Women, Wine and What..?

women winemakers, wine for women
These are the ones you want – not the reserves.

We did receive samples from the winery mentioned below after we had bought our own and did the interview. However, we did not request said samples, nor, we suspect, will the winery’s publicist be terribly happy to see what we have to write about them.

Hmmm. Where to begin? Because what started as a straightforward interview with a woman winemaker ended up touching on a hot-button issue, and, well, we need to address it here.

The woman winemaker is Margaret Leonardi. Last February, she was promoted to winemaker at Little Black Dress wines. We got the press release and thought what an interesting subject. But having interviewed an interesting person before only to hate her wines, we made sure we bought a few bottles from the Little Black Dress line before we requested the interview.

They are a supermarket wine, but the chardonnay was quite tasty – nothing spectacular, but worth the $11 we paid for it. So were the reds we tried. In fact, we were quite pleasantly surprised. (We got them at Ralph’s supermarket, aka Kroger elsewhere in the country.)

So Anne chatted with Ms. Leonardi, and she was quite pleasant. We did talk briefly about how the label is marketed, but that’s not really Ms. Leonardi’s job. In addition, her interest is in making more “serious” wines, wines that are varietally correct (as in they taste like you’d expect that variety to taste like) with more structure.

We are down with that. You see, here’s the issue. Wines that are typically marketed to women are frequently “dumbed-down,” as in they’re made simply, without a lot of structure, which is a really hard thing to describe, but you sure know it when you taste it. In fact, we were discussing this issue at another tasting with wine-writer Corie Brown, general manager of ZesterDaily.com. She’d told her adult daughter, “Don’t ever buy wine that’s marketed at you.”

The assumption is that women buy wine to drink with their girlfriends and don’t care how complex or interesting it is. Well, that’s probably true, since most wine in this country is purchased by women and from the supermarket. But it’s also probably true of most men, as well. Yet, the dumb stuff gets marketed to women, which is more than a little insulting.

So to find a label aimed at women with some structure and complexity, wow. We were quite happy.

Until we received the samples that the publicist insisted on sending after we’d done the interview. These were the reserve labels, so you’d expect them to be even better. The chardonnay was off-dry and low acid, with nothing on the bottle to hint that it was intended that way. Or if it was, we didn’t see it. A sweet chard? What’s the point?

The rosé, made from a blend of several grapes including the extremely sweet muscat, was intentionally sweet but was only helped by the very low expectations we had for it. The cabernet sauvignon was flabby and inoffensive and boring. You could taste an overly soft malolactic fermentation (the part that can lend some creaminess to the mouthfeel) and the slight off flavor from a last minute intervention, which could have been alcohol removal or a rebalancing of the acids.  This is the reserve label and it was a blah. In fact, all three wines were a perfect example of dumbed-down wine.

To be fair to Ms. Leonardi, she has not been with the company that long and she probably did not make cab sauv, and possibly had limited contact with the others. And, again, she did say that her goal was to make more serious wines.

There is nothing wrong with a simple, unstructured wine. Sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed. We just wish that the people who market wine would stop foisting them off on women on the assumption that women don’t care what they’re drinking. Sure, some women don’t – just like some men don’t. But there are a hell of a lot of us women who do care, who want something nice to drink with our girlfriends that isn’t flabby or dumbed down and we’re getting pretty fed up with avoiding labels marketed to us simply because of a sexist assumption.

 

Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part Seven

women winemakers, chablis, white wine
Clotilde Davenne

And here’s another installment on the Women Winemakers of Chablis. We’ve got nine total. Today, we’re featuring Clotilde Davenne, in the Chablis region of France. Chablis is also the delicious white wine made from the chardonnay grape (remember, European wines are usually named after where they’re made, rather than by what they’re made of). This series is from a group of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

1)    What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

Chablis is a different chardonnay, as it comes from a very particular soil in a region where the climate is also special. Soil and climate are the combination that makes this Chardonnay expression so unique. The wine is fresh and straightforward, right, vivid.

2)    If my reader sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

The tasters should expect a wine expressing minerality. Rather complex and aromatic. Neither soft nor sweet.

