BUENOS AIRES - When television was in black and white, women took care of the home, which included buying wine for the family dinner. By the time TV was in color, the reds and whites were typically selected by the men of the house -- and the restaurants.
But lately, more and more women have joined the ranks of the male-dominated wine world, with some taking over as sommelier in exclusive wineries. Indeed, in the past five editions of the Best Sommelier in Argentina competition, the winners have all been women, including Agustina de Alba, who has claimed the honor twice.
Of the three sommelier schools of Buenos Aires, two are run by women and at the Argentinian School of Sommeliers – founded by Marina Beltrame, a pioneer in the wine world – half of the graduates are women.
“Today, women are anchored in the wine business. So much so that there are now more wines named after women because they’re made by women,” says Ana María Rodríguez Compta, from the Buenos Aires Center of Oenologists. She explains the increased number of women in the wine business: “It’s no coincidence. Women have developed a certain predilection for wine, but mostly they are more daring, they don’t have preconceived ideas. In a restaurant, a man might be embarrassed to send back a bottle because he doesn’t like it. A woman wouldn’t be, she would ask for another one.”
Sommelier Aldo Graziani agrees: “The myth that women only drink white wine could not be further from the truth. Today, women drink red wine, take wine tasting courses, want to learn more, like to talk about wine and have the palate to be able to choose what they like to drink.”
This year, a European study involving 10,500 people in five countries found that 58% of women knew more about wine than men.
Journalist María Josefina Cerutti is about to publish “Neither Drunk nor Asleep”, a book in which the relationship between wine and women is examined from ancient Greece – where women drank wine and enjoyed it as much as men – “and the Roman Empire, after which Jews, Muslims, Christians, Calvinists, Victorians and the upper class threw us out of the party.”
In her book, Cerutti writes, “We spend more time in the kitchen than men do, and this has taught us about spices and aromas. Our brains retain the memory of certain smells, to which we are more sensitive.” She also says, “Since we have a different body, isn’t it normal to experience things differently?”
Ana Amitrano, commercial manager for the Zuccardi family winery, has no doubts about the fact that women have better “noses” and how it has changed the wine world: “Today, women’s attitude toward wine has changed: they have become actors. Curiosity drives their decisions: they choose, decide, give their opinion and drink. Women listen to their senses better than men, and wine is the most sensory of drinks. Today, women have a strong presence in the wine world – as employers but also in regard to communication. The contribution that they have made, and continue to make, is remarkable.”
Marina Beltrame was one of these women. When wine was still a man’s world, she brought an unknown word to attention: ‘sommelier.’ In the 1990s, she came back to Argentina after studying in France, to become the first master sommelier in her country. She is convinced that being a woman made everything easier for her: “People paid attention – a women drinking a glass of wine is interesting. I think there was always women in the wine business, but now we’re no longer invisible any more.”