Women of the Vine 2015 – Where’s Australia?


This week, the week of International Women’s Day 2015, I’m jetting off to attend the first ever global celebration of women in the wine industry! And, even though I was invited to attend and contribute, it nearly didn’t happen. We’ll get to that in a minute…but first, let’s talk about this ground breaking event.



Women of the Vine Global Symposium 2015

The inaugural Women of the Vine global symposium is taking place on 13 – 15 March in California’s Napa Valley (not a bad spot, huh?!) and it’s the first time that women from all over the world working in wine have had the chance to connect, network, mentor, collaborate and support each other.

The symposium is the brainchild of US based fabulous lady of wine Deborah Brenner. She’s the author of the groundbreaking book Women of the Vine. Published in 2007 it was the first book of its kind to shine the spotlight on women in the industry. The symposium is an extension of Deborah’s passion for bringing more attention to women in wine.

deborah brenner
Deborah Brenner, Women of the Vine

“We have built what we believe to be a first-of-its-kind gathering of women in the wine business worldwide,” said Deborah. “Our goal is to bring together professionals from every aspect of the industry to ensure that women will continue to advance in leadership roles in the future.” (Fist punch in the air!!! I get so excited every time I read that statement.)

The event will feature some of the most fabulous keynote speakers, panelists and moderators from all over the world, who will share their expertise with participants seeking to hone their business skills, gather fresh ideas and network with other like-minded women in the wine industry.

Educational programs include session on leadership skills and communication tactics with networking wine events, author book signings, winemaker dinners and a Grand Tasting Gala Event also planned.

So why did I nearly miss out on getting to Women of the Vine?

Well, here’s the thing…

The global response to Women of the Vine has been incredible, with brands and attendees from all over the world getting involved to demonstrate their commitment to supporting gender equality and diversity in the wine industry.

All, that is, except for Australia. Let me share a few interesting facts with you on that:

The number of Australian wine brands who

Notice a pattern there?

Due to the fact that no Australian wine brands (or our industry body) came on board to contribute financially to the symposium and that attendance by Australian women of wine is virtually nil has meant that, despite being invited and asked to contribute, the organisers found themselves unable to offer me any financial assistance to help pay for my travel or time.

Not wanting to give up this opportunity to participate in the one conference I have dreamed of, I went about trying to source my own funding to get there. Surely my industry body would offer some support? Surely brands would jump at the chance to demonstrate to their consumers, staff and the world at large their commitment to supporting gender equality and diversity?

However, after being knocked back at (almost) every turn, my enthusiasm in heading to Napa is now mitigated by a sense of embarrassment at where our nation stands on this issue on a global stage. The absence of Australian brands, and attendees, will be something I am sure I will be questioned on.

What exactly does this demonstrate about Australia’s support of women in the wine industry?! No matter which way I turn this over in my mind, no matter how many excuses I hear (“It’s too far to go”! “It’s the middle of vintage here”!) I just can’t think of any way in which this looks good for Australia. It’s more than embarrassing – it’s shameful.

And now for some good news…

In the last few days I have finally had some good news. The gorgeous, fabulous, wonderful team at De Bortoli wines has come on board to provide me with some partial funding assistance. Hooray! So you’ll be seeing me thank them profusely from now on – starting immediately. Thank you De Bortoli!

Hip hip hooray for De Bortoli Wines! De Bortoli are the only wine brand providing assistance for my attendance at WOTV2015.

Also, I am delighted to confirm that there are definitely two other Australian women attending – though they too are largely self funded (and have a very similar story to share). Double hooray!

I have teamed up with and will be travelling to the event with fabulous winemaker and sustainability advocate Sonia Ghiggioli (@soniaghiggioli) , and we’ll be joined there by viticultural superstar Mary Retallack (@RetallackViti) who is also using her talents on the organising committee.

I’m looking forward to joining these women, and hundreds of others from across the globe, to celebrate and support women in wine. You can be part of all the excitement and see what I’m up to by following my posts and pics on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter over the next week as I share with you my favourite highlights of what’s sure to be the most fabulous wine conference ever.

This experience has demonstrated once again that in Australia we have a LONG way to go in recognising and providing tangible support for women in our male dominated wine industry. Is this the wake up call we need in order to start to see real change come into effect? Is embarrassment on a global stage enough to change minds and policies? I expect nothing of the kind. But I do hope for it.

And I’ll be doing whatever I can in my own small way to make the change I want to see.

See you in Napa.