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Wine, women in Morges

The band of women winemakers has just seven members, all female bosses of winemaking businesses (picture: www.Arvinis)

Switzerland's small band of women winemakers are the star attractions at this year's Arvinis wine fair in Morges.

Wine is one of Switzerland's best-known secrets. The Swiss cleverly keep most of it for themselves.

But as in many other countries, it is still very much a male-dominated profession. There is, of course, no reason why women should not be just as talented in the cellar as men, and that is precisely what the members of the Artisans of the Vine and Wine have proven.

Set up four years ago, this association has just seven members, all female bosses of winemaking businesses.

"Winemaking is a very masculine business, but these women have proven that they can make very good wine, and we wanted our visitors to discover the interesting things they are doing," says Nadège Fehlmann, the director of Arvinis.

Wide variety

The seven women hail from four cantons - Vaud, Valais, Geneva and Graubünden - and come from a variety of backgrounds. "We are not all the daughters of wine-producers," says Caroline de Wurstemberger, president of the Artisans.

One of the few things they have in common is their gender. The wines they produce are as varied as the regions they come from and the grape varieties they use. Indeed, a pleasing consequence of this grouping is that it has allowed a broad spectrum of Swiss wines to be presented under a single banner.

Modelled on a similar Italian organisation, the association was created with the aim of allowing them to share their experiences, pool their knowledge and, above all, promote the image of the woman in the world of wine.

Respect

However, de Wurstemberger, one of three original members of the association, says she has not encountered hostility from men in the industry: "At first, they smile, but gradually there's respect, once they realise how professional we are," she told swissinfo.

The influence of women in this sector is on the increase, too, as a result of the growing number involved in journalism and the restaurant trade.

But do women bring different qualities to the process of winemaking? Some believe they do. Many wine writers say they can tell when a woman has had a hand in producing a wine.

Different approach

"They often have another approach to winemaking. Men and women have different tastes," Fehlmann says.

De Wurstemberger agrees: "We are not shy about producing wines that reflect our tastes, whereas men perhaps produce wines that are more geared towards consumers."

Consumers are what Arvinis is all about. Now in its seventh year, this celebration of the grape is expected to attract up to 17,000 visitors. They are attracted - not surprisingly - by the chance to sample a wide variety of wines.

"We want to help people choose wines that they like," Fehlmann says. "We give them the opportunity to taste the wines. In a supermarket they have to judge by the label."

Servagnin

Morges is in the heart of La Côte, one of Switzerland's finest wine-producing regions. But while Arvinis allows the organisers to put local wines in the shop window, it is far from parochial. Wines from all over the world can be compared to the best Switzerland has to offer.

But one local product has attracted plenty of attention in the run-up to this year's event: Servagnin. This red grape variety, native to the Morges region, has hardly been used since the 1950s, due to its low yields and susceptibility to rot.

Now it is being produced commercially again. "We are very proud to have it here for the first time. It's something traditional that's making a comeback," says Nadège Fehlmann.

By Roy Probert


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