Setting out on a mission to connect the women of the wine industry on a global scale, the recent Women in Wine Expo in London played a full deck of aces.

A report on the recent The Women in Wine Expo 2023 edition by Fran Bridgwater:

The WIWE 2023 edition spanned three days in London and Kent, the garden of England. The WIWE team, including Senay Ozdemir, Nadia Zammal, Janina Doyle, Alexia Hupin, Matilda, and Nelly orchestrated the seamless event which launched on Wednesday 10th May with an evening gathering at Balfour St Barts.

The historic venue is owned by the Balfour Group and renowned for its extensive selection of English still and sparkling wines. The event featured plentiful networking opportunities, music and dancing and provided an excellent platform for attendees to meet and mingle, as a forerunner to the busy two days ahead.

Senay welcomed the women warmly: “When we started the planning for Women in Wine Expo 2023, based on the successes of previous years, we set out to extend our reach globally from East to West, covering the full breadth from North to South was very important to us too.” She highlighted the full delegations from all over Europe, the US, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Georgia and Turkey together with attendees from all levels of the trade: winemakers, growers, educators, WIW-leaders and journalists. Sparkling wines from Balfour Winery and the unique bottles that the women brought from all over the world completed the first night.

WIWE visits Kent

Day two commenced with a scenic vintage bus ride on a red Route Master, transporting the women from the bustle of the City to the peace and tranquillity of Balfour Winery in Kent where the group were greeted by owner Richard Balfour-Lynn. The morning proceeded with masterclasses led by Balfour’s top team, including production manager Frances Trappey and technical manager Emma Barlow, together with the winery’s brand ambassador Janina Doyle.

The vibrant, Brazilian-born America Brewer from Oastbrook Wine Estate in nearby East Sussex, joined the Masterclass Team sharing her experiences and challenges in the wine industry. The day continued with a thought-provoking men-only panel, featuring Richard Balfour-Lynn, Rusty Rasatello (Stone Cellar Investments), Simon Thorpe MW (WineGB), and Ross Carter (The Drinks Trust), highlighting initiatives supporting women in wine across the industry.

All-male panel speakers L-R: Rusty Rasatello, Simon Thorpe MW, Ross Carter & Richard Balfour-Lynn

The British weather did not withhold the attendees to embark on tours of Balfour’s vineyards which encompassed the estate’s biodiversity, including the apple orchard and the forest, while participants sported floral-themed Wellington boots provided by the Women in Wine Expo as souvenirs.

Trends and topics in the global wine business

The final day took place in St. Katherine Docks at the Dickens Inn, with a full schedule of speakers, keynote addresses, and thought leaders in the wine trade. Speakers included CODE Hospitality’s Connector of the Year, Queena Wong (Curious Vines). As one of the wine trade’s highest profile female collectors, Queena is well-placed to spearhead what she describes as “a multi-prong approach to women in wine by raising awareness and addressing the gender bias in several aspects – women who collect wine, women working in the wine industry and women in sommellerie.” She leads a 700-strong diverse female wine industry network with a tone to build confidence, create new business synergies, encourage natural mentoring and champion positive collaborative action with each other.

Other speakers included Laura Riches, multiple award-winning co-founder of luxurious Laylo bag-in-box format wine. Sevgi Tüzel-Conghaile (founder A Wine Idea) gave an inspirational talk entitled: ‘East to West: my journey in wine education’, which focused on her wine education philosophy as well as thoughts on the challenges as a woman in wine. Sally Evans of Château George 7, a self-made entrepreneur and now award-winning Bordeaux fine wine producer, captivated the audience with her insights and amusing anecdotes of business life in a male-dominated world.

Young women leaders of Women in Wine organizations followed, including Sinéad Smyth from Wine Spirit Women Ireland: “I didn’t know that wine was a career choice” explained Sinéad and a heartfelt address from Micaela Fonseca (Quinta do Ferro) on behalf of Women in Wine Portugal providing diverse perspectives on women’s roles in the wine industry. Nicky Grandorge of New Zealand Winegrowers rounded off the session with a clear call to action on the gender pay gap, following extensive research by the trade organization. Connect, Inform and Change are the three pillars of the strategy from NZ Winegrowers.

Elisha Cannon from English rose producer Folc Wine then took the mic, sharing her journey from a background in law to producing award-winning English rosé wines to rival the very finest from the South of France: “You can change your career at any age and really make wine work for you” she encourages, offering all attendees a refreshing and much-needed chilled glass of Folc before lunch break. 

Speakers from Women in Wine organisations worldwide

The afternoon sessions opened with speakers from Mexico, Georgia, Turkey and India, each sharing experiences in working in the wine businesses and insights into the markets they serve. Adriana Zazueta, wine educator from Mexico City, representing the group of wine women from Mexico “Women are the leading consumers of wine in Mexico” she confirmed, “… and an important demographic in wine decision-making.” Tika Svanidze Vancko, founder of TSV Estate Winery in Georgia, emphasized her mission to introduce exclusive Georgian products to the world. The thought-provoking address from Seyma Bass, Senior Brand Strategist at Constellation Brands, warned that “in life we often find ourselves too quick to label and categorise people based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and how they look.”

The final session was entitled ‘India: the next big thing?’ moderated by Bangalore-based wine journalist Ruma Singh, exploring the potential of the Indian fine wine and champagne market in a keynote address by a true wine pioneer, Ritu Singhal. “Women were looked down upon for drinking wine” recounted the publisher of the glossy Fine Wine & Champagne India, which she said they launched with a 1907 shipwreck champagne: “We brought fine wine and Champagne to India in 2011…and we didn’t stop there!” Ritu talked animatedly about wine being ‘an art form’, their new champagne brand just about to launch in magnum and the extensive future opportunities for wine across India. Vidya Narasimhan shed light on her transition from a banking career at Goldman Sachs to wine judging and life as a wine diploma pupil. The self-confessed ‘riot of colour’ panel also featured vibrant contributions from Sumita Sarma ACA who, with comedic flair, shared her experiences as an Indian woman working in the wine trade.

Women in Wine Expo 2023 culminated in a VIP consumer tasting of wines from WIWE participants Eva Pemper (New Zealand), Emma Berto (Thora Vingard Sweden), Tika Svanidze (TSV Estate Georgia), Adriana Zazueta, Alba Arrona and Angeles Sanchez with wines from Mexico. Portuguese wines were poured by Sofia Garetta (Rovisco Garcia) and Micaela Fonseca (Quinta do Ferro). The tasting was completed with luminaries from the English wine scene including Gusbourne, Busi Jacobsohn, Rathfinny, MDCV, Laylo, Stanlake Park, Canned Wine and Folc. The wines and the cheeses were completed with a special competition for WIWE-participants as DeGrey & Mason was WIWE’s jewellery sponsor giving away a beautiful necklace to a lucky attendee.

The tasting was attended by dignitaries, Ambassadors and Embassy representatives from Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Germany, Hungary, Kyrgizistan, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay, leaving all attendees with lasting friendships and cherished memories of precious wines.

Where and when next?

The Women in Wine Expo continues to set new standards for global unity and empowerment among women in the wine industry and excitement already surrounds murmurs where next year’s Expo will be hosted. Stay updated via website:

Photo credit: Heather Daenitz (@Craft and Cluster)