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A visit from Judith Beck - women in wine

This week we were lucky enough to be visited by one of our favourite winemakers, Judith Beck, from Austria. It’s not often the real deal pops by, and it just so happened to coincide with a trade tasting event we had on, so she had quite the crowd! Discussing afterwards however, we were struck by just how few women we could think of in the winemaking world.

I suppose that wine starts as a fundamentally agricultural business, which has historically been the domain of men. Working the vines, planting, maintaining and harvesting takes up most of the year! Then once in the cellar, there is the grape crushing, transfer of huge barrels and tanks, and then bottling, which can all be quite intense manual labour. Traditionally, the farms are handed down from father to son, and many wineries have been in the male side of the family for generations.

However, things are changing! Modern methods of winemaking have made it a more accessible trade all over, (Frédéric Porro of Mas Agrunelles was an aspiring motocross rider until an accident left him in a wheelchair, so now he makes wine!), and a general attitude of acceptance has allowed for some extremely promising women winemakers to shine through.

Judith Beck has a 15ha estate next to Lake Neusiedl, prime location for growing wines. She works according to biodynamic principals and uses local grape varieties, including St Laurent, Zweigelt and Weissburgunder. She really goes against the grain of Austrian tastes, creating wines of elegance, and finesse. She’s experimenting with carbonic maceration, bottling without filtration and different varieties. Her reds are juicy and fresh with supple tannins and her whites are rich and wonderfully aromatic. Notably, she doesn’t use any stainless steel in her wines, believing they need to be allowed to breathe. Importantly for us, they are low in sulphur, produced without chemical intervention, yet are extremely approachable. I really love her wines, particularly the whites, which have great texture and complexity – I tasted her Neuberger for the first time this week (well, the first Neuberger I had tasted at all to my knowledge) which was gorgeous, there's something very Burgundian about them (but fortunately not the price!). She’s got quite a following in the wine world, and for good reason. She even remarked how amazed she was that her wines were being sold in France, which was something she never expected! Watch this space for more of her wines, I think we'll be seeing a lot of her! See our current range here.

Some of our other favourite women wine producers include Dominique Moreau, who makes some of the best champagnes we’ve ever tasted, named after her grandmother Marie Courtin; Fanny Sabre of Burgundy (who continues to produce her range of appellations despite now having a number of young children); and Arianna Occhipinti of Sicily who is carrying on her Uncle’s winemaking tradition with her own wines.

All of our wines have a story behind them, that’s why we love working with artisans, so it’s great to be able to represent the women in wine in an otherwise male dominated landscape.

David Weale