3)   Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?

  • Wo men who make wine are still few, but talk about it more and more. Wine consumption by women is less taboo and it is the women themselves who speak about female wines. I do not know if there are more women than in the past, but for sure we talk more about it. Women who make the wine often are successful because they make wine on the harmony of flavors and tastes. The wines are characterized by their elegance and not by the power of the alcohol.

Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part Six

Chablis wine, white wineAnd here’s another installment on the Women Winemakers of Chablis. We’ve got nine total. Today, we’re featuring Lucie Depuydt – J.Moreau et Fils, in the Chablis region of France. Chablis is also the delicious white wine made from the chardonnay grape (remember, European wines are usually named after where they’re made, rather than by what they’re made of). This series is from a group of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

1)    What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

The soils and the climate in Chablis give to the Chardonnay different aromas than other places in the world.

2)    If my reader sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

On the nose, grapefruit, white blossom, mineral notes. Freshness, almond, lemon on the palate and always this minerality, even after several seconds

3)   Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?

More and more women are becoming winemakers, but it’s the beginning… I think that very often women make wines with more precision and delicacy by selecting perfect grapes and making ageing in the most exact and precise manner possible, to avoid any imperfection…

Winery Chef Amanda Martin Talks Food and Wine

Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin

When you want to talk about food and wine together, it’s hard to do better than talking with someone who works with both every day. Amanda Martin is the sous chef at Leoness Cellars in Temecula, California, and part of her job is coming up with dishes to serve with the wines made there.

We literally stumbled into her at a restaurant show last year and couldn’t resist doing a quick interview.

Q- What’s it like working at a winery as opposed to a restaurant?

Martin – With the winery, we have a little bit more flexibility, as far as the type of food, we get to serve because it is independent. With corporate restaurants, it’s a little bit harder because you’re told what to produce and how much and so forth. We create our own menus there, our own dishes there.

Q- So how much liberty do you have? Do you always have to include the wines?

Martin – No, I chose to include the wines. As far as in the cooking process? Obviously, when you’re cooking sauces, or preparing sauces in certain dishes, or pastas, you’re going to want a wine to deglaze. So I choose to use our wines in the process.

Q – How do you create a dish with a specific wine in mind, one that’s not necessarily going into it, but to go with it.

Martin –  We just try to, uh, as far as what’s made with the wine? We try to have it complement the wines.

Q- So do you taste the wine first?

Martin – We taste the wine first and then go from there.

Q – And what flavors go with what – the idea being how to tell what goes with what wine? And since you’re creating dishes to go with a wine all the time, you can tell us.

Martin – A lot of the times, people try to associate reds with meats, whites with fishes. That’s not always necessarily the case. You have to get the tannins, the sweetness behind the wine and then compare it that way. Like with a scallop dish, if you have something that’s salty within it, I would go with a sweeter wine, just so it plays harmoniously with your palate.

Q – Is this something you just have to test, doing trial and error?

Martin – Yeah, it’s just trial and error. Unless you have your sommelier, you know.  Also, wine and food is just more of a personal preference. It’s hard to pin point. What I enjoy, somebody else might not like. We can make our recommendations for it. Absolutely, but at the end of the day, it’s what you enjoy and that’s what we want it to be. It’s your experience.

Q – So what do you recommend? Just trying a bunch of different wines, such as different cab sauvs with a bunch of different foods? Or a Riesling with a bunch of different foods.

Martin – A Riesling would go excellent with the scallops, with fish. Halibut, surprisingly, we serve it with a port reduction. So you wouldn’t think a red wine sauce with a fish, but it goes beautifully with it. It’s trying. Have fun with it. That’s what food is, it’s fun. And wine. After a few glasses of wine, everything’s fun though.

Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part Five

white wine, chablis wine, women winemakers
Lyne Marchive

And here’s another installment on the Women Winemakers of Chablis. We’ve got nine total. Today, we’re featuring Lyne Marchive – Domaine des Malandes, in the Chablis region of France. Chablis is also the delicious white wine made from the chardonnay grape (remember, European wines are usually named after where they’re made, rather than by what they’re made of). This series is from a group of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

1)    What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

Its subsoil, the Kimmeridgian from the Jurassic period, allows Chardonnay to express itself here like no other place.

