26 September 2023

Women in Wine

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By Christine Salins.


Ella Hoban

In an ideal world, it would be irrelevant to mention a winemaker’s gender. But the fact is, women are still under-represented in the wine industry. It’s time then to celebrate the brilliant female winemakers who are making their mark.

Last week we profiled Coonawarra winery, Katnook Estate, whose senior winemaker, Natalie Cleghorn, has twice been a finalist in the Australian Women in Wine Winemaker of the Year Awards. She began her career at Yalumba, itself led by an inspirational female winemaker. Chief winemaker Lousia Rose has forged a remarkable 20-year career at Yalumba and is highly regarded not just in Australia but internationally.

Accolade Wines, the company behind leading brands such as St Hallett, Petaluma, Houghton and Yarra Burn, is justly proud of its female winemakers – six out of seven of its premium wineries around Australia are managed by women.

Helen McCarthy, the senior winemaker at St Hallett, joined the Barossa winery in 2019 after years of experience with iconic names such as Lindemans, Wynns, Seppelts, Penfolds and Mountadam.

Helen McCarthy

At St Hallett, she is passionate about embracing innovative techniques and technologies, from the vineyard right through to the packaging. A mentor in an innovation start-up program run by Flinders University, she regularly participates in webinar / zoom calls on innovation in the industry.

“At St Hallett, we are implementing sustainable practices including increasing our energy efficiency and reducing all types of waste. We are constantly challenging what it means to be efficient, effective and sustainable,” she says.

The biggest ‘wow’ moment of her career was standing at the end of a bottling line when the first wine that she made, from start to finish, rolled off the line. Today, it’s all systems go as she oversees the production of Barossa Valley Shiraz in a variety of styles that make up the St Hallett portfolio.

Although Teresa Heuzenroeder didn’t begin her working life as a winemaker, the senior winemaker at Petaluma and Croser did have a keen interest in wine and science early on, so it seemed predestined that she would ultimately combine the two to forge a career in wine.

Teresa Heuzenroeder

Teresa joined Yalumba and Hill-Smith Family Vineyards as a microbiologist in 1994, but a tasting with the winemaking team piqued her interest and she went on to do a winemaking degree before switching to the winemaking team in 2000.

With her scientific background and eye for detail, she’s had a particular focus on the making

of white and sparkling wines throughout her career. “Chardonnay is a passion for me because the variety can create elegant wines that have structure, finesse and balance,” she says.

Yarra Burn 2019 Vintage Pinot Noir Chardonnay, $25: Ella Hoban, Hardy’s Tintara white and sparkling winemaker, has had broad experience both in the Adelaide Hills, where she grew up, and in California and Spain. Yarra Burn Vintage is a highlight of the portfolio for her: “I love that we make a wine that is cool climate and bottle fermented that is still accessible to consumers to be part of their everyday celebrations,” she says. With two years of lees age, it has well-developed yeasty/nutty flavours, lovely layers of complexity and a persistent bead. Stonefruit and brioche characters combine with a fresh natural acidity in an elegant blend.

Petaluma Yellow Label 2020 Chardonnay, $54: South Australia’s Piccadilly Valley is not only picturesque, it’s a great place for growing Chardonnay. The evidence is in this magnificent Chardonnay with its beautiful balance of buttery/almond/vanilla notes, subtle oak characters and hints of lemon curd. Whenever Petaluma winemaker Teresa Heuzenroeder thinks of Chardonnay food pairings, her first thought is always salmon. “One of my favourite recipes to match with Chardonnay is a simple smoked salmon fettucine with crème fraiche, citrus zest and capers,” she says.

St Hallett 2021 Blockhead Shiraz Nouveau, $26: This bright, medium-bodied wine is fruity and juicy and a joy for winemaker Helen McCarthy because it’s “such a versatile and fun wine. You can drink it chilled or at room temperature. It’s great in cocktails and in a big jug of sangria to be enjoyed with friends. Those who prefer a more traditional wine experience can drink it at room temperature with tapas.” Her favourite way to enjoy it is slighty chilled, with a Thai beef salad or watermelon, feta and mint salad.

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