If Women Can Take Over the Wine Industry, What Can't They Do?


There are many traditionally male-dominated industries around — construction jobs, mechanics, electricians, and even finance, though that's changing. One job area that usually isn't the first to spring to mind is the wine industry. But it's certainly dominated by men, a tradition that goes back a very long time.

The history of winemaking extends back thousands of years, with the earliest known wine appearing around 7000 BCE. Wine-making technology improved during the Roman Empire and from there the grape took hold, with vineyards eventually cropping up in the New World, with us ending up at the present day situation, where the United States population consumes 856 gallons of wine in 2012 (that's 2.73 gallons per resident!). 

But who's making all this wine, and who makes money from the United States' apparently insatiable appetite for the white and the red (and sure, the rosé sometimes too)? In IntoWine's annual "Top 100 Influential People in the U.S. Wine Industry" list, there are only two women in the top twenty names.

Yet recently, there appears to be an upward trend in the amount of women in the male-dominated world of winemaking. New York Vintners hosted a class in March on "Bad Ass Women Winemakers," highlighting various female-owned vineyards and companies. Some of the women featured included Natalie Gruet, who moved her family's winery from France to New Mexico; Lynn Penner-Ash, one of Oregon's first female winemakers, and Elisabetta Foradori, a single mother of four who runs an Italian winery near the Dolomites.

There's no doubt that it's difficult to break into a traditional "boy's club" atmosphere, and that it's hard to be one of few women in a job. But women in wine are working to make a supportive community with organizations such as Women for Winesense and Women & Wine. Six different women scored a profile in the most recent issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. And let's not forget that there were, although there could be more, two women in the top ten of IntoWine's influential people in wine list (both ahead of the owner of Two Buck Chuck, who came in at #20!). The list included Annette Alvarez-Peters, the manager for Costco's wine, spirits, and beer. Costco is the largest alcohol retailer in the United States, and half of their alcohol sales consist of wine.

In the future, will there be a similar influx of women into the male-dominated industries of mechanics or forestry? Time will tell, but it seems our world is on a slow tilt towards gender equity across job industries. Women in the U.S. have just been officially allowed to serve in combat, a very male-oriented sphere where women still only consist of 11% of the armed forces. We're making progress, if slowly. And what about that one job everyone knows has never been held by a woman? If the women mentioned in this article can shake things up in the traditional world of winemaking, then a woman as president of the United States hopefully won't be too far behind.