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Behind the bottle: 12 influential women & their award-winning wines

From managing directors and winemakers to founders and oenologists, women are leading and shaping the future of the wine industry.

While the talents of women in wine need no occasion to highlight, International Women’s Day provides an ideal opportunity to shine a light on the achievements of women across the industry, from across the globe.

Below learn more about 12 female talents and a selection of their top-scoring wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2021 to try…

Argentina

Dr. Laura Catena

Managing Director at Catena Zapata

Dr. Laura Catena

Dr. Laura Catena

Dr. Laura Catena is a Harvard and Stanford trained physician and is recognised internationally for her active role in promoting the Mendoza wine region and Argentine Malbec.

She founded the Catena Institute of Wine in Argentina in 1995, is Managing Director of Catena Zapata (est. 1902), and owner of Luca and La Posta wines (established in 1999) and Domaine Nico (first vintage in 2016).

Laura is the author of Argentina’s definitive wine guide, Vino Argentino, as well as Gold in the Vineyards, a compilation of the world’s most celebrated vineyards. She has recently released a third book, Malbec Mon Amour, co-authored with winemaker Alejandro Vigil, which details the history and development of Malbec and the different terroirs of Mendoza.


Catena Zapata, Nicasia Vineyard Malbec, Paraje Altamira, Mendoza 2019

97 Best in Show
Few red wines can rival grand Argentinian Malbec for drama and grandeur, and this version from the Altamira zone of La Consulta (in the Uco Valley) stood out even amongst its dramatic, strikingly profiled peers. It is jet black, just shot with purple at the rim. Soaringly expressive Malbec rose and tea leaf lifts from the glass with enviable purity, without a trace of distorting oak. In the mouth, it is deep and long: an arrow of fruit yet elegant, deftly textured with a snow of fine tannins, and devoid of alcoholic heat or intrusive, strenuous acidity. A sumptuous, haute-couture Malbec where the vineyard’s untrammeled fruit and inner radiance has been given voice. Alc 14%

Catena, D.V. Histórico Malbec, Mendoza 2019

90 Silver
Smokey and meaty nose, with pink pepper and vanilla notes over dark fruit aromas. Smooth with a gravelly texture. Alc 13.5%


Australia

Jane Campbell & Julie Campbell

Managing Director (Jane) and Winemaker (Julie) at Campbells Wines

Jane & Julie Campbell

Julie (left) and Jane Campbell (right)

Jane and Julie Campbell are fifth-generation members of family business Campbells Wines, established in Rutherglen in 1870 by Scotsman John Campbell.

Daughters of the late Colin Campbell, Jane is managing director and works with her sister Julie as winemaker. Together they continue their father’s philosophy of capturing the full flavours of Rutherglen to create wines of complexity and elegance.

Jane oversees all estate operations and is the brand custodian. Her current focus is on the family vineyards where organic mulch and a reduced spray routine have become part of the company’s viticultural practices. Jane has also instigated an ambitious program to further expand the winery experience for visitors, providing tasting experiences in the heart of the cellars.

Julie heads up the winemaking team and sums up her approach by commenting, ‘The passion and drive we feel to make the best wine we can, comes from within; we live and breathe it. We grew up amongst the vineyards, farm, and winery. This is our life.

‘The steadying influence of my father, Colin Campbell, is still felt, and the experience gained by his side has shaped us all, just as previous Campbells generations did for him. Our story is very much about the lineage of time and tradition, and about perfecting our craft in this blessed place called Rutherglen, in Victoria, Australia.’


