There are many outstanding women in history. Learn about the select women who influenced wine and paved the way for other women in the wine industry.
The wine industry is a field historically dominated by men. Much of this stems from the lack of women’s rights to own property until more recent years. In history, there are a few women who rose to run wineries after the passing of their fathers or husbands. These women went on to build empires and change the wine industry into what we know it as today. They not only changed the industry as a whole but paved the way for women today to break into the world of wine. From the monumental shift from sweet to dry champagne to the expansion of family wineries, these are some of the outstanding women who shaped the history of wine.
Known endearingly as The Widow Cliquot, her title remains Veuve Cliquot, the name that graces a well-known wine house. Barbe-Nicole Clicquot was the first woman to run a champagne house. She took over her family wine business when she was just 27 years old after her husband died. In the early 19th century, the wine industry, like many others, was male dominated.
She brought the family wine house to a new level and led it into one of the most renowned champagne houses in the world. Adding to her achievements, she made the first vintage wine from a landmark harvest of 1810. She also created the first modern pink champagne by adding red wine.
Madame Clicquot truly paved the way for women in wine.
Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira
Born into the wine industry, Ferreira comes from wine producers. She was married to a cousin in 1834 who lost a large portion of their born fortune. He died in 1844 leaving Ferreira a widow at 33. At that point, she took over her family’s wine company. She adjusted her late husband’s spending methods to pour resources into producing Port wines.
She then grew the business into one of the most well-known wineries in Douro Valley and became one of the richest people in Portugal. Ferreira would soon leave Portugal in attempt to escape the advances of the President of Portugal’s son on her daughter at only 11 years old.
She returned to Portugal a few years later and eventually produced more wine and acquired more land.
Women before her paved the way for women to work in wine. In the modern era, wine continues to flourish as an industry. Now, California is a hub of outstanding wine. In the 1880s, California was ramping up in prominence in the wine industry. When John Weinberger was shot and killed in 1882, his wife Hannah took his place as the director of the Bank of St. Helena.
She took the reins of the winery and went on to become one of the most prominent vintners of her time. In 1889 she won a silver medal in the wine competitions at the World’s Fair in Paris. She ran the Weinberger winery until prohibition forced its closure. Her property is now part of William Cole Vineyards.
Louise Pommery is a woman who changed the way we drink champagne even today. She was another widow of the 19th century, similar to Madame Clicquot. Pommery was the woman who made champagne what it is today—dry. She took her late husband’s winery from a still red wine to a sparkling white.
Before her introduction to the wine scene, champagne of the 19th century was very sweet and commonly served as a dessert wine in small glasses. She dominated the English marketing and built a new business model that lives on today: wine tourism.
Her winery is now part of Vranken-Pommery Monopole.
Sarah Morphew Stephen
Sarah Morphew Stephen is one of the most prominent women in recent wine history. Today, about half of the prestigious Master of Wine title holders, but this wasn’t true until very recently. In 1970, Stephen was the first women to hold the title.
She first found interest in wine when she was just 11 years old and helped to tread grapes to make a table wine with a friend. At age 17, after being denied as a trainee for the Symingtons in Porto for reason of her gender, she went to Bordeauz University and studied oenology where she worked along Emile Peynaude.
She was the first of many women to hold the title, but her earning of it paved the way for all the women who would come after her. She is currently retired from the wine trade and resides in the Edinburgh area.
In the early 1900s, Isabelle Simi was a mere teenager when her father and uncle died from influenza. She then, at only 18 years old, took over her family’s estate. She took the responsibility to carry on her family’s legacy as wine makers and traveled the country promoting her vineyard.
She expertly navigated the Prohibition era. In Sonoma County in 1919 there were 256 wineries. 19 years later, only 50 remained, Simi’s being one of them. She worked around the ban on recreational alcohol by utilizing her license to produce sacramental wine. She also kept producing wines for general consumption and was ready to sell as soon as prohibition was lifted.
A true woman of business, Simi also enjoyed roses and kept a rare species of roses at her vineyard. She planted a new bush with each president during her lifetime, with the exception of President Herbert Hoover due to his strict enforcement of prohibition. He did send her a rosebush personally, but she returned the gift.
Here at Wines ‘Till Sold Out, we appreciate the strong women who shaped the history of wine and paved the way for women in wine today. Try one of our wine tasting box sets to see if you can taste the difference in these wines and explore flavors. We offer weekly tasting boxes for you to sample. These are expertly chosen by certified wine professionals. Contact us today for more information or peruse our website for our large selection of high-quality wines.