The wine & women of Bordeaux

While winemaking has traditionally been a male bastion, a new generation of female winemakers are breaking the mould and shaking up the wine world. In France's Bordeaux wine region, female winemakers are stepping out of the shadows.

Claire Smith
Bordeaux women

Bordeaux is one of the world's most important wine regions. Located in the southwest of France, near the Atlantic coast, the Bordeaux region produces over 700 million bottles of wine per year. The region's known for a range of wines, from everyday table reds to some of the world's most sought after prestige vintages. Roughly one-third of France's better wines are produced in Bordeaux. And increasing amounts of them are produced by women. Here are seven to watch.

1. Caroline Frey, Chateau La Lagune
Caroline Frey is the youth-quaking 27-year-old oenologist of this vineyard in Haut Medoc, a southern district in the Bordeaux region. While her age and enviable fashionista style make her something other than the winemaker one might expect Central Casting to send in, she's earned her chops. She's a second-generation winemaker and native of France's Champagne region, and she earned her viticulture degree from the Bordeaux Faculty of Oenology in 2003. Since then she's taken the helms at La Lagune, a winery that produces two well-regarded blended wines, their premium Chateau La Lagune and their easy-drinking table wine Moulin La Lagune, both made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes. Touring Bordeaux? Book a romantic dinner or overnight stay at the chateau.

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2. Marie & Sylvie Courselle, Chateau Thieuley
These ladies are third-generation winemakers in a country and a wine region that takes its wine roots very seriously. Sisters Marie and Sylvie Courselle took over management of their family-owned winery after their father, oenology professor Francis Courselle, passed them the reins. (Grandpa André Courselle bought and ran the winery in 1950.) Both sisters studied agricultural engineering, and gained practical work experience at vineyards around the world before heading home to Chateau Thiuley. Marie handles the technical aspects of winemaking while Sylvie runs the commercial side. While Bordeaux is best known for its red wines, the sisters buck the trend and produce equal amounts of red and white Bordeaux wines. The white wines blend Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Semillon grapes, while their red wine blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very much a modern winery, Chateau Thieuley has a large list of wines on offer.

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3. Les Médocaines:
Martine Cazeneuve, Chateau Palourney
Marie-Laure Lurton, Chateau Latour de Bessan
Armelle Falcy-Cruse, Chateau de Taillan
Florence Lafragette, Chateau Loudenne

This association of four female winemakers in the Médoc district of Bordeaux works towards increasing knowledge of winemaking. The ladies also run their own chateaux. If you're thinking of hitting Bordeaux in the springtime, be sure to sign up for their one-day introduction to wine blending. Visit two of the wineries and sample wines at different stages of production, and learn about the grapes of the Médoc district, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Besides a hands-on introduction to the oenologist's art (you'll get to do some of your own blending using samples of Merlot and Cab!), you'll enjoy a luncheon featuring traditional local cuisine, as well as wines from the chateaux run by Les Médocaines. As if running their own vineyards weren't enough, these dynamic superwomen are boosting the region, too.

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