Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Her Nose Knows Better than His

April 27, 111 Wednesday 

Wine Talk: The (female) nose
2 groundbreaking studies show that women 
consistently outperform men in matters of 
odor identification and smell, and thus make 
better wine tasters.

Quite apart from historical prejudice or religion, wine has always been 
seen as a men’s preserve. Work in the vineyard and winery was heavy, 
physical, and took up long, unsocial hours. As a result, the vineyard 
and winery became a place for men only.

Furthermore the enjoyment of wine became a man thing. There were 

men-only drinking clubs and tasting events where men gathered to 
share Parker scores and boast about which wines they had the previous 
night. In England the port was passed around the table, but only after
 the women had left the room.

However women came to the fore in a very important facet of wine enjoyment.

They were proved to be better tasters.

There were two groundbreaking studies, one in Cardiff and the other in Pennsylvania, which both showed that women consistently outperformed men in matters of odor identification and smell. Furthermore another study at Yale identified that about 25% of the population had the potential to be super tasters, with the ability to taste more sensitively than the remainder of the population. 

The socalled super tasters had more taste buds 
and a greater sensitivity to taste differences.

The researchers found that women were the majority in this category.

Furthermore, it was realized that men tend to categorize wine using the 

left side of their brain. Scores, ratings and all the details surrounding 
the wine are important.

Women are more likely to use the right side of the brain, which is more 

sensory, creative and artistic. A man is generally interested in the
 minutiae of the wine. A woman is more interested in the taste.

Marketeers were slow to realize that the bulk of wine purchases are 

not made by men, but by women in supermarkets.

So women are better tasters than men, and they buy more wine than 

men, but it still took a few women pioneers and a few centuries to break 
the glass ceiling in the wider wine world. However, in the last 30 years, 
there has been a change.

There has also been a breakthrough in Israel. The hardest nut to crack 

was that of winemaker. Women could not be part of the actual winemaking 
in a kosher winery, as only Orthodox men are permitted to touch the wine, 
plant and machinery during the production process. However, they could 
be active in the vineyards and take the same managerial role in a winery 
as any winemaker in a kosher winery.

The pioneer was Tali Sandovski, who became a winemaker at the 

Golan Heights Winery in 1986 and then studied at UC Davis. She is 
the winery’s longest serving winemaker. Other women were to follow. 
Naama Mualem studied in California and Australia before taking over 
as winemaker at Dalton Winery. Another female winemaker is Irit 
Shenk Boxer who works at Barkan-Segal, which is managed by 
her father.

The first female “owner winemaker” was Orna Chillag, whose 

Chillag Winery was founded in 1998. Now there is also Tzina 
Avidan of Avidan Winery, and Roni Saslove partners her father 
in making the wines at Saslove Winery.

Women also broke into management of the larger wineries. 

Ronit Badler became the first managing director of an Israeli 
winery, managing Galil Mountain Winery.

Anat Rushansky Levy is currently managing director of Golan 

Heights Winery.

Carmi Lebenstein was firstly sales manager and later marketing 

manager of Carmel Mizrahi in the 1990s, and she recently looked 
after marketing at Barkan.

The current marketing manager at Carmel Winery is Ifat Rozenberg 

Moshan. The previous marketing managers of Galil Mountain 
and Binyamina Winery were respectively Carmit Ehrenreiche 
and Timna Shitreet.

Many of the sommeliers in Israel are women. Hadas Ezer was 

Israel’s first woman sommelier of note, at the Keren Restaurant 
in Jaffa. She is now an importer of fine burgundies to Israel. 
Ruti Ben Israel studied in Italy to become a sommelier and 
returned to Israel to become manager of Carmel’s Center for 
Wine Culture at Zichron Ya’acov. Debbie Shoham is education 
manager of the Golan Heights Winery.

Mira Eitan was Israel’s main female wine journalist, writing in

 the past for Globes and Ma’ariv. She then edited the Wine 
and Gourmet magazine for 5 years. She is now the media 
and communications manager for Carmel Winery and part 
of their wine development department.

There is a current initiative by Carmel to organize regular 

tasting and cultural events for women only. Each meeting 
is over-subscribed.

More and more women are having the confidence to

participate, taste wine and give an opinion. The development
of the women consumer and the flowering of female wine 
experts is the next trend already under way.

So the glass ceiling is well and truly cracked here too. 

Thankfully women feature strongly in Israeli wine today 
and the industry is better for their presence and expertise.

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