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Top 50 most powerful women in wine: 30-21

The third instalment of our top 50 powerful women in wine reveals those ranked from 30 to 21.

This list of powerful women in wine was drawn up in a bid to draw the trade’s attention to the more authoritative and important role played by women in the wine industry. We’ve looked at a wide range of areas including wine journalism, promotion and production.

We are now closing in on the top 20 most powerful women in wine and those ranked here include the likes of US winemaker Helen Turley and Alexandra and Stephanie de Nonancourt from Laurent-Perrier.

We have already revealed those women who we have have ranked from 50 to 41 and earlier this week we revealed the women ranked 40 to 31 in our power list.

The list can be found in its entirety in the December issue of the drinks business, out next week. Disagree with our order or feel we’ve left someone important out? Have your say in the comment box below.


AGE: 52
Known to many as the “Evita of Wine”, Balbo is the most famous female winemaker in Argentina. Earning her oenology degree in 1981, her work as the first Argentine consultant abroad took her to Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa and Spain. After 20 years of producing wine for other people, in 1999 Balbo struck out on her own and created Dominio del Plata, in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, in the middle of a 20-hectare vineyard planted with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Torrontés. Selling the wines under her own name, Balbo also has a line of fruit- forward second wines, Crios de Susana Balbo, designed to be enjoyed young.


AGE: 55
US winemaker Helen Turley is best known for bringing some of California’s most famous cult wines into the international spotlight. She owns a cult wine of her own, being at the helm of the increasingly popular 3.5-hectare Marcassin Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast, which specialises in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. She has consulted for the likes of California heavyweights Colgin, Kapcsandy and Bryant Family Vineyards. Starting out in the lab of Robert Mondavi Winery, she went on to become the founding winemaker of the Peter Michael Winery in Sonoma County, where she developed Les Pavots, Peter Michael’s flagship Bordeaux blend. She is currently writing a book about her experiences at Marcassin.


AGE: 52
Our Woman of the Year 2008, Cullen has been instrumental in putting Western Australia’s Margaret River on the quality wine map. Becoming chief winemaker at her biodynamic family estate in 1989, and managing director in 1999, Cullen has catapulted her wines onto the international world stage while rigorously experimenting in the vineyard, especially with soil and trellis management. A pioneer of both organic and biodynamic viticulture, her attention to detail has also seen her commitment to environmental issues, converting the winery to natural power sourced from nearby wind farms and turning Cullen into the first carbon neutral winery in Australia.


The Harvard-educated, New York-based investment banker gave up her day job with Salomon Brothers in 2000 to set up the Aquitaine Wine Company, a Bordeaux négociant focused on female winemakers. One of only a few female-owned, and the only American négociant in the region, Calvet has formed partnerships with over 100 family-owned properties, visiting over 2,500 estates to assemble the portfolio, which offers one of the largest selections of quality Bordeaux in the US. “My closest relationships are with women producers. I can depend on them, there’s a friendship and a trust. I’m proud to sell their wines,” she says.


As viticulturist for one of Australia’s two “first growths”, Hill of Grace, Henschke has her hands full. Taking on the role in 1987, she is custodian of the jewels in the Henschke crown: the Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone single vineyards. A green pioneer, her recent regeneration programme has restored over 30% of Henschke land to Australian native grasses. A fifth-generation member of the Henschke family, which celebrated its 170th birthday last year, Prue is currently trialling new grape varieties and clones in the Barossa Valley, Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills. “My mantra is to live within the natural landscape, not on top of it,” she says.


This year has seen a number of celebrities jump on the wine bandwagon, with wine increasingly becoming the celebrity pet project du jour. In February, actress Drew Barrymore launched her eponymous Barrymore Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2011 with a label designed by American street artist Shepard Fairey. Three months later, singer Fergie released her Santa Barbara-based Ferguson Crest range, including a Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and single estate Syrah. Meanwhile, New York-based reality TV star Bethenny Frankel got in on the act with her Skinnygirl range of low- calorie California wines earlier this year after the success of her low-calorie margarita range. On the marketing side, as the face of Moët & Chandon Champagne, Scarlett Johansson (above) has helped increase sales of the LVMH- owned fizz, adding a dose of glamour to the brand. Not to be outdone, Angelina Jolie co-owns Château Miraval in Provence with actor Brad Pitt, which produces Cinsault/Grenache rosé Pink Floyd among other wines.


The renowned “terroiriste”, agri-scientist and oenologist, alongside her husband and partner in wine, Philippe, advises some of the best names in the wine game on the state of their soil. In 1990, the pair founded their own research and analysis laboratory in soil microbiology called LAMS. Together they have co- penned Soil, Earth and Fields, which is considered an agro-ecology key text. Bourguignon consults for numerous wineries in France and abroad, including Selosse, Huet, Dujac, Château le Puy, Keller, Elio Altare and Harlan Estate, helping growers understand the complex biological makeup of their vineyards. She spends most of her working time consulting on wine.


AGE: 34
While busy running the family spirits business, Tesseron Cognac, Melanie Tesseron is becoming increasingly involved with the family wine estate – flying fifth Château Pontet-Canet, which she manages alongside her uncle Alfred. Becoming known globally as the face of the biodynamic brand, particularly in Asia, Tesseron joined the estate in 2005 and has helped Pontet-Canet pursue its biodynamic goal – it achieved full certification in 2010. Pontet-Canet has recently gone on sale at Tesco via its online platform, Wine by the Case, and on the new UK website for US retailer Costco as part of its fine wine offering.


AGES: 53 & 49
Having been handed the reins of Champagne’s largest family-owned house, Laurent-Perrier, after the death of their father Bernard in 2010, the sisters Nonancourt now run the fourth largest house in the region in terms of both bottles shipped and turnover. They preside over 150 hectares of vineyard land, buying 89% of their grapes in, which go into creating the house’s 7.2 million bottles. In addition to Laurent-Perrier, the Nonancourts also own the highly prized Salon Champagne, Delamotte, and Vicomte de Castellane. Since taking control, the sisters have invested heavily in the new cuverie for prestige cuvée Grand Siècle, along with the launch of magnums and Jeroboams of library wine Grand Siècle Les Reserves.


AGE: 45
As chief winemaker of Château d’Yquem, Garbay is responsible for making one of the most prestigious sweet wines in the world. Owned by LVMH and presided over by Pierre Lurton, she became winemaker at the Sauternes estate aged just 31, having joined Yquem as a lab director in 1997. During her time at the estate, Garbay has given Yquem more freshness and less time in barrel, and has increased production to just over 100,000 bottles a year. She has also helped make dry white Ygrec fresher, crisper and less oxidative, an achievement she’s equally proud of.

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