Women are playing a growing role in New Zealand's multimillion-dollar wine industry

Anna Robbie says owning the Mt Michael winery has been a steep learning curve.

Anna Robbie says owning the Mt Michael winery has been a steep learning curve.

Anna Robbie, director of Central Otago winery Mount Michael, says she never expected to end up running her own winery.

Her family is from the region and owns a wine bottling and storage facility. In 2015, her father's health issues prompted her to quit her job and start to learn the business.

"The grass looked a lot greener when it came to producing wine and so once new management had been appointed in my father's business, I purchased Mount Michael Wines. 

"Some young people buy their first house, but at the time this felt like a better opportunity and so far it's been a great journey, albeit a steep learning curve."

READ MORE: New Zealand's 'first lady' of wine honoured for contribution to Marlborough wine industry

Robbie is one of a growing number of young women carving out a niche in the New Zealand wine industry. The industry, with about 700 wineries, employs roughly 7600 people nationwide.

This year, the New Zealand Winegrowers Association has two women on its board for the first time – Katherine Jacobs from Big Sky Wines and Rachel Tauleli, of Kono NZ.

It is also starting a new Women in Wine initiative to support and nurture female talent in the industry.

"There is a lack of women and a lack of young people having a go in the wine industry. The industry, at least from my point of view is ageing," Robbie said.

"There is another generation coming through, but for the most part wineries are generational businesses.  There is a misconception about what it takes to own your own wine business; I'm no millionaire and I think that business management training to show young people it is within their reach is important.

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"Perhaps this is the same reason there is a gender gap it wasn't that long ago that single women getting bank loans for start-up businesses would have been unheard of."

She said things had been quite different for her predecessor and founder of Mount Michael Wines, Sue Anderson.

"Back then she was the only woman in the room trying to negotiate things like water licenses. Sue has shared stories about some of the old farmers suggesting they wait to speak with her husband. The work these pioneering women did has had a massive impact to enable a way forward for my generation and I can't thank them enough for that."

Jacobs said it was noticeable that the New Zealand industry was becoming much more populated by women, at every level. More women were applying at vintage time to become cellar hands or winemakers and there were more women running large-scale contracting and winemaking operations.  

She will be involved in the Association's initiative for women and said it was driven by a desire to have more recognition of women in the industry and support for them.

Jacobs said she expected the number of women in the industry to continue to grow. "It's going to happen more and more, as the more there are, the more other women will realise it's a viable option. This is such an interesting industry, you can contribute in lots of different ways  with different skill sets."




 - Stuff


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