March is Women’s History Month, so what better way to celebrate than to pour a glass of wine and talk about all the amazing women who have shaped the wine industry!
Women’s History Month is the time to honor and celebrate the vital role of women in history. While it was once just an American tradition, Women’s History Month is now recognized throughout the world. It’s just as well because some of the most influential women in the wine industry are from all over the world!
Plus, the wine industry just wouldn’t be as successful without women. According to Alligra, over half of US wine purchases in 2020 were made by women, and 70% of wine purchased in British and German markets was created by women. On top of that, almost half of the candidates for the Master of Wine title are women. Suffice it to say that women play a pretty big role in the wine industry.
Read on and discover some of the most important women in wine history!
Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (aka the Grande Dame of Champagne)
Barbe-Nicole revolutionized champagne and invented a technique that is still used today. After her husband died in 1805 of Typhoid, Barbe-Nicole took over his wine business and became one of the first women to run a champagne house. She cut out middlemen and used direct sales to increase profits while improving the brand image so it became more luxurious. Eventually, she even developed a technique that led to the champagne we know and love today.
Yes, champagne at that time was bubbly and sweet. But the second fermentation created a final product that was cloudy from all the yeast. Barbe-Nicole felt that clear champagne would be better. So she developed the “Remuage Process” that removed extra sediment by carefully storing bottles and then expells the yeast through pressure.
This technique is still used today and is a fundamental part of making champagne. Thank you, Barbe-Nicole!
Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira Brought Fame to Portuguese Wine
Also known in Portugal as “Ferreirinha,” this businesswoman took matters into her own hands when her native country wasn’t getting the recognition it deserved for great wine. At the time, wine from Spain was often imported to “improve” Portuguese wines that people believed were poorly produced.
After her husband died around 1844, she began running her inherited vineyards. When a pestilence began destroying grapes throughout Europe she traveled to England to study techniques to battle the disease. While there, she also learned new processes for wine production and she brought all of her knowledge back to Portugal.
Eventually, most of her wine was exported to England as the first major importer of port wine. Today she is considered an important leader in the development of wine in the Douro valley and her work contributed to the success of Portuguese wine.
Madeline Triffon and Claudia Harris: First Woman to Gain Master Sommelier Status
Becoming a Master Sommelier is no easy feat. It takes years and years of study, exams, a heightened sense of taste and smell, and you still may not qualify. That’s why it’s such a big deal when ANYONE reaches Master Sommelier status.
The first woman to pass the Master Sommelier Exam was Claudia Harris from the UK in 1984. The first American woman to gain Master Sommelier status was Madeline Triffon in 1987.
While Madeline almost went to medical school, she ended up going into wine service at a French restaurant called La Fontaine. From there she was promoted to wine buyer and then to the Best Sopexa French Sommelier competition. Ultimately, her experience in the wine industry laid the groundwork for her success in the Master Sommelier Exam.
Isabelle Simi: First Female Winemaker in the US
In 1904, at just 18 years of age, Isabelle Simi found herself in charge of her family’s vineyard after her father and uncle passed away during a flu outbreak. Not only did she manage to keep the vineyard thriving after the great earthquake in 1906, but she also kept the winery successfully running during prohibition. This was particularly noteworthy seeing as how the majority of other wineries in the country were put out of business.
Isabelle didn’t retire until she was 84 years old. While she ended up selling the winery in 1970 to a local grower, she continued to work in the tasting room into her 90s. After 146 years, the SIMI winery is still producing wine today, making it one of the oldest operating wineries in the state of California.
Cheers to Women and Wine
If history isn’t your thing, then you can always celebrate Women’s History Month by simply opening up a bottle and sharing it with some of the women in your life. Honestly…we’ll probably do both!