Women in Wine: International Women’s Day
Join us as we celebrate International Women’s Day with some of Australia’s top female winemakers.
It takes a lot hard work and skill to make it to the top ranks of Australian winemaking but that’s exactly what Janice McDonald, Liz Jackson, Louise Rose, Marnie Roberts, Nina Stocker and Callie Jemmeson have done. In what is a traditionally male dominated industry, these super-talented ladies, and many others, have shown they have the goods to make and market world-class wine.
Marnie Roberts and Carrisa Major – Chief Winemaker and General Manager, Claymore Wines
The formidable duo of Claymore Wines’ chief winemaker Marnie Roberts and general manager Carrisa Major, make Australian wine rock.
Under their leadership, Claymore Wines produces outstanding Clare Valley wines that are playfully named after popular song titles including Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc, Joshua Tree Riesling, Skinny Love Summer White Viognier Whole Lotta Love Rosé, Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz, and Bittersweet Symphony Cabernet Sauvignon.
Carissa began her career working for Clare Valley industry leaders including Tim Knappstein and Andrew Hardy after taking a gap year. “I really got sucked in by wine and found this amazing industry that brings people together while opening up the world,” she says.
Marnie says her passion for wine and the craft of winemaking goes back to her childhood. “Growing up on a block in Mildura that went from citrus to dried fruit to wine grapes, I have always had an appreciation for the fruit. The love of wine was the next step,” she explains.
“I remember one night, when I was around 19 or 20, going to a friend’s house who was studying to be a winemaker and he opened a 1994 Lindeman’s Pyrus. A wine from Coonawarra that is a Cabernet Sauvignon /Merlot and Malbec blend. IT WAS MASSIVE and I thought wow, I need to try more wines. It really blew my socks off as I hadn’t tried anything as big and succulent as that before.”
She says she loves the winemaking process and the chance to follow it the whole way through. “From the vineyard basics of pruning and harvesting to ferment to batching to oak to tank to bottle to mouth….it’s an amazing journey that I get to guide these babies through.”
Further reading: Meet Carissa Major and Marnie Roberts of Claymore Wines
Nina Stocker and Callie Jemmeson – Chief and Assistant Winemakers, In Dreams
It’s a case of double girl power at In Dreams, where Nina Stocker and Callie Jemmeson have teamed up to create superb Yarra Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Born and raised in a town on the border of the Alsace wine region in Switzerland, chief winemaker Nina says it was her family’s involvement in a local village vineyard that inspired her career as a winemaker.
She moved to Australia and graduated with a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree at Monash University, which she followed it up with a post-graduate degree in Winemaking at the University of Adelaide.
Nina says during her first vintage she worked as a cellar hand doing jobs like digging grape skins out of drains. “I loved it, and realized winemaking was what I wanted to do!”
The other half of the team, assistant winemaker, Callie Jemmeson, grew up with wine in her blood. She says her passion for wine was sparked at a young age during family holidays to Chianti in Italy, and tastings at Louis Roederer in France.
She qualified and worked a chef, before she was lured back to the world of wine studying winemaking at Charles Sturt University and working for De Bortoli in the Yarra Valley, Littorai Wines in California, and Fattoria Zerbina in Romagna.
Nina and Callies also make wine for their own range of wines under their Wine Unplugged brand.
Janice McDonald – Chief Winemaker, Burch Family Wines
Burch Family Wines’ chief winemaker, Janice McDonald, not only crafts exceptional wines, she also brews beer for the Margaret River Ale Company, in her spare time.
Growing up the Central West NSW township of West Wyalong, Janice says she developed an interest in wine while studying science at Sydney’s Macquarie University. The interest turned to a passion and she completed a winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University.
Her career includes head brewing positions at Matilda Bay and Little Creatures, winemaking roles at Vasse Felix, Brown Brothers and Devil’s Lair; and founding Stella Bella, where she was chief winemaker for 10 years.
As the Chief Winemaker at Burch Family Wines Janice is responsible for all winemaking of the Howard Park, Marchand & Burch, Jete Methode Traditionelle and Madfish brands.
Liz Silkman – Chief Winemaker, First Creek Wines and Silkman Wines
With a long list of accolades and a truck load of Trophy and Gold medal-winning wines to her name, Liz Silkman (nee Jackson) is Australia’s undisputed queen of Chardonnay.
As chief winemaker at the Hunter Valley’s First Creek, she’s responsible for making not only their wines, but also the wines of more than two dozen Hunter labels made under contract.
Liz and her husband Shaun Silkman, who is winemaker too, have their own label, Silkman Wines, with their first vintage released in 2013. Since then, they’ve won countless awards for their Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot.
Add to the mix, time spent as a judge on the Australian wine show circuit and being a mum to two young daughters and you have one very busy lady.
Louisa Rose – Chief Winemaker, Yalumba
A leader within Australia’s wine industry, Louisa Rose is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most experienced and talented winemakers.
Louisa’s career with Yalumba spans over 25 years with her passion for Viognier and her developmental work of the varietal making her name synonymous with Viognier across the world.
She has a string of accolades to her name including the 2014The Age Australia’s Best Winemaker, the 2008 Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year, and in 2004 the International Wine & Spirit Competition named her the winner of the Women in Wine award.
Chief winemaker at Yalumba since 2006, Louisa is also acknowledged as one of the country's top Riesling makers, crafting Yalumba’s Pewsey Vale Riesling for 20 years.
Amongst her other hats, she is a Director of the Australian Wine Research Institute, an active member of wine industry councils and advisory boards, and a wine show judge.
Further Reading: Louisa Rose talks Viognier in our variety guide