The Cabinet

of Dr. Callegari

Drink like a woman

I know this will shock all of you, unless of course you are part of the 52% of the population with ovaries, but the wine and spirits industry is still male dominated, particularly at the high end. A quick look at the numbers from the most prestigious groups of wine professionals gives you the lay of the land: of 149 Master Sommeliers in America, 24 are women. The Masters of Wine are doing better, with 117 women out of 340 in the world, although it doesn't take a mathemagician to figure out that's significantly less than half. The good news is, the wine world seems to be changing faster than the real world, and women are infiltrating from top to bottom. (If you find a pun in there, consider it very much intended.)

Not only are there more female winemakers than ever before, but there are more female everything, including pickers! In writing—though of course Jancis Robinson has long been one of the most important wine writers in the world—women are everywhere now, especially online, and their opinions are informing a new drinking audience of people who don't necessarily want tasting notes that describe wines as "tighter than a 14-year-old virgin" or "stinky like the crack of a 90-year-old nun" (as the self-proclaimed "12 Angry Men" once did, per Jay McInerney's infamous account of tasting with them). Trends are also bending toward a more gender-neutral palate. For example, the revival of interest in wines that are less alcoholic is also, incidentally, female friendly: women have higher body fat, less water and slower metabolic rates than men and thus can't enjoy as much alcohol as men can without experiencing adverse effects, even if they are the same size and age. Women have also led the way in the production and distribution of biodynamic and natural wines (like Marina Marcarino at Punset, Summer Wolf at Indie Wineries, or the "crazy Frenchwoman" Isabelle Legeron). All this means that the tools are out there and the time is ripe to start drinking like a woman, and what better way to get woke than by drinking great wine? Of course, as Dorothy Parker once said, you can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her drink. Nevertheless, she persisted.

If the month of March has put you in the mood for helping out your sisters in arms, one great way to drink like a woman is to buy from a woman. Two names to look for from Italy are Arianna Occhipinti (the Occhipinti SP68, a Sicilian red blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato, is widely available) and Elisabetta Foradori (the Foradori Rotaliano is the most affordable of her luxurious and tradition-smashing wines from the Trentino, and it never disappoints). Still in the Old World, the Nita Priorat from Meritxell Pallejà is totally unexpected and one of the only ways to taste a reasonably priced Priorat (her wines are made in the 'joven' or young style, and thus aren't meant to command astronomical prices). In the New World, look out for sophisticated wines from actual sisters Robin and Andréa McBride, and especially from the soon-to-be-household wine name Ntsiki Biyela, the first black female winemaker from South Africa now producing under her own label Aslina. While sourcing these wines requires a little leg work, for something decidedly less cult and always celebratory, try a bottle of sparkling from Chandon winemaker Pauline Lhote and toast to tearing down the patriarchy! 

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