Female Winemakers in California Are Generally Better Than Their Male Counterparts

June 24, 2015

I have often lamented the under-representation of women in this business. I have long had the feeling that this under-representation correlates positively to increased competency, whether or not that relationship is causal. In Earthling language that means that just as women are rarer in this business, they are equally better at this business. Whether or not this is due to their rarity is something I won’t draw any conclusions about.

 

So I was intrigued when I saw this article from Women Winemakers of California: http://webpages.scu.edu/womenwinemakers/howmany.php.  The article measures how many of the state’s winemakers are women (10%). WWoC also published a couple of studies that purported to show that women are more successful winemakers than are male winemakers. The metric used in both studies was their representation in Jim Gordon’s Opus Vino. While I am sure that Jim’s book is a great metric to use, I wanted to measure this in a few other ways to see if it was true. If one is going to test something to see if it is true, the experiment’s rules need to be decided in advance, to make sure the test is objective. So here are the metrics and standards I decided to use:

 

Method the First:

The article linked to above has the percentages of women winemakers by region. I could measure how that statistic correlates to average wine price and wine score by region. That would take up too much of my time, so instead I figured I could just look at how those numbers are distributed against four tiers of regions. Tier One would be Napa; Tier Two would be Sonomarin; Tier Three would be all other coastal regions; and Tier Four would be all inland regions. We can be pretty sure that Tier One would garner higher scores and prices than Tier Two, which would beat Tier Three, which would beat Tier Four (but please no tears, Tier Four). If lady-parts correlate to better wine, then presumably the proportion of female winemakers would be higher in top tier than in bottom tiers.

 

Method the Second:

For the second method, I took the most recent Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines list, from 2014, trimmed out all non-California wines and scored every winery as having a female or male winemaker or one of each (typically married owner-operators). If man-parts correlate to inferior winemaking, then women’s representation in this list should be higher than in the whole population of winemakers.

 

Method the Third:

For the final method, I did the same thing as above, but the list I used was a list from Wine.com made up of the 50 most expensive California wines. 

 

Results for the First Method:

Below is a table that summarizes WWoC’s data, broken down by tier. I also added in a column for an “Adjusted” percentage. This measurement takes the cases where winemaking is shared between a man and a woman and adds half of that total to the percentage of winemakers who are women. Both measurements show that the top two tiers have a higher prevalence of women winemakers. Tiers Three and Four do look a bit similar, but close examination shows that Tier Three has a slightly higher proportion of female winemakers than Tier Four. Gals 1, Guys 0.

 

 

 

Results for the Second Method:

The table below shows my results from this study. Women make up 15% of the winemakers for Top 100 wines, despite constituting only 10% of all winemakers in California. This is a huge (50%) over-representation. On top of those, couples make up 10% of Top 100 winemakers, versus only 4% for the whole state, a 150% over-representation. Gals 2, Guys 0, with a surprising find that man-woman pairings are even more over-represented in the Top 100.

 

 

 

Results for the Third Method:

The big table below shows my results for this method. A few notes for this one. First, I used the current year winemaker. Second, I counted this by wine and not by winery, which I think increases the count of men more than the count of women, though I haven’t checked. Anyways, women are again over-represented in the Top 50 most expensive wines, with 40% more representation in the elite group than in the population. Couples fare best again, with double the representation. Ladies win, dual-gender pairs do even better.

 

 

 Why are women better at winemaking? Maybe they have more sensitive palates. Maybe their under-representation causes them to work harder. Or maybe whatever causes them to be under-represented, like gender biases, is what causes them to work harder. Maybe they are less likely to be arrogant blowhards than the men in this business - and we have a lot of those in this business - and are therefore better able to learn their trade. I don't know. Any thoughts?

 

 

Listened to While Writing this Post:

 

Song 2, Blur

Block Rockin' Beats, Chemical Brothers

Born Slippy, Underworld

Choctaw Bingo, James McMurtry

 

 

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