2)    If my reader sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

They should expect to taste a fresh and relaxing wine, with a cheering liveliness.

3)   Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?

In my opinion, this topic isn’t an issue: a lot of professions have opened up to women, not just the wine industry (justice, police forces, sciences, mechanics, etc.). The most important thing is to remain extremely professional.

A woman does not make wine in a similar or different way from a man: she can also make it differently from another woman. It is just a matter of conviction and sensitivity.

Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part Four

the-glass-of-wine-bottle-old-barrel-and-grape-vector_fJO1blw__LAnd here’s the next installment on the Women Winemakers of Chablis. Today, we’re featuring Laurence Séguinot, Domaine Daniel Séguinot et Filles, in the Chablis region of France. Chablis is also the delicious white wine made from the chardonnay grape (remember, European wines are usually named after where they’re made, rather than by what they’re made of). This series is from a group of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

1)    What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

The Chardonnay grape was born in Burgundy. It thus reaches its full potential and nobility in Burgundy’s soils, especially those of Chablis, where the Kimmeridgian terroir gives our wines their purity and minerality.

2)    If my reader sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

From a Chablis wine, we expect delicacy, freshness, strong minerality and authenticity of the Chablis terroir, with floral or citrusy notes depending on the vintage.

3)   Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?

There are more and more women winegrowers in France. At least, today, they make themselves more visible. Maybe they used to be fewer, or perhaps they were simply working in the men’s shadows.

Women have a different palate from men’s and I believe we approach winemaking differently. We strive for delicacy and elegance first and foremost, a way to please and charm all palates.

Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part Three

Women winemaker, Chablis, white wine, French wine
Jean-Luc and Marie-Josee Fourrey

And here’s the next installment on the Women Winemakers of Chablis. Today, we’re featuring Marie-Josée Fourrey, of Domaine Fourrey, in the Chablis region of France. Chablis is also the delicious white wine made from the chardonnay grape (remember, European wines are usually named after where they’re made, rather than by what they’re made of). This series is from a group of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

1)    What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

Chablis’ vineyard is located in the most northern part of Burgundy, giving us a climate which allows the wines to retain beautiful freshness. The other aspect is the richness of our soil which is a mix between marine sediments and clay/calcareous marl. The inclination of our hills provides our grapes with optimum amounts of sunshine, which is necessary for their full ripening.

2)    If my reader sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

They should expect to taste a very subtle and elegant wine. There is no such thing as exuberance in Chablis, only refinement, freshness, delicate aromas and minerality.

3)   Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?”

We are starting to see “Daughter and Father” Domains even in Burgundy! There even exists an association for women in the wine industry, in both Burgundy and at the national level.

The mechanization of the vineyard has developed a lot and we can see Domains with brothers and sisters, or sisters and sisters appearing.

I don’t know if women make wine differently than men, but we surely add a “feminine touch” that brings a little uniqueness to it.

Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part Two

women winemakers of chablis, white wine
Nathalie and Isabelle Oudin

And here’s the next installment on the Women Winemakers of Chablis. Today, we’re featuring Nathalie Oudin, of Domain Oudin, in the Chablis region of France. Chablis is also the delicious white wine made from the chardonnay grape (remember, European wines are usually named after where they’re made, rather than by what they’re made of). This series is from a group of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

1)    What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

Nathalie: The northern climate and the calcareous soil of the Chablis region tend to make very unique and subtle wines, with delicate aromas.

2)    If my reader sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

Nathalie: A dry and beautifully tensed chardonnay: the freshness of the aromas brought by the Chablis terroir makes it a unique wine. This wine is very light and whets your appetite.

3)   Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?

Nathalie: People are evolving and opening up. Men who have taken over the domains are now less hard to work with than with previous generations. They have improved the work place by making work relations less intimidating. Although there are still a few big mouthed machos. 🙂

Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part One

We love Chablis. Real Chablis. The gorgeous white wine made from the chardonnay grape in Chablis, France. (Wines in much of Europe are named for where they’re made, as opposed to what they’re made from mostly because there are rules in the various regions that define what wine will be made there.) So when Anne got a press release last spring celebrating the Women of Chablis, she jumped on it.