Campbells, Merchant Prince Rare Muscat, Rutherglen, Victoria NV

97 Platinum
Super concentrated with glass clinging viscosity. Intense exotic spice nose of lemongrass, tamarind, and dried mango. The vibrant tangerine acidity on the palate balances layers of barley malt, dark chocolate, dried fig, and brazil nuts. Alc 17%

Campbells, Rare Isabella Topaque, Rutherglen, Victoria NV

96 Gold
Beautiful intensity and complexity, with intriguing notes of celery salt, dried raspberry and cold tea alongside dried figs, extremely sweet molasses, black olives and ginger ale. Very, very long. Alc 18%


France

Vitalie Taittinger

President of Champagne Taittinger

Vitalie Taittinger

Vitalie Taittinger

Vitalie Taittinger has played a direct role in representing the Taittinger Champagne House for 15 years, holding a number of roles since joining her father in 2007.

Now President of Champagne Taittinger and representing the well-known House in France and abroad, Vitalie has overseen the marketing and communications department, holding positions including Marketing Development Director and Artistic Director.


Taittinger, Prélude Brut Grands Crus, Champagne NV

97 Platinum
A nose of Madagascar vanilla and sweet spice; air opens it up more and then there is a flinty, clean and increasingly seductive subtext; most impressive. In fine shape with a stately and refreshing finish. Glorious stuff! Alc 12.5%

Taittinger, Brut, Champagne 2014

96 Gold
Attractive nose of oatmeal, white chocolate, plums and verbena; lovely length. Rich and concentrated, the palate is appealingly dextrous, finely balanced and impressive; long and self-assured. Alc 12.5%


Italy

Beatrice Contini Bonacossi and Benedetta Contini Bonacossi

Ambassador, Marketing & Communications (Beatrice) and Winemaker (Benedetta) at Capezzana

Beatrice Contini Bonacossi and Benedett Contini Bonacossi

Beatrice (left) and Benedetta Contini Bonacossi (right)

Capezzana was established in 804 AD and is one of the oldest wineries in Italy. Today the estate is owned and run by the Contini Bonacossi family.

Benedetta Contini Bonacossi has been in charge of winemaking at Capezzana since 1998. Her passion and dedication result in elegant, ageworthy wines – evident at the Decanter World Wine Awards where Capezzana’s Carmignano Vin Santo regularly receives top accolades.

Beatrice Contini Bonacossi is the face and voice of Capezzana as head of sales and marketing. She is also founding member of Donne del Vino (Women in Wine) and stays busy promoting Capezzana internationally.


Capezzana, Riserva, Carmignano Vin Santo, Tuscany 2013

98 Best in Show
Trebbiano (or Ugni Blanc) has two iterations which suggest that it is one of the world’s fine-wine varieties, though both involve transformations so dramatic as to merit the term metamorphosis. Cognac is one — and Vin Santo the other. The glowing amber wine smells of crystallised fruits, sweet tobacco and warm attics in which fruit is stored — appropriately enough, since that is how the grapes which make this wine are treated prior to fermentation. On the palate, it is voluptuously sweet and multi-dimensioned, the balance coming from its many aromatic allusions (more crystallised fruit and dried flowers, as well as barley sugar, ginger spice and buttered almonds) and from its subtle oxidative complexities rather than from acidity. Its glycerous texture, volume and wealth give it an easy sippability…with or without a cantucci biscuit to dip as you go. Alc 14%

Capezzana, Trefiano, Carmignano Riserva, Tuscany 2016

91 Silver
Chocolate and cherry aromas with notes of cinnamon stick, tobacco and black tea. It has depth and personality on the palate. Alc 15%


New Zealand

Natalie Christensen

Chief Winemaker at Yealands

Natalie Christiensen

Natalie Christiensen

Natalie is a talented winemaker with over 17 years of winemaking experience gained from vineyards across the world. She is educated in both music and science and her unique background and creative flair facilitates wines that are both technically excellent and artistically exciting.

She sees a strong link between music and wine, in that everyone can be listening to a piece of music, with each individual gaining a completely unique experience. It’s the same with wine. Although a group may share a bottle of wine, their experience will be their own, unique discovery.


