Award winners encourage more women in wine industry

Despite many Australian women enjoying in the occasional glass of wine, fewer dabble in a career within the industry, and viticulturist Sarah Collingwood wants to change that.

Her parents have had a vineyard for the past 18 years, but she did not start working full-time in the wine industry until seven years ago.

“Now John [my husband] and I haven’t left, and we hope we’re doing this for the rest of our lives,” she said.

Ms Collingwood said women only made up roughly 10 per cent of viticulturists and wine makers in Australia.

In an attempt to improve those numbers and recognise women in the field, earlier this week the 37-year-old was among 16 women invited to pour wines they helped create at a local Canberra bar.

The gathering marked the 2016 Women in Wine Awards, and Ms Collingwood was nominated as a finalist in the owner and operator category.

Despite not placing, she was the first woman in the region nominated for the award.

“I guess generally [the industry] is a bit unrepresented by women,” she said.

“Hopefully these awards are a good way to show women there are a lot of different roles in the wine industry and it’s a great industry to be a part of.”

From grape to glass at a small winery

According to Ms Collingwood, the wineries surrounding Canberra are best known for their shiraz and riesling varieties.

“The climate is just perfect for those grapes,” she said.

“The Canberra district is seen as a pretty small wine area, we’re not as big as the Barossa and Hunter and things, but we’re definitely up and coming.”

Ms Collingwood said she and her family shared a variety of jobs at their Four Winds Vineyard.

Her role consists of being a business manager and viticulturist, which involves studying grapes and deciding when to harvest.

Her sister and brother-in-law are the winemakers, while her husband manages the vineyard.

“It’s really labour intensive for us to get the grapes that we want at the end of the season,” she said.

“We probably pick 20 or 30 tonnes and we try and pick everything in one or two days so all the grapes start to ferment at the same time.

“The vines continue to grow until February or March with the riesling and then we handpick around then.”

The family all pitch in during the crushing and pressing process by stomping on the grapes, extracting the colour from the skins.

“We joke about the harvest weight loss program because everyone during harvest loses weight because it’s long hours and quite physical as well,” she laughed.

“It takes about six months for us to have a finished product with the whites and 12 months for the reds.”

Ms Collingwood said she would encourage more women to consider a career in the industry because it was such a supportive one.

“We often joke that if our tractor broke down there would be a line of tractors outside ready to help,” she said, smiling.

ABC RADIO Canberra – Sophie Kesteven