Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


International Women's Day in wine

A French writer once said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's not the cheeriest outlook but fortunately some things do change, even if it is at a glacial pace. The gender pay gap may still exist but fortunately women working in paid employment is no longer a rarity, including careers that have traditionally been viewed as the bastion of men. Wine is a good example. Today women are found everywhere in wine from the vineyard to the board room and not only as helpers but as professionals. Women viticulturists, winemakers, managing directors, importers, distributors and heads of industry are prolific, which is a far cry from even 30 years ago in the early to mid 1990s when a story on four female winemakers in a mainstream magazine caused a lot of talk. I remember the story. Kate Radburnd and Rebecca Salmond were two of the winemakers in the story and it gave their careers a high profile at a time when few women worked in wine. They have since been joined by a significant number of women who bring a broad range of talents, personalities and opinions to wine. People such as Lynnette Hudson, Beth Forrest, Jules Taylor, Lucie Lawrence, Claire Pinker, Sophie Cotter, Jannine Rickards, Jeannine McCallum, Katherine Jacobs and Jenn Parr are the tip of a far longer iceberg of talented people who are changing the landscape of winemaking in New Zealand, including how wine is talked about and tasted as well as spearheading the way forward for young women to enter the wine industry.

It has always seemed disconcerting, to me, to talk about one group of people when the aim is to be inclusive to all but sometimes the only way to move forward is to focus on those who haven't been normalised, until now.

With just that thought in mind, here are five wines of the week, made by women whose talents bring great wines to us and not because they create feminine styles of vino to enjoy but because they are breaking new ground on what was a once arid landscape of women in wine.

Wines of the week

2019 Radburnd Syrah RRP $89.99

Hawke's Bay winemaker Kate Radburnd has a long history with Syrah and coaxes the spice, silkiness and seductive deep fruit flavours out of this noble grape variety, producing a velvet smooth, complex wine for keeping or enjoying soon; decanted and served in large glasses.

2022 Forrest Estate Albarino RRP $26.99

Beth Forrest is the woman who first identified Albarino is a grape variety that would thrive in New Zealand after she had worked vintage in Spain and tasted it there. Talk about foresight. Albarino is not only well suited to this country, it seems so at home here that phrases like 'pig in s...' spring to mind, but Albarino is worthy of a far more serious description because it makes outstanding dry whites with great depth of flavour - salty, tangy, briny, green olives, fresh apples and lemon juice are all among the great range of flavours in this lovely, lively wine. It drinks well now and can age superbly, thanks to its naturally high fresh acidity.

2020 Huntress Pinot Noir RRP $51.99

Grapes purchased from one of Martinborough's oldest vineyards, On Giant's Shoulders (formerly the original Pahi site) go into this latest edition of Huntress Pinot Noir, made by Jannine Rickards. This is her best Pinot Noir yet. Depth of ripe dark plum flavours are supported by the structure of 40% whole bunches in the fermentation, which builds structure and mouthfeel in the wine, adding spicy aromas and length. If you want to know what top shelf  Pinot Noir is all about, try this exceptional wine from a good vintage in a great region.

2020 Big Sky Pinot Noir RRP $39.99

A collaboration between Katherine Jacobs and her partner in wine and in life, the talented Jeremy Corban (of the Corban wine family), who work incredibly cohesively in Te Muna Valley, Martinborough, where the skies are vast and the flavours of their Pinot Noirs are deliciously deep, dark and earthy.

2022 Jules Taylor Gruner Veltliner RRP $26.99

Gruner may sound like a quirky wine but it is mainstream in its homeland, Austria, where the cool climate mirrors New Zealand's, making the grape a natural fit for this country. Spicy aromatic flavours, freshness and a touch of fruity appeal give this wine complexity and make it an accessibly easy drink-me-now dry white.