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Since the beginning of wine culture, women have been routinely discriminated against and denied access to positions of influence. Nevertheless, despite the obstacles that have stood in the way of female participation, determined women have been leaving their stamp on the wine history timeline ever since it was discovered.
Although progress has been made in equity and inclusion, particularly over the past century, there is still a great deal of work to be done in this area. We may get insight into current difficulties and devise a route to creating a more equal and vibrant world of wine if we look at the nature of preventing information and the teachings of strong women who excelled despite the obstacles.
Female Participation in The Winemaking
Although the primary emphasis of this piece is on female participation in the winemaking process and the ownership of wine businesses, it does not ignore the numerous other ways in which women have contributed to the wine industry as a whole.
Even though the legal systems in most countries that are part of the wine culture today provide men and women with equal rights under the law, gender hierarchies are deeply ingrained, and women are grossly underrepresented in the majority of increased business positions throughout the wine trade.
According to the American Association for Wine Economists, only 5% of independently owned wineries are run by women in California and Oregon, and only 3% in the form of Washington. People of race are significantly more likely to be affected by this gap.
In 2021, the number of bonded wineries in Washington State topped 1,000, but African Americans own only two, and both are women. However, before the reckonings with racism and sexism that have taken place in recent years, individuals throughout the Western world seemed to have a delusional notion that the war for equality had already been won and there was always a history of women in wine.
Powerful Women Emerge
The power structure of a male God has become the male boundary of kings and priests in Medieval Europe as the age of Romans and the gods of ancient times gave way to the era of the feudal system and Christianity. Women became extensions of property essentially, very seldom recorded through any name different from that of their husbands or fathers.
In a noble society, young girls served as shrewd pawns for the marriage-based fusion of property and money. But despite these limiting cultural restrictions, some independent women were able to make their imprint on Champagne history.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the people whose lives significantly influenced the wine industry, even if only indirectly. Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet in 1152, who became the King of England shortly after.
Eleanor was among the wealthiest and most influential women of the Middle Ages. This union gave English control over a third of France’s land, including Bordeaux, its most important port for the export of wine.
This started a conflict between the French and the English that raged for thousands of years and had a complex and exciting effect on many of the world’s great wines and champagne history.
For instance, when trade embargoes and war impeded British trade from Bordeaux, the effort to substitute the treasured claret of the nation resulted in revolutionary developments in the sale of Sherry and had a significant impact on the creation of the port and wine history timeline.
Catherine de Medici
Another woman was Catherine de Medici, who was exchanged at 14 through marriage between wealthy families. She was vicious, brutal, and best remembered for the 16th-century murder of Huguenots.
However, Catherine’s rule may be responsible for several highly intriguing developments in the food and wine industries. It is rumored that when Catherine traveled from Italy to France, she brought her entire culinary staff with her.
Her chefs of the courts are acknowledged as having had a significant impact on French cuisine through their use of sophisticated Italian cooking methods and delicate sauces. She is also credited with introducing the fork to the French, who have previously used their knives to stab savage slabs of meat.
Furthermore, during Catherine’s reign, Cabernet Franc may have first been introduced to the Medici family’s Tuscan hunting estate, Barco Reale.
The Carmignano DOCG, which is now found in Barco Reale and requires the use of Cabernets, was the initial Italian appellation to do so Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc can be used alternatively but must be contained between 10 and 20% both in Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC and Carmignano DOCG .
Locals say that Cabernet Franc dates back to the Medici era, supported by the grape’s inclusion inside the original appellation. While Cabernet Sauvignon likely arrived inside the post-phylloxera age.
Toil and Trouble
When international trade guilds were established in Europe, including Great Britain, and forbade women from practicing or joining, the dominance of women in the beer and spirits industries started to change in the 1500s. By having their husbands or siblings register with guilds on their behalf, many women got over this rule, and rural practitioners were primarily impacted.
Until the Spanish Inquisition, that was the history of women in wine. Brewsters, predominantly female distillers, benefited from a certain level of agency, independence, and financial security due to their expertise and trade. Unsurprisingly, the church vigorously denounced these ancient medical and alchemical techniques as witchcraft, and because of their social status as brewsters and distillers, these women were significant targets.
Timeline of 17th Century
Approximately 80,000 women are thought to have been executed during the witch hunts of the 17th century when cauldrons of bubbling wort and vials of spirits served as evidence. It is no accident that the broomstick, a traditional tavern emblem, evolved into a symbol for witches.
Nor was it mentioned that cats, regularly used in breweries to drive mice at bay, were referred to as their familiars. The witch panic demonized the relationship between women and alcohol, portraying distillers and brewsters as unreliable, heathen, corrupting, and grotesque a legacy that has endured for centuries. Women were once revered as priestesses, wise women, and scientists.
By the 1700s, European women had disappeared from commercial brewing and distilling. The Industrial Revolution, which turned these traditional cottage enterprises into automated factory operations run by an urban male workforce, was ultimately the nail that put an end to female brewing.
In many pre-industrial communities outside Europe, women continued to fulfill their traditional duties as brewers & distillers. In the early American colonies, the ability to distill and brew spirits was a prerequisite for young women to be considered eligible for marriage.
Males placed requirements for this competence in advertising seeking spouses. Although many women ran small-scale farm stills in the early days of the United States, the majority of whiskey in the country was produced and sold through the most entrepreneurial women of the time: prostitutes.
Even though this did not assist improve the existing negative portrayal of female distillers, it did not slow down the pace at which these women worked on champagne history either.
Education For Creating New Pathways
In the 1960s, women who never came from families in which winemaking was a traditional occupation started attending wine school to pursue jobs in the industry. Icons in the wine industry such as Zelma Long and MaryAnn Graf, both of whom worked at Simi Winery, and Merry Edwards, who would later find her namesake winery inside the Russian Valley Area of Sonoma County, were some of the first women to research wine and food science in an official capacity just at the University of California-Davis.
Merry Edwards would go on to find her winery inside the Russian Valley Area of Sonoma County. These women, along with others like them, were pioneers in the wine industry because they pursued their curiosity and passion for building successful careers in the industry based on their terms.
The 1970s and 1980s saw an increase in the number of women who chose winemaking as a professional path; nevertheless, the majority of these women were discovered to be either only one woman or just one of just a tiny handful of women in their winemaking classes in school.
When Cathy Corison went to open a winery of her own in 1987 in California’s prestigious Napa Valley, the concept of a woman beginning a winery was virtually unknown at the time. The 1980s are a mere moment away from the moment in the arc of the story of wine, but the idea of a woman beginning a wine shop was virtually unheard of.
People said she would never be successful, even though she had a master’s in enology from the University of California in Davis and held prominent positions such as lead winemaker at the Chappellet Winery in Napa Valley.
It is impossible to deny, in this day and age, both her accomplishments and the widespread influence she had. Kay Simon is yet another famous woman who holds a major in enology from the University of California, Davis. In 1977, Kay was promoted to the assistant winemaking position at Chateau Ste.
Michelle, and the following year, in 1983, she and her husband established Chinook Winery in Yakima, Washington. Kay continues to be a driving force for the advancement of other women inside the American wine business, not only through the creation of her awe-inspiring wines but also through her involvement in scholarship programs and other forms of philanthropy.
These winemakers and those who followed them set the stage for an era in which an increasing number of women have been choosing to work in the wine industry and demanding that the industry be so much more open and accepting, and equitable not only for women but also for those who have historically exempted from the industry. In other words, they paved the way for a time when women demanded that the sector be so much more welcoming and equitable.
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