Winemaking is a $4.3 billion industry employing around 52,000 people, and 30 million glasses of Australian wine are enjoyed globally on a daily basis. However, if questioned, it’s likely that very few Australians could tell you the name of the winemaker behind their favourite brand. Some wine lovers would no doubt also be a little surprised to find that their wine was made by a woman.
Not so at Naked Wines Australia, a crowd funded digital wine company where Angel customers fund the brand’s support of 30 independent winemakers across Australia and New Zealand. Of these, five are women; Jen Pfeiffer, Liz Richardson, Nicky Parish, Anna Hooper and Cynthea Feldheim (pictured above). And it’s pleasing to report that, when it comes to gender, producing brilliant wine is a friendly but closely fought contest.
Naked Wines Australia is supported by wine loving consumers who sign up as ‘Angels’. In return for a small monthly debit into their online wine piggy bank, these Angels enjoy access to exclusive wine brands from 30 independent winemakers based across Australia and New Zealand. Because the wine is sourced and paid for upfront, the Angels also enjoy a hefty discount – most of the brand’s wines sit at around $10 – $15 per bottle, but are equivalent quality to products of a much higher retail value.
Naked’s leading ladies make up 17 per cent of the company’s winemaker partners, but are responsible for a quarter of the company’s wine sales (25 per cent) – 23,000 cases so far this year. The average wine rating score for women is 87 per cent (out of 100 per cent) compared to 88 per cent for men. While women may have just been pipped on the wine enjoyment score, they enjoy greater engagement levels across Naked Wines social platforms, and boast a total of 24,000 wine ratings, compared to half this figure (12,000) for men. And Naked’s female winemakers also have more followers online, on average 3000 wine loving Angels, compared to just over half this figure (1800) for the brand’s male winemakers.
Of all the 30 winemakers partnered with Naked Wines, Jen Pfeiffer is the second most followed winemaker and Liz Richardson is the fourth most followed. Anna Hooper has the fifth highest rated wine ever for her Obelisk Wines Uncharted Bio Dynamic Shiraz 2013 ($18.29 Angel Price) – a serious wine, it has rich chocolate and fruit flavours, with hints of vanilla and coffee. Jen Pfeiffer has the 10th highest rated wine, her Jen Pfeiffer The Hero Shiraz 2013 ($14.99 Angel Price) is packed full of red fruits and Jen’s trademark peppery style.
In Naked Wines’ top ten sales since the company’s inception three years ago (July 2012), four wines are made by women. Jen boasts three of these wines, and Liz has one. In terms of overall sales on the Naked Wines website, Jen is Naked’s most successful female winemaker selling nearly 10,000 cases so far this year, and Liz is the second most successful, having sold just shy of 8000 cases (Jen and Liz sit in second and third places, respectively, in the overall winemaker sales rankings – Adrian and Rebecca Santolin currently hold the top spot).
It’s widely accepted that the wine industry in Australia has traditionally been male dominated, but the signs are evident that this is gradually changing. Rather ironically, a search for ‘women in wine’ on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website brings up data titled ‘women in war’. Further investigation identifies recent census data showing that women make up one third of Australian workers employed in ‘grape growing, wine, liquor and tobacco manufacturing and wholesaling’.
There are other positive developments in what has historically been an industry for the most part dominated by white, middle aged males. Louisa Rose, Head of Winemaking at Yalumba and the Hill Smith Family Vineyards, was named number one in a list of Australia’s Top 10 Winemakers, compiled by 100 industry experts for Fairfax media in August 2014. Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines was listed at number three in the same list.