I first came across the label ‘Tinkerbelle’ when visiting a winery in Provence last summer. It’s a term that’s occasionally being used in France for female winemakers. To begin with I was not sure it was complimentary but in fact I’ve discovered that it is intended to be. Tinkerbelles are sprinkling their fairy dust around the vineyards and wineries all over Languedoc and producing some top class wines in what used to be a very male dominated profession.
I work with a lot of female winemakers and although none of them would like to be known by this appellation alone. They are proud to be winemakers and proud to be women. Take Nicole Bojanowski of Clos du Gravillas who has been producing top class wines for over 14 years from magical terroir. This ‘Tink’ is no common fairy, she works with great thoughtfulness and care producing wines with style and charm. Bridgette Chevalier of Domaine de Cébène in the Faugères appellation is living up to the Tinkerbell name by producing mystical wines that I am sure will become legendary and Katie Jones of Domaine Jones who has been making wine for a few years now has also received great acclaim. However hers’ is no fairy tale, she has had to battle against people in her community who are afraid of the change she and her like are bringing to wine making.
Languedoc wines have undergone a quality revolution in the last 15 to 20 years and I think the Tinkerbelles are at the heart of this. We also need to bless the advent of Vins du Pays which allowed wine makers to step out of the protective but also restrictive rules of AOP and begin to make wines that could compete with those innovative upstarts the New World. Languedoc’s embrace of VdP attracted people to the region from all over the world and from other parts of France but also local people, many new to wine making such as local girl Nicole Bojanowski who a little over 15 years ago caught the wine making bug. Woman are natural nurturers and I think Nicole and her counterparts brought a new feminine and caring approach to the job.
I don’t buy wines just because they were made by a woman, I buy them because they have enticed me by their delicious flavours and characteristics and the gender of the producer is very much the last consideration. However I do love a wine that contains a large drop of magic and all the Tinkerbell’s I know always deliver on that.
Have you got a favourite female wine maker?