By Lucia Albino Gilbert, PhD –
Our new book, Women Winemakers: Personal Odysseys, reveals the passion, courage and talent of women who are successfully making their way in the male-dominated world of wineries. As professors and lovers of wine, our goal was to make women winemakers and their contributions more visible. We interviewed dozens of trailblazing women winemakers in California, France, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain, and in our book share their histories and illustrations of their odysseys and pathways.
Here, we share an edited extract illustrating the Family pathway and highlighting the “personal odysseys” of Les Fa’Bulleuses, a group of seven young women winemakers or “vigneron independants” from smaller Champagne houses in which the owners make Champagne exclusively from grapes of their own vineyards. Laureen Baillette of Champagne Baillette-Prudhomme was instrumental in creating the group, and Charlotte De Sousa of Champagne De Sousa came up with the name “Fa,” representing women, and “bulle,” French for bubble, an iconic property of Champagne.
Laureen’s personal story is similar to those of others in the group in that she grew up in a winemaking family with all daughters and is devoted to continuing the family’s farming tradition. Laureen’s father died unexpectedly when she was only twenty, prompting her to join with her mother and sister to manage the vineyards that had been in the family for six generations, and to begin her study viticulture and enology at the University of Reims. Nothing about producing their house’s Champagne was recorded by her father—all is written down now— but the family “figured things out and kept things going.” When she became the estate’s winemaker, Laureen recalled that people were lining up to buy their vineyard and that the general reaction was “in one or two years she will be gone. She is only a girl, she will not succeed.” It took several years before others in the region would become comfortable with a woman winemaker.
A theme of our conversation with the members of Les Fa’Bulleuses was the importance of friendship, mutual respect, and sharing. Laureen and Charlotte noted that Les Fa’Bulleuses is above all a story of friendship and mutual respect for each other and for a wine region that is still very masculine. The group is dynamic, creative, and works together. Several members have small children, and this dimension is a natural part of their friendship and mutual respect. They clearly understand the challenge, even today, of women running independent Champagne houses and the importance of working together creatively and intelligently to succeed in a male-dominated field. The group, for example, still needs to counter stereotypically negative views about women as winemakers.
Les Fa’Bulleuses de Champagne is creating quite a buzz in Paris, and receives positive attention for its uplifting views of the “woman in champagne.” Seau Les Fa’Bulleuses (So Fabulous), a colorful, yet elegant, cylindrical Champagne container designed by the group, holds the seven different cuvées produced by its members.
Lucia Albino Gilbert, a professor of psychology, and John C. Gilbert, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, (pictured above) hope these stories will inspire current and future winemakers and educate wine enthusiasts about what enables the careers of women who make wine. “We believe that sharing their engaging odysseys will further support the process of change that clearly is under way and provide a better understanding of how recently women have been able to come into the industry as winemakers. Pioneering women give younger women hope and also provide them with inspirational stories they can use in constructing their own futures.” For more information visit their website, www.womenwinemakers.com.
Women Winemakers: Personal Odysseys
250 pages including 35 illustrations and maps
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