Douglas Blyde on the women winning at winemaking

Douglas Blyde
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At drinks-led dinners, I ask guests to decipher — blind — aspects of wines from provenance to price, and sometimes whether they bear a male or female touch. They invariably accurately identify the maker’s gender.

Julia Stafford, founder of Wine Pantry, a shop devoted to British drinks, attributes luck to such deduction, although tasting a drink’s target gender is child’s play: ‘The sweeter the wine, the more likely the audience is female. Add enough sugar to lemon juice and it will taste good. But the assumption women always choose sweeter wine is patronising and obsolete — they want quality.’

Meanwhile, Neleen Strauss, restaurateur of High Timber overlooking the Millennium Bridge, is droll: ‘If the wine tastes like it can multitask, it was definitely made by a woman. But seriously, the divide isn’t between men and women, but those devoted to making and selling good wine versus those whose first and last thoughts are commercial.’

Born in vine-free Bremen to doctor parents, Eva Fricke crafts lucid Rieslings, including her greengage-scented, flinty Kiedricher QbA Trocken 2015 from a microscopic vineyard hugging steep slate in the Rheingau, a five-hour drive south (£20.60; laywheeler.com).

Norma Ratcliffe was one of the first women to make wine in South Africa. As head winemaker for three decades at Warwick, Stellenbosch, she still oversees press tastings, including mine, and informs the house style, overseeing protégé Nic Van Aarde. Warwick Estate Trilogy 2011 is Cabernet-led with graphite, mulberry and vanilla flavours (£19.50, thewinesociety.com). Daughter Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright continues the bloodline as a Cape Wine Master.

Cherie Spriggs commands operations at England’s most prominent wine estate, Nyetimber, conferred by Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves as part of the annulment settlement. Coral-coloured, the adult rosé is buoyant and honeyed, leaving raspberry and bergamot scent trails (£45, winepantry.co.uk).

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