Twenty-five key women wine professionals in the New Zealand have united to form a women-only industry group.

The idea for Women In Wine – whose members include Michelle Richardson, former group winemaker at Villa Maria, industry consultant Belinda Jackson, Erica Crawford of the Hawkes Bay Kim Crawford label, and Anne-Barbara Helliwell of Unison in Hawkes Bay – was sparked by the male-only Beefsteak and Burgundy club.

‘I really wanted to go to the Beefsteak and Burgundy Club because they get to taste some great wines but they wouldn’t let me in because it is men only,’ Michelle Richardson said. ‘As a result, what was going to be a bit of fun as the ‘Chicken and Chardonnay Club’ has already developed into a more serious proposal.’

Group organiser Belinda Jackson said the objectives of the bi-monthly meetings are for women to network, discuss industry issues and developments as well as to provide an opportunity for tastings.

A future aim will be to act as a supportive body, promoting wine to female purchasers and consumers.

Erica Crawford, who is responsible for the sales & marketing of the Kim Crawford label, told decanter.com, ‘It is still very much a male dominated industry. I still find it amusing that I am viewed as the ‘wife who types and files’ when I can’t do either.’

‘Women are receiving more recognition in this industry. But if there is a job as winemaker, viticulturalist or estate manager available and a male and a female apply, I am convinced the female has to show much higher professional standards to be considered,’ said Anna-Barbara Helliwell, who co-owns Unison and has degrees in viticulture, oenology and sommeliering.

Helliwell also stressed the group’s intention to establish itself as a serious organisation, gaining recognition for women’s contributions to the industry, and redressing the male-female imbalance in the wine trade.

Julia O’Connell, the winemaker responsible for Montana’s Deutz and Lindauer method traditionnelle wines, agreed there is a glass ceiling in the wine industry.

‘The only way to change this is to have more females involved in all aspects of the wine industry and eventually some will move in to senior management.

‘The wine industry needs to have more female role models.’

Written by Tracey Barker9 October 2002