Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Women Emerging As Family Winery Leaders

From marketing brands to making the wines, or managing the winery, these women at family owned wineries often do it all.

Vineyard Brands is a small wine importer that handles family wineries exclusively. Three of those wineries feature  a trio of women who are making their mark on the wine world: Amélie Dugue-Couillaud of Frères Couillaud in the Loire Valley, Berene Sauls of Tesselaarsdal Wines of South Africa, and Olive Hamilton-Russell of Hamilton Russell Vineyards of South Africa.

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While these three inspirational women own or co-own wineries, their path to wine is very different. United by wine, a love for their families, and a desire to be part of a wine legacy around the globe, these women strive for success in all aspects of their businesses.

Born Into Wine: Amélie Dugue-Couillaud, Frères Couillaud

Why the wine business?

“I was born in it! I lived surrounded by vines. For my sister and me, our playground was the Muscadet vineyard. My dad has always been passionate about wine and travel, and he passed these two passions down to me. I’m the seventh generation of winemaker and it’s so special to be able to be part of this family story. Every day is different. The wine business is also about human relationships, sharing moments and time with partners and family and friends from around the world…and always around wine and food. What is better than that?”

Amélie Dugue-Couillaud of Frères Couillaud
What is the biggest challenge for you—as a woman and as a business person? And on the flip-side, what gives you the most joy in the wines business?

“Day to day the biggest challenge is just finding time, just like many working women. I have four children and work full-time. Need I say more? But for me, it’s all about finding a balance between time with my family and the excitement of work. From the vineyards to the cellar, seeing everyone try to do their very best for the winery gives me so much happiness. No matter the job, each member of the team is so important and part of our success.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“Keep your motivation- remember why you started and don’t stay in your corner. People will feel your passion.”

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If you hadn’t been in the wine business, what would you have done?

“No question, I would have been a painter. I love to paint. Maybe one day I still will…when I find enough time.”

Grew Into Wine: Olive Hamilton-Russell, Hamilton Russell Vineyards

Olive Hamilton-Russell of
Hamilton Russell Vineyards
Why the wine business?

“Quite honestly, love. I grew up on a cattle farm in South Africa, where wine isn’t really part of the way of life. I moved to the Cape to study food science and nutrition before moving to London for work. It was when I moved to London and worked in the food department at Harvey Nichols that I started to learn about wine and realized how fascinating it is. That experience led me to take wine appreciation courses. When I returned to South Africa, I met Anthony who had just bought Hamilton Russell Vineyards from his family. We are so grateful to do something we love, together.”

What is the biggest challenge for you—as a woman and as a business person? And on the flipside, what gives you the most joy in the wines business?

“Managing time is probably my biggest daily challenge. Balancing time spent engaged in the various aspects of the business—the vineyard, cellar, finance, sales and marketing, hosting visitors, local and international travel—and also time with family requires so much planning. And ensuring we have the right team both day to day and long term, so that hopefully wine will be made on our farm for years to come. But all the work to upgrade this special piece of earth we are lucky enough to live on brings us endless joy—whether it’s organic and some biodynamic farming practices, planting more indigenous trees, clearing our nature reserve of invasive alien species, properly establishing beehives. And of course, sharing our wines and the happiness they bring is pretty special.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“To always stay positive!”

If you hadn’t been in the wine business, what would you have done?

“I am a farm girl at heart. And I love the wine business because it is farming and so much more. I honestly can’t think of anything else that could bring me such fulfillment.”

Found Wine: Berene Sauls, Tesselaarsdal

Berene Sauls of Tesselaarsdal Wines
Why the wine business?

“I started my career at a wine estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Hamilton Russell Vineyards. But not in the wine business. I was an au pair for the family who owned the estate. But I was very curious to know why the wines were so sought after and decided to learn and experience the delicate process from grape to bottle. I assisted in the cellar and vineyard during harvests, in the wine certification
administration, and even export logistics and packaging. After a few years, Anthony Hamilton Russell presented me with the opportunity to start my own wine business as a wine producer. I focused on Pinot Noir and my palate was basically shaped by these wines. I named my business Tesselaarsdal, the name of my hometown.

What is the biggest challenge for you—as a woman and as a business person? And on the flipside, what gives you the most joy in the wines business?

“I am involved in every aspect- from picking the grapes to stomping, punch downs, bottling and labeling. I handle marketing by myself and I head up a team of six ladies that assist with packaging, stock control, and more. Balancing all the aspects of the business and making sure each customer knows that each bottle was personally handled, and great care and effort went into the product is a challenge. But it is also such a joy to experience the success of each vintage and the feedback from consumers all around the world. Knowing that this is the legacy I leave for my two sons Darren and Calem is very special.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“Never compromise on quality.”

If you hadn’t been in the wine business, what would you have done?

“I had no idea what I wanted to do after school. I enrolled as a fighting officer in the South African Defense Force just after finishing school!”

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