Women of Argentina: Patricia Ortiz, Tapiz Winery
As International Women’s Day (8th March) approaches, Wines of Argentina is continuing to strengthen its commitment to gender diversity and equality at every level. It wants every organisation in Argentina’s wine industry to be actively pursuing gender balance, offering support and guidance where needed to ensure women, and men, are given equal opportunities to succeed.
It has already signed up to the UN’s Women Empowerment Principles, and has also launched a new platform to support women working in wine.
Most recently, Wines of Argentina joined the Sustainable Wine Round Table, a global coalition working to improve sustainability across the wine industry. Its aim is to lead the development of global sustainability standards and the sharing of best practices, helping to strengthen the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the global wine industry.
Among Argentina’s leading female figures is Patricia Ortiz, owner of Tapiz, Zolo and Wapisa Wineries. Ortiz bought her first vineyards following a visit to Mendoza in the early 1990s. Then, in 1993, she was able to buy a former Kendall Jackson winery. She now has vineyards in Mendoza, Salta and Patagonia. A vocal advocate for sustainability, inclusion and social responsibility, she’s also president of Bodegas de Argentina, becoming the first female to take on the role in 2019, and a member of Wines of Argentina’s board of directors.
Here, she tells db why gender equality is vital to long-term sustainability with the potential to unlock massive creative changes in Argentina’s wine industry, and why she chose to introduce a ‘Wine in Moderation’ requirement to the protocol, furthering wine appreciation among consumers.
What changes have you seen over the course of your career in terms of gender equality and opportunity for women in wine? How far have we come?
No doubt there has been an improvement. Today we actually see many women holding key positions within the industry. However they are still relatively few. There is still a long way to go until we can see equal opportunities for all genders. But the conversation is happening right now. In that sense, South America is perhaps now the focus of a debate on gender rights at the global stage. It is perhaps the key public discussion in Argentina and the Southern cone, and a lens through which many other debates are being observed and discussed. We have a window of opportunity.
What are the key objectives of Bodegas de Argentina’s Sustainability Protocol?
Understanding that sustainability is not a lifestyle, but a must. We started developing a protocol 10 years ago. We focused on ensuring there were different levels of complexity, so that all wineries, big or small, could start incorporating these issues into their daily processes. We figured out the key was to ensure a continuous improvement plan over time, on all pillars. Getting wineries to kick off the process is often the biggest hurdle. Once there is a point person within their structure who is thinking about these issues, identifying the resources available to move the agenda forward, and in contact with peers who have made further progress, things get moving.
In the more recent iterations we have been adding equal gender opportunities. Knowing that in order to avoid resistance, we have been focusing on nodal changes: For example, promoting the use of a blind CV in hiring processes, promoting mixed work teams and an inclusive culture. We are proud that we have 100 wineries/vineyards that already are certified by independent third parties as in compliance with these protocols, which is a big feat!
How can addressing gender equality in the workplace improve the future sustainability of wineries?
Equality decreases levels of gender violence, improves communication and makes wineries a better place to work, forming strong and motivated teams to face future challenges. It also has an impact on the broader community of which we are a part of, both increasing the income of women in the communities we belong to, ensuring that the contents of advertising around our products does not reproduce negative stereotypes.
Why is it important to highlight the achievements of women in senior positions?
We need to think about how the space each of us occupies fits into the broader puzzle we are tied into. Gender equality is having a seat at discussions around the economic, social and cultural needs of half of the population within our local professional and non professional communities, but also the country at large. The progress we are making in winemaking reverberates across other sectors as both men and women see that more can and is being done elsewhere. In some decades people will surely find it odd to see so many spaces where half the population was excluded from the conversation because of their gender. We have personal histories that have a lot of value. We are at the beginning of a process I believe and hope will unlock and trigger massive creative changes within the industry.
How have you worked to address gender equality within your own company?
We promote measures that compensate for structural disadvantages. This includes offering the same training and promotional opportunities for men and women, but also listening to their needs, especially regarding the care of their children, which still often is expected to be carried out by women. We have incorporated gender equality into the values of the company to signal to our teams that this is not a specific set of things, but an ongoing process. The bar can and should keep moving in big and small ways, in personal and professional exchanges, in formal and informal exchanges. We see it as a lens that should transverse every aspect of our work.
Wines of Argentina recently set up a Women’s Platform and subscribed to the (UN) Women’s Empowerment principles. What do you think this will achieve for Argentina’s wine industry?
Signing and being aligned with the principles of the UN, shows the strong commitment of the industry. It is also a way to signal to other communities that are working on these issues that we are here for them, and that we also expect them to be there for us. We are aware that what is at stake can and should be a shift that should rattle many structures. We are conscious that we cannot do this by ourselves, and that it is only in community with others that are also trying to make change that we will be able to move the agenda forward, and as far as these times demand.
What advice would you give to other organisations looking to support gender equality in the workplace?
Don’t sit on it, start. Sometimes it is difficult to know how or where to start. The answer is in community. Start the conversation if others aren’t. You will be surprised to find how many others are having similar thoughts and facing similar challenges. You will also discover some have made progress, others have faced pitfalls. This is not about products, but processes. Therefore, what we do with Bodegas de Argentina is helping with the deployment of protocols and providing technical assistance of trained personnel that can help wineries and accompany them in this process.
Why was it important for you to incorporate the Wine in Moderation Program into the sustainability protocol?
In our culture, wine is part of the family of rituals associated with food preparation and meals. We, who develop the art of winemaking, also feel the need to teach people about the art of wine tasting. Moderation is a catch-all phrase that stands in for the right amount in this recipe. You wouldn’t cook a meal with the whole package of salt; the same goes for wine. Enjoying wine in moderation you get all the benefits and none of the consequences of excess. We need to develop in wine drinkers the art of appreciating wine. At that point we won’t need to talk about moderation. It will be the norm, like the pinch of salt is in cooking books.
Who is your biggest female role model and why?
Marina Gayan, the first MW in South America. Trained in the UK, she has been promoting a training program for South American Master of Wine aspirants in Argentina, and dedicates time to the preparation of sommeliers, understanding the importance the professional training of communicators has for Argentine wine prospects. She is an admirable professional and person that leads by example.
You have achieved so much throughout your career. What are you most proud of?
Of the great team that I built at the company. Over the course of two decades we have come to produce high quality wine in three different wineries, each in different regions. These are wines that respect the environment and the cultural values that make the identity of the land expressed in them.
Finally, what’s your greatest hope/ambition for the future of Argentine wine?
That the world recognises Argentina not only for the excellent Malbec, but also for other varieties, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and blends. Try them out next time you visit a restaurant or winery. Trust me, our wines will surprise you!