International Women’s Day: Women winemakers by Jane Clare

Let’s say cheers! and mark International Women’s Day by thanking the creativity of women winemakers who bring a touch of joy to our wine glasses.
You can call me a geek (I’m not) or a bit odd (perhaps) but every time I sip wine I think about the people who’ve created it. They’ve influenced the aromas and the tastes I enjoy with my supper, or during a gathering with friends, or a moment of summertime solitude under a garden tree.
I can’t help it. I love that every step of the way, someone has made a decision which has directly influenced the delightfulness which is swirling in my glass.
Wine doesn’t just happen, it is created; a myriad of individual decisions from vine to wine which in turn develop a multitude of flavours and sensations.
Here’s an International Women’s Day High Five to these lady winemakers, their skill and their wines.
The wine: Verdejo, El Tesoro (£7.95)
The winemaker: Sandra Martín Chivite
If you enjoy sauvignon blanc, you’ll enjoy this wine which hails from the Rueda region in Spain. The producer is Bodega Diez Siglos, a co-operative of winegrowers formed just under ten years ago to share resources and create the best wines they can. The verdejo grapes are selected from a number of vineyards and winemaker Sandra Martin Chivite comes along and weaves her magic. The verdejo grape is used in Rueda blends, alongside viura and sauvignon blanc, but here Sandra’s winemaking decisions nurture its simplicity, fruit harmony and freshness as it flies solo. The wine is aged on the fine lees, a winemaking decision which creates a dash of creamy complexity and spice to the finished glass, which then sings with lemons, limes and stone fruit.
The wine: Château Lestrille-Capmartin, Bordeaux Blanc (£13.95)
The winemaker: Estelle Roumage
Bordeaux blanc is one of my favourite white wines and this one is a delight. The white grapes at the heart of Bordeaux are sauvignon blanc, sauvignon gris and semillon and in this blend sauvignon gris leads from the front (rather than its famous cousin sauvignon blanc). It’s an interesting winemaking decision by Estelle – who owns and manages the estate with her husband – and one which works beautifully. The wine was fermented in new oak and then aged on its lees for six months and both winemaking processes add complexity and flavours. On the nose there is grilled pineapple, white peach, mango and crystallised lemon. A sip brings a creamy depth with a lush of lemon and tropical fruit.
Château Lestrille-Capmartin. Bordeaux Blanc, France
The wine: Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva 2012 (£20)
The winemaker: Maria Vargas
Maria Vargas is the head winemaker at Marqués de Murrieta, one of Rioja’s greatest and oldest Bodegas. Master of Wine Tim Atkin named Maria as his winemaker of the year in 2017. If those two facts combined don’t set a benchmark of what to expect in this wine then nothing will. Tempranillo makes up 77% of the 2012 blend, with mazuelo, graciano and garnacha playing small but integral roles. Maria will decide to use a different proportion of grapes each year to create the wine which best reflects the vintage and the signature style of  Marqués de Murrieta. The wine was aged for 23 months in American oak, at least nine months in new wood which imparts more flavour. This rioja isn’t in your face. It is restrained, it tells you what it is without being shouty. The aromas are balanced between red fruits and spice, between vanilla and dried herbs, between leather and liquorice; and to taste spice-tickled fruits play on the palate with integrated tannins. Pretty delicious if you ask me.

The wine: Riserva 62 Anniversario Primitivo di Manduria, San Marzano (£25)
The winemaker: Caterina Bellanova
From the moment you pick up the bottle, to the first sip, you just know that this wine is a red with a big heart. It’s pretty awesome. The grapes are primitivo (those clever DNA people say it is the same as zinfandel) and they are sourced from vines up to 100 years old. The fermentation starts with native yeasts and then the wine is aged for 18 months in French and American oak. Yet for all its power, this wine has elegance. A ruby-red swirl releases aromas of plum jam and cherries with flashes of black pepper, sweet spice and a wave of vanilla. In the mouth the tannins are soft, the red and black fruits are rewarding and the finish is long.
The wine: Ayala, Brut Majeur Champagne (£25)
The winemaker: Caroline Latrive
Ah, champagne and my oh my this is delicious. It has everything you could wish for. An amazing nose of flowers, brioche, ripe apples and a nod of caramel. It is perfection at a brilliant price. I spent five minutes enjoying the nose (I love it so much) before taking a much-anticipated sip which revealed zesty, clean, fresh and fruity citrus flavours. Winemaker Caroline has blended pinot noir and chardonnay (both 40%) and pinot meunier, together with older reserve wines, to create a champagne which reflects Ayala’s non-vintage brut style.
Christmas Ayala
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Jane Clare is a freelance wine writer and journalist and a member of the Circle of Wine Writers. Find her @onefootinthegrapes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.