Hi, wine lover! It’s harvest time and Mendoza is one big party. The grapes are coming in, it’s the busiest and most exciting season in the wineries and vineyards of this part of the world!
Now is when the fruit painstakingly tended to for the past year is brought into the winery and the roads of Mendoza are full of trucks carrying grapes that will be one day be poured out for toasts. At the end of summer, the air here fills with hope, gratitude and excitement.
It’s also a period when the industry holds a lot of events and because I’ve now been living here for over a year, I was lucky enough to enjoy a few.
At one of them, I met Estela Perinetti, an Agricultural Engineer who has already led a very distinguished winemaking career: she has been head oenologist at Escorihuela Gascón, worked at Catena Zapata and subsequently took charge of Luca and La Posta for Laura Catena, just to name a few of her roles.
She is also a viticultural consultant and developer and in 2019 founded her own company, Las Estelas Wines, which is based at the family vineyard in Tupungato. She is the quintessential woman of wine.
Her name is associated with the national drink of Argentina because in addition to her extensive experience, in 2015 she and a group of women colleagues in management positions decided to work together to raise awareness of their contribution to the industry and create a space in which to collaborate and provide support to one another.
She and the sommelier María Laura Ortiz, founded the non-profit Club de Mujeres Profesionales del Vino. The initial membership numbered 15 and that figure has now risen to 135 from across the country as well as several Argentine women in the wine industry who work overseas.
In month when we celebrate the International Women’s Day, let me share some of the highlights of my conversation with Estela Perinetti. You can talk to her forever about all manner of subjects but my biggest takeaway is that everything to do with wine, from the vineyard to the glass, is definitely, without a doubt, women’s business.
Estela Perinetti: seeing is believing
It began with frustration. Or rather a realization: the fact that women weren’t getting nearly enough credit for their work. “The idea of the Club came about because many women weren’t getting as much recognition in their roles – in the media, for instance – as men, and that meant fewer opportunities,” says Estela.
So, banding together was a response to a pressing need. And although she acknowledges that her movement has helped to improve women’s lot; it’s a fact that more women are now employed in decision-making positions, there’s still a long way to go before they achieve equality.
“Today, the same number of women are graduating as men, but we only occupy 12 to 15% of management roles. Appearances in the specialized press in Argentina and overseas, and getting our names out there in the business world were some of our biggest achievements in helping women in the wine industry to become more prominent over the past few years.”
A constantly expanding project
The Club’s first activities were an expert tasting with terroir-based wines and a dinner. They worked and were followed by more tastings and dinners, talks from the club’s specialists, and press events. Today, on their Facebook page and Instagram account, they continue to work according to their founding principles but one of the challenges has been to adapt to their growing membership.
“Although women are carving out greater space for themselves, there’s still a lot to be done before we have real equality in the world of wine. Still, Argentina is a few steps ahead and we need to take advantage of that,” Estela Perinetti continues. The expert encourages young women to get into the wine industry if they feel a calling. “It’s hard work, with a lot of risk, but it’s creative, fun and has an international dimension.”
So, although there’s still a long way to go, people like Estela and her colleagues in the Club are truly inspirational, forging new paths and raising their voices so the talent, effort and dedication of women in the wine industry get the recognition they deserve. Let’s keep at it. Until next time, cheers!