Traditionally, wineries have been owned by men, but that is slowly changing.
Nathalie Bour is one of 33 women representing Femmes Vignes Rhône, which translates to Women Winemakers of the Rhône Valley.
“We are all key estates of our area,” she says. “When they come to you, it’s that apparently you’re supposed to be a well-known estate in your area—which is all of our case.”
Bour is a third generation winemaker for Domaine de Grangeneuve, which produces about 450,000 bottles per year. She began working at the vineyard 12 years ago after spending about 13 years working in cosmetics. Now, she’s a part of the winemaking process and also travels to North America, France and China to help clients that purchase her wines.
Her wines can be found in Manhattan’s Le Coq Rico restaurant, Beacon Wines & Spirits and Columbus Wines & Spirits. They can also be found on the West Coast in Los Angeles’ Urban Radish and Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese, and also in Santa Barbara’s Armada Wine & Beer Merchant store.
Members of Femmes Vignes Rhône meet every six weeks to organize events, such as tastings and fairs, and to assist each other with various matters—such as purchasing supplies together to get a discounted rate, finding sales developments together and helping a fellow member find a new cork supplier.
Femmes Vignes Rhône is among the groups representing women in France’s wine regions—which includes Provence, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace. All of these groups are under Femmes De Vin, which translates to Women of Wine, and they all work together.
Although the winemaking industry is becoming more inclusive to women, they are still considered a minorityin the field. Bour says the industry used to be dominated by men, but that changed about 10 years ago.
“Before, women were not accepted,” she says. “They were accepted on the part of tasting and promoting wine all around training and sales, but they were not recognized on the production part. What happened simply is that women did invest in wineries and they were not afraid of putting their hands in the tanks and everything. They’re as capable as men, anyway. A lot of women were oenologues [specialist in winemaking].”
Bour studied at L’Université du Vin, the University of Wine in the Rhône Valley, for six months to obtain a sommelier degree, learn all of the ways to vilify wine, and become knowledgeable of the vineyards in her area and around France.
She adds that men aren’t the only clients anymore—more women are purchasing wine, especially in France because women will buy wine at the grocery store when they’re picking up food for dinner.
Bour believes women have a tendency to be more sensible, which is beneficial in winemaking. She says she finds she pays more attention to details and puts more thought into label design than her male counterparts at Domaine de Grangeneuve.
“A bottle of wine must give you information about the style of wine contained without opening it,” she adds. “Our wines reflect our sensibility.”
“You feel when a wine is made by a woman,” she says. “[Speaking of her wine, Vieilles Vignes] it’s intense but at the same time it’s round, it’s smooth, balanced, generous, long lasting and everything is currant.”
As more women enter the winemaking industry, they bring a special set of skills with them.
“Now, a lot of wines are made in the winery by women,” Bour notes. “But today, the sensibility of women is a skill for this job.”