Mentions of the “feminine” and “masculine” are difficult to avoid if you spend any considerable time talking wine. The simple truth is, we all eventually reach the end of our fruit rolodex and end up leaning on these dusty descriptors from time to time. What’s not often mentioned, however, is the clarity disparity between this weird vino gendering.
Call a wine masculine and most folks will rightly expect something highly structured, boozy, and densely flavored, with tasting notes in the leather-chair family. But what the hell is a feminine wine? Most adjacent descriptors are equally vague: ethereal, soft, nuanced, delicate, poised…what does any of that taste like? And, real talk, what does any of that actually have to do with femininity?
Since it’s Women’s History Month, we decided that instead of pinning down these wishy-washy terms, we’d toss out the categories and pop a few bottles made by actual females. Consider the following:
Montenidoli Chianti Colli Senesi 2017
She’s been called the “godmother” of San Gimignano, but that’s a term that falls egregiously short of capturing Elisabetta Fagiuoli. In a few sentences, she can explain her artful vineyard stewardship by way of philosophy, history, geology, art, and a healthy dollop of druid-like mysticism. She is more like The Sage Guru of San Gimignano than simply its godmother.
Her winemaking style is informed primarily by her twin heritages — both as a child of the vined hills of Valpilicella and of the Tuscan soils she has been fostering since founding Montenidoli with her partner in 1965. She speaks of her early lessons in winemaking as akin to learning how to make her grandmother’s soup, simply in “a bigger kitchen.”
Montenidoli wines are made naturally and organically in accordance with the land, which Elisabetta consults regularly. She lets the rich minerality of San Gimignano’s marine terroir speak through rich textures and depth of flavor, which could not be clearer in the glass.
Her Chianti Colli Senesi is an exultant expression of fresh blackberry and black raspberry with an elegant top-note of rosemary, a hearty structure, and the quintessential Montenidoli minerality — as far a cry from thin and dusky basic Chianti as you can get.
Mercedes López de Heredia’s
Viña Tondonia Reserva 2008
As the beneficiary of the third-oldest Bodega in all of Rioja, Mercedes finds herself some 145 years later not only in the position of producing some of the most intricately-made wines in the world, but also of protecting the winemaking tradition itself. Trends towards rowdy fruit and aggressive oak aging threaten to steamroll the much more painstaking process of assembling Rioja’s iconic and fastidiously aged Tempranillo blend.
But Mercedes herself, and the López de Heredia wines made by her hand, remain unfazed. The 2008 Reserva is savory, bright, complex and obviously age-worthy. Classic notes of balsamic and crisp red fruit are accentuated by smoky herbs, licorice, and maple syrup.
Teresa Heuzenroeder & Jennifer Doyle’s
Jansz Tasmanian Sparkling Rosé NV
Likened to the climate of Champagne by OG Champenoise Louis Roederer, the Pipers River region of Tasmania has become Australia’s premier sparkling wine region. Jansz, the first Tasmanian house to produce sparkling wines made in the Traditional Method of Champagne, enjoys the combination of cool climate and crunchy basalt soils perfect for growing flavor-rich Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Caring for this land and fruit is head viticulturist Jennifer Doyle. She and winemaker Teresa Heuzenroeder put their full focus on the vineyard, walking the rows daily to monitor the grapes’ slow ripening until they are ready to be hand-harvested and transformed by the vinification magic now known as Méthode Tasmanoise.
For their rosé sparkler Teresa uses all Pinot Noir, which is aged three years on its lees after secondary fermentation. The wine is a deep pink rose color with aromas of fresh berries and a flavorful and gauzy mousse of strawberry, mulberry, and a little tangerine.
While we may not have gotten to the bottom of the feminine wine mystery, two conclusions are quite clear:
(A) Each of these distinct wines are dang delicious.
(B) There’s no question that woman-made wines should top your list.