Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Do winemakers from Venus have it over Martians?

Winemaker Sandra Oldfield works with one of her all-female staff at Tinhorn Creek Estate winery, Okanagan, BC. Here she pours grapes into a basket press at the winery.

So, does the wine made by an all-woman team taste different than if men were involved?

I had never thought about it before. Then it dawned on me while doing the photography
for my first book Pacific Northwest, The Ultimate Winery Guide. There I was photographing winemaker Sandra Oldfield and her all-woman wine production team at Tinhorn Creek Estate Winery in the Okanagan, BC.

Does wine made by winemakers from Venus taste different from that made by Martians?

After all, aren't women different. Ask radio star Dr. Laura. Aren't women crafted to be nurturing mothers?
But can you taste nurtured wine? And aren't those from Venus suppose to have more sensative taste buds? But can that carry over to making wine? One writer thinks so. She recently wrote Women Winemakers: A Natural Advantage. But then can a woman writer be objective?

While interviewing and photographing for my second wine book, Oregon: The Taste of Wine, I asked a number of female winemakers their perspective on the subject.

Winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash's (from Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Oregon's Willamette valley) reply really stands out in my mind:

"One time there were a bunch of us that were having dinner with a gentleman who
I’ve been raised to believe is the foremost authority on what wine is all about. He told me that I wouldn’t be a great wine maker because I was too focused on my family and I needed to prioritize, either it’s going to be wine or my family. He’s eighty nine years old and he’s telling me this.

"I was so excited to meet the man and I was just so thrilled to be in his presence and he says that to me. He didn’t say it to any of the guys at the table he said it to me.

I was just destroyed, I came home and cried."

Here's what winemaker Luisa Ponzi from Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley has to say:

Luisa: "But I think women probably are more sensitive to aromas and tastes. I know from the women winemakers I know it seems to be that way."

Janis: "Now is that an actual an innate thing, a biological thing, or is it something that can be learned."

Luisa: "Well it can be learned. Of course it takes practice to fine tune it. But that’s a huge part of being a winemaker, getting your palate so you can taste. I know plenty of men that have wonderful palettes and can describe the wine. In fact, my husband describes wines better than I do. But, overall, I think there’s more of an intuitive sense for women."

Remind me to tell you the different replies I get from women in other cultures. I'm actually working on a book on the subject.

So, can you taste the difference?

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