“I drink Champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it -- unless I'm thirsty.” - Lily Bollinger
I am attracted to wonderful stories and to real connections with people. It could be why I love learning about wine! Wine is not only experiencing it on your tongue but it is also a collision between family, history, land and culture. In “A Bottle of Her Own: Exceptional Wines & the Women Who Make Them” seminar, we will take an adventure from South Africa to Uruguay and Argentina to Champagne and more. We will also stop to explore wines from our own backyard of British Columbia. Here is a highlight of some of the stories and bottles that will be shared.
The famous Dame Veuve (widow) Clicquot took over the wine estate in 1805 after her husband’s death. At the time, it was only possible for a women to hold property (or a bank account for that matter) if her husband had passed away.
Clicquot took over the business in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars and she was bankrupt. She went to her father-in-law and secured a loan for a million dollars. But by the time she was blending the wine from the famous 1811 harvest, she was going broke, again. By this time, Clicquot knew that Napoleon was losing and waged that the Russian conquerors would become their next big customers. So she bet everything she had and sent her wine to Amsterdam for housing. The war had caused a naval blockade and the ports for transporting wine and goods were closed. When the war ended, Clicquot was weeks ahead of all of her competitors as she sent shipments of her wine to Russia. She quickly established her brand as the favourite of Tsar Alexander I.
The idea that a woman could only hold a bank account when her husband passed away is only a somewhat palatable idea when we are referring to the early 19th century. Yet, in many places in the world, the transition of women leaders in wine is quite recent.
25 years ago, for example, there were no female winemakers in Argentina. When Susana Balbo went to enology school in the early 80’s, out of 33 students, there were 17 women. She was the only woman that graduated. Taking the classes meant you had to take a bus past the 10 pm curfew. Argentina was still under the military dictatorship of the Dirty War and women were particularly vulnerable at night.
After graduation, Balbo had trouble finding a job as a winemaker. Her first opportunity came from a winery in Salta, only because a Paris firm was doing the headhunting. After her first vintage, she gained the title, “The Queen of Torrontes”. Today, she has many brands under her belt, one with her name on it, the Ben Marco wines, Dominio del Plata and Crios.
As you may know, Argentina is famous for its wine made from Malbec and Torrontes. Yet for anyone who has been there, it is often Cabernet Franc that wins the hearts of sommeliers. At this seminar, we will try a Catena ‘Los Carlos’ Cabernet Franc from 4th generation proprietor Laura Catena. I’ll save Laura’s fascinating life story for those of you coming to the seminar on Monday (I can’t share all of my secrets with you!!).
I can tell you that Cabernet Franc from Argentina is new to the British Columbia market and it’s worth checking out. In these high altitude vineyards, the Cabernet Franc receives a long hang time in close proximity to the sun. They are richer, rounder and have none of the green notes you see in cooler climes where Cabernet Franc is usually grown.
Overall, we have 9 stunning wines and 9 unforgettable stories to share. We will try the new release from Veuve Clicquot house at the seminar. We will savour a Malbec from Susana Balbo and a Cabernet Franc from Laura Catena alongside Heleen Pannekoek’s Cabernet Franc from Fort Berens Winery, Lillooet. Hope to see you there!
[A Bottle of Her Own: Exceptional Wines & the Women Who Make Them is on Monday, November 14th at the Whistler Conference Center 5:30-7:00 Tickets are $47 at whistlercornucopia.com. A Networking Session with wines from Les Dames D’Escoffier Vancouver Chapter to follow from 7:00-7:30]
Joanne DiGeso – Bio
Joanne has one foot firmly placed in Whistler and the other in Vancouver. She recently returned from Verona as a certified Italian Wine Ambassador from VinItaly International Wine Academy. She is a recipient of both Les Dames D’Escoffier and the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation scholarships. You can usually find Joanne nurturing wine exploration as a sommelier at Hawksworth Restaurant. A dedicated wine lover, Joanne writes for her website SommWine and is a Wine and Spirits Education Trust Diploma Candidate who aspires to one day becoming a Master of Wine.