like bees, and animals that will be beneficial to the vineyard. Through this careful stewardship, they are able to eliminate the use of chemicals and discourage common pests from harming their crops.
Their winery is designated by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, and is certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. To learn more, visit RamonaRanchWines.com.
For Kerns, this is part of the experience of enjoying and understanding wine. Much like the terroir is apparent in the glass, the couple’s pursuit of harmony with nature is part of their unique voice.
Since the designation of the Ramona valley as an American Viticultural Area in 2006, Ramona has transformed into a rising star, with many wines competing — and winning — awards around the world, while stacked up against competitors who have been in the game for hundreds of years.
Vergara suggests that while the female perspective is important as a growing voice in the industry, achieving a balance between masculine and feminine contributions is important in developing the future of an exciting and deep-rooted field.
For Ramona’s young adults, growing up in an up-and-coming wine region is an exciting opportunity to learn from the professionals right in their backyard, and align themselves with businesses that share their passions. Agriculture, tourism, education, marketing, chemistry and geology are all elements that make up the industry. It’s a chance to discover a fulfilling livelihood — one in which they can express themselves to the fullest.