Wynns winemaker honoured at Women in Wine event

Sarah Pidgeon, a primary winemaker for Wynns Coonawarra, has been chosen to join elite winemakers from Australia and New Zealand at a prestigious event in Sydney.

Meet the Makers: Women in Wine will be held at Walsh Bay on International Women’s Day, and is sponsored by Cellarmasters.

“It’s a very high class, high quality event,” said Ms Pidgeon.

“They’ve chosen a great venue in Sydney, and it will be a good opportunity to network, and perhaps find some more Wynns drinkers.”

Ms Pidgeon has already won many accolades for the estate, including Winemaker of the Year for 2016 from the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Awards for Excellence. 

It’s an award that Ms Pidgeon shares with Sue Hodder, with the two women working together at Wynns.

Ms Pidgeon and Ms Hodder have both been working at Wynns for many years – 19 years for Pidgeon, and 25 years for Hodder. 

Whilst having two women at the same estate in the same region is “unusual”, Ms Pidgeon did note that there are “a reasonable number” of women working in the Coonawarra region.

“We probably have more than average – we’re doing quite well.”

But Ms Pidgeon is still concerned about the number of roles, particularly senior roles, that are still male-dominated in the wine industry here and elsewhere.

“I have thought about it a lot. Women in wine, women in the world – it’s a big theme. 

“It’s documented that about half of winemaking graduates are women, but that less than ten percent hold senior winemaking roles. 

“Women I’ve talked to who started with winemaking and then move out of it cite various reasons, many of which come back to thinking it’s too hard to stay with it.”

A reason why women may not stay in wine industries is the prejudice that they will be expected to prioritise family over their work, continued Ms Pidgeon.

“Personal scenarios are questioned more of women than of men,” she said.

“Don’t overthink the future and family. This is the number one cited worry and reason for women thinking it’s too hard to remain winemaking.

“Historically, men don’t think about this at all, they spend that mental time thinking about their next career/wine move and then making it.”

Whilst it is illegal to openly question a women’s family plans or history, a subconscious bias may still be there when a woman is being interviewed for a role.

Women are also still more likely to do the majority of domestic and emotional labour in relationships.

“Cute little gestures like doing all the laundry and the tidying, dinner planning, doing all the birthday gift buying – these guys are perfectly capable of doing half of all this stuff if you ask them. 

“You could be setting a pattern which is very hard to reverse when it’s no longer fun.”

Ms Pidgeon’s advice for women who are questioned about their personal lives is to reply that it was nobody’s business, or to ask the questioner if they would think about asking that of a man.

“Don’t give up your career. It’s worth it. You’re worth it.  Believe in yourself. Ditch the guilt.

“Start asking all the men in your life if they have made plans to look after parents, children, or partners in the future. 

“You can’t just change your workplace, you have to change the expectations of everyone around you. I’ve started asking my nine year old son these questions. 

“If that sounds crazy, then realise that last year at school when asked what he’d be doing in 20 years’ time he said he’d be a time traveller. How great, thinking outside the box. 

“My seven year old daughter at the same school said she wanted to be a scientist, but she’d have to build her lab in the back yard so she could look after Mum and Dad too. 

“So cute, and nice for me, but what a contrasting answer.

“We need to start breaking down these prejudices to make it easier for the next generation.”

Whilst Women in Wine will be in the middle of harvest, Ms Pidgeon is looking forward to attending, and hopes that it can become an annual event.