Last month Hannah and Sadie Wilkins of Vineyards of Sherborne, in Dorset, held the first in a series of events that will concentrate on under-represented producers within the wine industry.
Wine of the Times 2022 was focused on more than 200 wines from female winemakers.
“It was a unique opportunity to try, side by side, wines all made by women,” says Sadie.
The judges were all women too, but their backgrounds within the trade were diverse and both Sadie and Hannah say that this made for very interesting discussion points.
“As indies, we’re used to looking at wines in a retail context, so it was fascinating to hear first-hand, within our teams, how people in their particular context view wines when they sample them,” says Sadie.
“There were importers, buyers, people from restaurants and people who had experience working in wineries. Some had just finished their Diplomas – everyone had some kind of connection to the wine trade.
“There was lots of debate, particularly around value for money, and also how commercial a style of wine was. Whereas Hannah and I will quite often judge a wine with too much of a commercial appeal as not really being for us, other people in the room were saying, ‘that’s got a really commercial palate, we need that on our list’.”
The results will see a winner and a runner-up from each category as well as an overall winning red, white and a sparkling from the day. All the information will be presented in a brochure, which the Vineyards team are happy to share with fellow indies.
“We need to keep the noise going, share the information and showcase the wines that were there,” adds Sadie. “These events are great, and we all feel lovely, but it has to do something.”
Judges bought into the concept and were enthused by the event. “It still can feel like a male-dominated industry,” says one judge, “but seeing that many intelligent, knowledgeable, inspiring women in one place was really incredible. And tasting that many wines that are made by women was also incredible.”
Another adds: “I reckon that the same event but held 15 years ago would have been very sparse, both in terms of finding female winemakers and in terms of finding females working in the UK industry.
“It’s amazing that that is changing. But I would like to see more in the way of diversity generally in the industry. More events that bring people together who can feel overlooked in the industry.
“[This was] an opportunity to celebrate how incredible we all are and what an amazing job women in wine are doing – and to know that we are not alone.”
So, what’s the theme of the next event? “It’s about championing an underdog,” says Sadie, “whether it’s grape-based, wine-based, the diversity of the winemaker, the winery or region. It’s going to be an annual series on under-representation, so we’d welcome any ideas that anyone wants to share with us for the next one.”