Smashing the Glass Ceiling: the Women behind Today’s Bordeaux

Over the last few decades, women have been smashing glass ceilings throughout a myriad of industries. It’s no longer unusual to hear about female CEOs, business magnates, and multi-millionaires. In fact, in a recent study by Radius Equity, it was discovered that there is a growing number of women millionaires in the United Kingdom. The number of female powerhouses are rising at a faster rate than that of their male counterparts.

In the wine industry, we’re also seeing this shift in both purchasing and production. While the trade has once been regarded as a predominantly male-driven scene, female consumers are now flexing their financial muscle, and are slowly becoming the economic driving force in the international wine market.

More and more women are also following the footsteps of Madame Clicquot Ponsardin, “The Grand Dame of Champagne,” and famed actress and Claret producer, Lillie Langtry. As a tribute to today’s top female winemakers, Singapore Wine Vault shines the spotlight on the women behind some of France’s most delectable Bordeaux wines. We’ve sampled some of their finest tipples, and here’s our verdict.

 

Bérénice Lurton of Château Climens

Château Climens is one of the most highly regarded ‘First Growth’ or Premier Cru Classé wine producers from the Barsac appellation. Our featured winemaker, Bérénice Lurton, started running the 70-acre wine estate in 1992. Today, Château Climens remains a favorite for many Bordeaux drinkers—and it’s easy to see why.

 

2007 Château Climens. (Average Price: USD $159, excluding tax)

This is the priciest wine on our list, and along with it came our lofty expectations. Let us start by saying that this wine is worth every penny. The 2007 Château Climens is a stunning sweet wine that balances power and intensity with serious structure and finesse. It’s a luscious and potent fruit-forward wine with just the right touch of vibrancy and acidity. Luxuriant notes of white peaches, pineapples, white flowers, citrus zest, tropical fruits, and Manuka honey complete the wine’s fragrant bouquet. Although already quite the treat when enjoyed young, we believe that a touch of aging will help further refine the flavors of this succulent wine. Definitely a wine cellar must-have.

Overall score: 98

2011 Château Climens. (Average Price: USD $125, excluding tax)

Although not as finely structured as its predecessor, the 2011 Château Climens also ranks high in our list of wine vault favorites. This white Bordeaux exhibits the same finesse as the 2007 Climens, but with more floral elements layered with exotic fruit notes. A touch of Marzipan and spice enhances the wine’s sound acidity, while generous notes of honeyed sweetness bring complexity to this multi-layered wine. It has a classic nose that’s quite subtle compared to other Climens, but it definitely has the château’s trademark elegance. This is a wine of staggering potential, and like other Climens will age beautifully. Leave it in your wine cellar for another decade to let its flavors unwind.

Overall Score: 96

 

Pascale Peyronie of Château Fonbadet

Pascale Peyronie is currently the fourth-generation family owner and winemaker at the 45-acre Pauillac wine estate, Château Fonbadet. She’s the founder of the Aliénors du Vin de Bordeaux, an organization composed of female Bordeaux wine producers. Ms. Peyronie took over her family’s wine estate in 2002, and has since produced a plethora of high-quality Bordeaux wines. The following are just some of her most noteworthy tipples.

 

2011 Château Fonbadet Pauillac. (Average Price: USD $42.59, excluding tax)

This is the first red wine blend on our list, and we’re happy to say that we found the 2011 Château Fonbadet to be a delightfully classic and robust Bordeaux wine. Unlike most of the Bordeaux reds produced in 2011, this Fonbadet has a good handle on its tannins. It’s not overly dry or chewy—there’s a nice roundness and structure to this wine. In terms of flavor, expect generous notes of blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries, and a touch of ripe berries. Balancing out its fruit flavors are underlying hints of dust, tobacco, cedar, and pencil lead. Although definitely complex, we found the 2011 Fonbadet to be slightly lacking in harmony. We also discovered that this is one wine that does better with a bit of decanting.

Overall Score: 90

 

2012 Château Fonbadet Pauillac. (Average Price: USD $39, excluding tax)

This is another solid offering from Château Fonbadet. Like its predecessor, the 2012 Fonbadet is a complex, serious, but easy-to-drink Bordeaux wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the star variety in this blend, with its blackcurrant and blackberry notes dominating the wine’s flavor. Subtle notes of licorice, black pepper, and tobacco add a savory element to this rich and multi-layered wine. Although ripe for near-term drinking, we say a few years in the wine cellar will help further develop the tipple’s flavor.

Overall Score: 90

 

Laetitia Mauriac of Château La Levrette

Aside from being the co-owner of a château with a very interesting name, Laetita Mauriac is also known for being the great-niece of acclaimed French writer, François Mauriac. While family history may provide a draw for the wine-drinking literati, we discovered that Mademoiselle Mauriac is also a highly skilled winemaker. We’ve only had the pleasure of sampling one wine from Château La Levrette, but with the way the wine tasted, this definitely won’t be the last bottle we’re sampling from the estate.

 

2009 Château La Levrette – Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux. (Average Price: USD $25-$36)

Rich, spicy, and highly fragrant, the 2009 Château La Levrette is definitely one of the more interesting Bordeaux wines we’ve sampled this year. Like most Bordeaux reds, this wine offers a stunning balance between the sweet and the savory. Its ripe blackberry and blackcurrant notes go hand-in-hand with its savory polished wood and tobacco undertones. While touches of eucalyptus and mint offer a refreshing surprise to the most experienced of Bordeaux drinkers. Although this wine is ready for pouring, you can opt to keep this tipple in your wine vault for another 3-4 years.

Overall Score: 88

Valerie Vialard of Château LaTour-Martillac

Valerie Vialard is the only female winemaker in this list who doesn’t hail from a wine family. Her interest in winemaking began when she was just a child cycling through vineyards. The aromas and tastes from these vineyards greatly appealed to the young Vialard, and pushed her to study oenology at the University of Bordeaux. The road to success wasn’t easy, as she was initially subjected to the sexist treatment of male vintners. Today, she’s one of the most highly esteemed wine producers in Bordeaux, and has been making topnotch wines at Château LaTour-Martillac for about 25 years.

 

2012 Château LaTour-Martillac-Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend (Average Price: USD $33, excluding tax)

This white Bordeaux from Château LaTour-Martillac is delightfully packed with tropical fruit, honeysuckle, vanilla bean, cold cream, and citrus notes. Although brimming with floral and fruit flavors, this 2012 LaTour-Martillac also comes with fresh herbal and grassy undertones. The resulting wine is both bright and zippy, with great intensity and length. It’s definitely a wine vault must-have for fans of crisp white wines and Sauvignon Blanc varietals.

Overall Score: 91

 

2014 Château LaTour-Martillac – Red Bordeaux Blend (Average Price: USD $11, excluding tax)

Red wine lovers with a penchant for the fruit-driven will definitely enjoy this 2014 red Bordeaux offering from Château LaTour-Martillac. This thirst-quenching tipple is ripe with generous cherry and plum notes. A pronounced sweet cigar smokiness brings depth to its mouthwatering aroma. If poured without cellaring, you may find the mid-palate a touch too thin. To bring out the richness of this quality tipple, we recommend a bit of cellaring.

Overall Score: 90

The wine industry is teeming with talented female winemakers. So, the next time you’re in the mood for fine Bordeaux, try out one of the wines from this list. It might just be the bottle that will complete your wine collection.

Did we miss your favorite female winemaker? Feel free to drop us a line. Until then, happy drinking!