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#WomensMonth: Spier's women winemakers on what it means to be a woman in winemaking

In celebration of Women's Month, we chat with Spier's women winemakers Tania Kleintjies - who is the wine estates organic winemaker, Lizanne Jordaan who oversees the production of select red wine brands for the brand's export markets, and Heidi Dietstein - the estate's senior winemaker for Cap Classique and red wine, and ask them what being a woman in winemaking means to them.
Source: Supplied
Source: Supplied

BizcommunityTell us a bit about yourself - your background?

Kleintjies: Born and raised in Worcester. I attended the University of Stellenbosch where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and oenology and later received my master’s degree in Oenology. I have been a part of the Spier family since the end of 2007 and currently hold the title of organic winemaker.

Jordaan: I was born and raised in Oudtshoorn, so the Little Karoo is very much part of my DNA.

Dietstein: I was raised on a wine farm close to Bonnievale, meaning my love for wine was practically inherited. After completing a B-Agric degree and diploma in cellar technology at the Elsenburg Cape Institute in 2009, I developed a palate by working harvests all over the world - from New Zealand to California and France. Upon returning to Stellenbosch, I knew I wanted to have grape-stained hands and joined Spier in October 2015 as an Assistant Red Winemaker.

BizcommunityDo you think it’s important to have a month dedicated to women? And why.

Kleintjies: Definitely! I jump on every opportunity I get to celebrate women. And if we get a national awareness month to celebrate the amazing contributions women have made, then power to us!

Jordaan: Absolutely! As a mom of three boys, a wife and a working mom, I realised over the years that women are the glue which keeps families together. We have to wear numerous hats every minute of the day and besides keeping all the balls in the air, we need to look after all our loved one's hearts, minds and bodies. Many women do not get any respect for the above and I believe that focusing one month on what women are worth for society, gives them hope, feel appreciated and worth.

Dietstein: Yes, I think it is important to have a time where we can empower, honour and celebrate women’s strength and beauty.

BizcommunityWhat does being a woman in winemaking mean to you?

Kleintjies: Women in winemaking have been around for a long time, it’s not a novel occurrence. In any industry, women have to work harder and smarter than their male counterpart. I think only recently since there have been a magnifying glass on women’s rights, have women really been heard and inequalities highlighted. I thank the trailblazing women before me, for not giving up and making way for generations to come.

Jordaan: I love seeing, smelling and tasting an end result. I enjoy working with other winemakers and sharing with them not just my wines, but also theirs. Different styles, different regions and also personals preferences is a never-ending topic that will always excite me. If you love what you do for a living, it does not matter what your gender is.

Dietstein: I think being a successful woman in the wine industry specifically, means that you are dedicated, hardworking and passionate. Being in a leadership position as a winemaker is something that needs to be earned, yet I feel that women are often required to work twice as hard to receive the same recognition. I also think a woman has a sense for nuances and attention to detail.

These characteristics are noticeable in the wines that women have produced, from delicate Champagnes to bold red wines. There are still many challenges in the wine industry, but it’s important that women show that they can hold their own, physically, and mentally. There are requirements for the job that everyone needs to achieve and to be honest, we need to approach it more logistically.

We are all a team in the cellar. Sometimes, I think my other team members don’t notice my gender. Because of the challenge we, as women, face in the winemaking industry, we must be supportive towards each other and celebrate our achievements and what makes our wines so special.

It’s also important to always remember to be grateful and enjoy your career as a woman winemaker.

BizcommunityWhat is the best advice anyone has given you?

Kleintjies: I know it sounds very cliché, but the best advice I got was, “just be you, at this specific time and moment”. I think everyone, especially in this somewhat superficial social media dominated world, is drawn to authenticity. That is the best that you can give to everyone around you and for your own sanity.

Jordaan: Don’t let anybody tell you, you cannot reach your dream.

Dietstein: My father taught me a couple of life lessons. He would say “girl you must work hard and have a positive attitude about life and; always try to smile and be friendly as this will open up many doors for you.

BizcommunityDo you have any role models, if so, who?

Kleintjies: I have to say all the women in my family and those in the wine industry who came before me! Strength and courage are what I have learnt.

Jordaan: No not really. Nobody is perfect and therefore I get inspiration from different people in my life for different aspects of life.

Dietstein: I do have some role models in the Wine Industry, but I always try just to be myself and to grow into a better version of me.

BizcommunityAs a woman, have there been any significant challenges in the workplace that stand out for you? How have you overcome them?

Kleintjies: To me it feels like my credentials are always under scrutiny and I always have to prove myself everywhere I go. It might be all in my head, but since living the “just be you”, I have the inner peace to conduct my day to day with confidence and surety.

Jordaan: I believe that times have changed and even though the wine industry is still very male-dominated, there is such a big sector that women have been filling for the last 10- 20 years, that the distinguishment of being a female winemaker is not strange anymore.

Dietstein: It is for sure a male-dominated industry, but for me, it kind of motivates me even more to succeed. I also have good relations with my male peers and think I like to fit in well with them as a team.

BizcommunityDo you have any pearls of wisdom to share this Women's Month or words of encouragement?

Kleintjies: You can create whatever life you want, now! Dream big and work hard at it every day!

Jordaan: Believe in yourself and your worth and don’t let anybody steal your sparkle.

Dietstein: Stick to your gut instinct and not being swayed by other people.

BizcommunityAny trends we can look out for?

Kleintjies: Organic wine and natural wines’ popularity are increasing, fuelled by consumers’ awareness of what they put into their bodies and the need for full disclosure and transparency. I would also like to see more pressure on companies to certify what they say they are doing, so the processes they claim to be applying can be verified by an independent company.

Jordaan: People are more health conscious and, therefore, low alcohol and light wines are becoming more popular.
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