Yealands, Winemaker’s Reserve Pinot Noir, Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2017

96 Gold
A developing wine, offering savoury truffle aromas allied to red fruits and smoky, meaty character. Plenty of savoury fruit flavours, peppery oak on long finish. Alc 13%

Yealands, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2020

90 Silver
Punchy herbaceous, lime nose, some tropical hints. Flavours follow through attractively, focused notes of gooseberry and elderflower under bright tropical character. Alc 13%


Portugal

Maria Palmira Cerdeira

Co-Founder of Soalheiro

Maria Palmira

Maria Palmira

Maria Palmira is the mother, heart and soul of Soalheiro.

Co-founder of the brand, her cheerfulness and vitality infect everyone around her. Maria has coordinated the winery for several years and being a primary school teacher by training, she has a way with words when she explains all the details of Soalheiro and its history.

She is attentive and wholehearted, actively participating in the development of every aspect of the company.


Soalheiro, Primeiras Vinhas Alvarinho, Monção e Melgaço, Vinho Verde 2019

97 Best in Show
With two wines in our top 50 Best In Show, Alvarinho/Albarino is one of this year’s champion grape varieties. The hallmark of a great grape variety, though, resembles that of a great actor: the ability to subsume its own personality inside that of the place (or the character) it is representing or portraying. Compare this (our first ever Best In Show Vinho Verde) with its Galician peer, and you will see a clear difference. This Portuguese wine is much quieter aromatically — but haunting and tenacious, with hints of linden blossom and wet stone. It’s concentrated, cool, sheer, tongue-freshening … yet tenacious once again, with the presence and force of character which typifies its Moncao e Melgaco origins. That impression of a cool, wet granite landscape somehow conveyed by the wine lingers all the way through the long finish. Alc 13%

Soalheiro, Alvarinho, Monção e Melgaço, Vinho Verde 2020

91 Silver
Sweet citrus on the nose and palate with ripe yellow peach and nectarine flavors, juicy acidity and succulent greengage on the finish. Alc 13%


Slovenia

Klavdija Topolovec Špur

Winemaker at Radgonske Gorice

Klavdija Topolovec Spur

Klavdija Topolovec Spur

Klavdija Topolovec Špur is from the small village of Hercegovščak, located in the heart of the Slovenske Gorice wine region in northeast Slovenia.

From an early age Klavdija experienced viticulture in her family’s home vineyard, and after graduating from the Faculty of Agriculture and Biosystem Sciences she went to work for Radgonske Gorice, a company which has been producing sparkling wines since 1852. Here Klavdija worked with and learned from renowned Slovenian oenologist, Mr. Alojz Filipič, taking over as the cellar’s chief oenologist in 2007.

In addition to producing traditional wines, Klavdija has helped expand the company’s sparkling wine range to keep up with current trends. Her latest achievement was the ‘Untouched by Light’ sparkling wine – the first sparkling wine produced in complete darkness.


Radgonske Gorice, Zlata Radgonska Penina Rosé Extra Dry, Štajerska Slovenija, Podravje, 2017

97 Platinum
An interesting combination of autolytic complexity and full texture with subtle residual sugar richness. Good noblesse on the palate, silky, gentle and delicate with a lovely weight. Pleasant finish. Alc 12%

Radgonske Gorice, Untouched by Light Brut, Štajerska Slovenija, Podravje 2016

90 Silver
Ripe citrus and floral nose. Bready notes on the palate giving complexity and length. Sophisticated, delicate and elegant. Alc 11.8%


South Africa

Christiane Von Arnim

CEO of Warwick Estate

Christiane Von Arnim

Christiane Von Arnim

As the CEO of Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, Christiane von Arnim continues the legacy of ‘The First Lady of South African wine’ inspired by Norma Ratcliffe, the Cape’s first woman winemaker and creator of Warwick’s first vintage in 1984.

