The results of the Landbouweekblad Woman Winemaker of the Year competition have just been announced and the winner is Andrea Freeborough of Fleur du Cap wines. This competition, now in its seventh year, appears to be increasing in popularity in terms of both the number of winemakers entering and the number of wines they have chosen to submit.
And yet, the competition itself is not without controversy - a heated and very unladylike online furore greeted Susan Wessels (now Erasmus) from Vrede en Lust when she won a few years ago and still questions are asked about why such a competition exists at all – after all, we don’t have a competition for gay winemakers or black winemakers or one-legged winemakers so why is something separate needed for women?
I have to confess that I certainly used to think that way too. But then I was asked to be a judge on the competition and my attitude changed overnight. Over the last three years, I’ve heard some very sad and frustrating tales of unequal pay, lack of managerial support and downright discrimination from several of the finalists we’ve interviewed. It appears that, although we would like to think otherwise, women still do not always get the breaks and treatment they deserve in the wine industry.
The format of the competition has changed this year and the customary interviews have been done away with. Whereas previously the winner was the finalist who was doing most to uplift women and be a role model for younger female winemakers, now the competition is solely for the best wine tasted on the day.
And with that in mind, Andrea Freeborough is an extremely worthy winner since she managed to bag not only top marks for her Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2009, but also second place for her Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chardonnay 2009 as well! Showing concentrated baked yellow fruit (apricots and pears), with balanced acidity and sugar and a lengthy finish, the winning wine is made from mostly Chenin Blanc. Available from good local retailers at approximately R110 per half bottle, I suggest you try it with Blue Cheese Bites with Kumquats or a delicious Sticky Spiced Orange Cake. Go and buy a bottle and sip it for the sisters!