The result is a series of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

First up is Nathalie Fèvre, who with her husband Gilles, own Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fèvre.

Women of Chablis
Nathalie & Gilles FEVRE
1.) What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

Nathalie: The unique terroir we have in Chablis – soils and subsoils composed of clay and limestone marl and which contain a multitude of marine fossils – explains why Chablis wines always feature briny and mineral notes, so pure and unique to Chablis, regardless of the vintage. I always say that Chablis is like a memory of the sea.

2.) If someone sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

Nathalie: Notes of fruit and white flowers + mineral notes: a mix of spices (tending towards minty when young and towards curry-style spices when aged) combined with salinity. An English client once use this term : seabreeze, which is spot on to describe the sensation felt when you are by the sea and lick your lips.

3.) Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?

Nathalie: I started as an oenologist in 1998. Back then, there were very few women at technical levels holding positions of responsibilities in the wine industry. Today, it’s a different story, the world of wine is more open and there’s a lot more women who are winegrowers, oenologists, cellar-masters, vineyard managers, etc.
For example, our Domain is called Nathalie & Gilles FEVRE; both my husband and I work together, we have two children (a boy and a girl) and our daughter, who is an agriculture engineer and oenologist, will take over the family business. Our case is absolutely not unique! It’s just a matter of being open minded: women can be just as successful as men. Our job is our life. It’s all about passion: you need to be passionate to do the right thing and succeed in doing it, but I think that is true for a lot of jobs, right? Finally, the difference between women and men is that women might tend to produce more elegant and complex wines than men? Maybe it is related to women’s own, complex nature? Sometimes, I hear people talk about “women sensitivity,” but I don’t buy it! However, I realize that when I drink a wine, there is a deep personal signature and I would say that the wine has a soul. I can feel the passion the winemaker (man or woman) that went into its making…Again, it’s all about passion.

Sommelier Cassandra Brown Breaks It Down

sommelier, wine
Sommelier Cassandra Brown, CS, CSW

If you’ve ever opened a bottle of wine only to discover it wasn’t anything you thought it would be based on the label, then you can appreciate what Sommelier Cassandra Brown, CS, CSW, does.

“We are looked to be the authorities on wine,” Brown said. “When people come into a restaurant, the sommelier is to be an authority on wine.”

And when Brown says authority, she’s not talking about the snooty kind of sommelier who curls his lip when you ask for the “wrong” wine. She wants you to be happy with the wine you choose.

“We want to make sure that you guys get a quality product,” she said. “We have the knowledge to determine whether it’s a quality product. That’s all.”

We met Brown at the Los Angeles County Fair last September, where she led us through a tasting of classic wine varieties. The idea was to learn about what a typical sauvignon blanc, or cabernet sauvignon, etc., are “supposed” to taste like. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing for, say, a chardonnay to have a bit of the citrusy character normally associated with a sauv blanc. But it can be a downer when you plunk down $30 for a pinot noir, hoping for a rich, balanced but somewhat lighter red wine, only to find that the winemaker went for a heavier cab sauv style.

We were at the fair that day for the fun of it and weren’t expecting to do any interviewing. But Brown was such a great teacher, we couldn’t resist. So we asked her, why do all that finicky wine analysis of the color, smell and taste?

“The thing about it is, it’s that it’s part of our profession. But it’s a learning experience for us,” Brown said about herself and her sommelier colleagues. “The way we become an authority on wine is to learn everything about it, to break it down. We do it for us. We don’t necessarily do it for the masses. It’s an education exercise to heighten our awareness, to heighten our knowledge about wine. That’s how we learn. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s a learning tool so that we can be that authority, we can answer that question, so we can justify why this wine tastes that way based on where it was grown or how it was produced.”

And that’s basically what it’s about. A good sommelier (wine server) will ask you what you like and will be able to make a good recommendation based on her knowledge of what the restaurant has and what the chef is making. Because it really is about making sure the customer has a good experience, and being looked down on is anything but.