A Stellenbosch University MBA Graduate, Christiane joined Warwick in 2018, bringing with her an impressive track record of wine business experience and marketing prowess after successful stints at various high-profile South African estates.

She leads Warwick with an audacious approach, advancing a respected traditional ethos through innovation and creative connections with modern wine enthusiasts across the globe. Her ambition to prove the pedigree and world-class quality of Warwick extends beyond the Stellenbosch estate to South Africa as a wine-growing region as a whole. The spirit of ‘The First Lady of South African wine’ is alive and well in this new generation of fierce feminine leadership further elevated by Christiane’s vibrant unflustered optimism, determination and unmistakable finesse.


Warwick, Trilogy, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch 2018

97 Platinum
A complex nose of spiced black fruits, soy, roasted meats, and toasty oak. A rich melange of blackberry confit, stewed winter plums, and seductive saline cassis nuances on the palate. A creamy, classical wine of note. Alc 14.5%

Warwick, The Blue Lady Cabernet Sauvignon, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, 2017

94 Silver
Classical nose of cedar, violets, tannery leather and blackcurrant. Dark, savoury, spiced cassis and berry flavours with bright fruit persistence on finish. Alc 14.5%


USA

Lilia Pérez

Head Winemaker at RG|NY

Lilia Perez

Lilia Perez

Lilia Pérez is head winemaker at RG|NY, a 200-acre vineyard outside of New York City, on the North Fork of Long Island.

Lilia was raised in Mexico and received her Diploma in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. After several years with the Mexican Wine Council and RG|MX (the parent company of RG|NY), Lilia earned a Masters of Science in Viticulture and Enology at the University of Bordeaux in France. She worked at Château Brane Cantenac, Château Franc Mayne, and RvS Consultants, a group of consultants for an important number of wineries in the Aquitaine region.

With an exceptional understanding of grape quality and the art of winemaking, Lilia adapts her winemaking to what the region offers. She selects the best-adapted grape varieties that show their optimal expression in order to showcase the fruit and let the wines express the region’s terroir.


RG|NY, Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon, North Fork of Long Island, New York 2019

95 Gold
Rich tropical fruit with aromas of pineapple, mango and candlewax. Great balance on the palate with refreshing acidity sitting alongside lime cordial and orange peel. Chalky finish with a slight grip. Alc 12.9%

RG|NY, Cabernet Franc, North Fork of Long Island, New York 2019

87 Bronze
Spiced raspberry and loganberry characters joined by overt smoky bonfire notes and vanilla spice. Alc 13.3%


USA

Grace Evenstad

Co-Founder of Domaine Serene

Grace and Grace Evenstad

Grace Evenstad and her granddaughter, Grace

Grace and late husband Ken Evenstad founded Domaine Serene in the Dundee Hills, Oregon in 1989 with a mission to produce world-class Pinot Noir. Growing from strength to strength, Domaine Serene now produces wines from seven individual vineyard estates, planted exclusively to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Looking to Burgundy, and with decades of experience, Ken and Grace acquired Château de la Crée, a respected wine estate located in the Côte d’Or, in 2015. In October 2020 at the age of 77 Ken passed away, but under the guidance of Grace Evenstad, his legacy lives on as Domaine Serene remains focused on excellence in a never-ending quest to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

In 2021, Grace Evenstad expanded their Burgundian vineyard holdings by taking control of the renowned Domaine Christian Confuron et fils estate to include vineyards in the Côte de Nuits alongside the Côte de Beaune and Oregon holdings.


Domaine Serene, Grace Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon 2017

95 Gold
A rich palate with dried strawberry and grilled red pepper with some charred wood. Chewy and slightly warming finish with textured, layered, well-handled tannins. Alc 14.4%

Domaine Serene, Clos de Lune Vineyard Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, Oregon 2018

94 Silver
Melon, kiwi fruit, vanilla and butterscotch, and a lightly flinty nose with a concentrated citrus and grapefruit palate. Alc 14.2%


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