t is International Women’s Day on Monday, so what better time to celebrate with some great wines made by women winemakers from around the world. Like vegan or organic wines, as I wrote recently, what was only a few years ago something to highlight and celebrate is now, rightfully, more commonplace. It is impossible to list, say, the 10 best women winemakers any more than it is relevant to list simply the ten best vegan wines, since they are both now so numerous. And neither is it an absolute guarantee of quality, nor is it possible to identify a common style among wines made by women. So, below is merely a diverse selection of great wines, which happen to be made by women. But it is worth remembering, when we raise a glass to these women, that their success must be seen as part of the broader achievements of women achieving long-overdue equality in areas that are traditionally male-dominated, and that it is not that long ago that menstruating women were sometimes forbidden to enter wineries because of the effect they might have on the wine… I think we have moved on a bit from that.
First then to France, and one of the founding figures of the champagne industry: Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, otherwise known as Madame Clicquot, who in 1805, at the age of just 27, took over her late husband’s business which she revolutionised. She introduced techniques now commonplace, such as ‘riddling’, which speeds up the clarification process, and created the first ever single vintage champagne and the first rose champagne. The Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label NV (£36.00 sainsburys.co.uk; £42.00 clos19.com) is a fine example of the classic dry champagne style, first made in 1877 specifically for British palates. Other champagne houses, including Pommery, Bollinger and Laurent-Perrier, also had pioneering and strong women involved in winemaking in the early years. But champagne is not the only sparkling wine in France, and down in the Limoux in Languedoc-Roussillon, winemaker Marie Toussaint makes wines for the Les Grand Chais de France, one of the biggest national producers of sparkling cremant. Her Cremant de Limoux Brut Tholomies La Baume NV (£11.75 winepoole.co.uk) is a lightly refreshing blend of mainly chardonnay with chenin blanc and pinot noir, and a great everyday sparkler – try it with tempura prawns as a canape.