There was a time when women weren't permitted to enter a wine cellar while they had their period. Period. Men believed it would spoil the wine. Today, most of the ridiculous superstitions like that one are long gone from the enlightened world. In fact, in all areas of wine production, marketing, sales, management and governance, women now work interchangeably with men. From my vantage point, in North America, Australia, New Zealand and some parts of Europe, women's "emancipation" within the business appears to be complete. But I'm a man. Might I be getting a blinkered male view? Three high-profile women share their own experiences in the wine industry.
Deborah Pratt, winery public relations manager, Inniskillin Wines
Deborah Pratt had no plans to leave teaching when she began helping her friend Donald Ziraldo. But once she started working with him at his newly licensed Inniskillin Wines, she was completely taken aback by how exciting the wine industry was, and what tremendous potential it offered. She knew immediately she could contribute to its growth. "At the beginning, there was no credibility given to women. The wine business was a male-dominated field," she says, "but Donald was always on the leading edge." Donald travelled a lot to discover new grape varieties and marketing techniques. "On his regular visits to California, he saw women involved in the industry and the impact they had on the business," Deborah says, adding, "I came in full of confidence, knowing that all my skills applied extremely well to the marketing strategies of Inniskillin." Thirty-four years later, she's one of Inniskillin's longest-serving employees and still its biggest promoter. For young women thinking of entering the wine business, Deborah recommends learning a second language, keeping an open mind, and travelling the world to get a better perspective on both Canada and the wine business.