This is not another article about International Women’s Day. It’s a story of women who, like every other woman in the world, excel at their craft. What makes them even more precious to us is the nature of their art. These women make outstanding wines.
Every 8th of March, women around the world are celebrated. Women have been fighting for their rights for years in most countries. Croatia is no exception. One point of view makes Croatians more blessed than many other nations. In Croatia, women have been in charge of making wine since always. They weren’t usually under the spotlight, but although it is still not that common, female winemakers do have a tradition on Croatian soil. Most importantly, they are currently making excellent wines!
How many women winemakers are there in Croatia?
We have contacted seven leading Croatian women winemakers to share their insights and expertise. They talked to us about their wines, their successes and struggles, the women who inspire them, and their views on women’s place in the winemaking industry.
It is our privilege to introduce these women winemakers – as the proprietors. Since there are dozens of women enologists and even more female sommeliers in Croatia, we wanted to share the story of the woman winemakers responsible for everything from planting and farming to growing and harvesting, making wines, and also marketing and selling wine.
How many female winemakers are there?
In Croatia, there is no statistical parameter to answer the percentage of wineries a woman leads. Some women might simply be owners and not involved in winemaking. A couple of wineries are led by women professionals. There are many oenologists responsible for farming and winemaking, many female sommeliers, and many more involved in marketing, but women are still in the minority when it comes to winemaking. With women’s hard work, dedication, and persistence, but also knowledge and passion, this is slowly changing.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that women’s influence on Croatia’s wine-making process has long been present. Their craftsmanship and wisdom have offered vast contributions to the country’s winemaking tradition. These women are not only an example for women in Croatia but all over the world, and we salute them!
Inspiring Women in Croatian winemaking
Insisting on your own vision is something all of these strong-minded women have in common. Regardless of the age difference and place of origin, they all share a dedication to their craft and passion for winemaking.
It wasn’t always without a challenge: “In the past, I used to receive curious glances and mistaken assumptions about my role at fairs where I was often asked to call the boss, as people assumed I was a hostess. However, now the perception has changed as our winery is recognized as a “woman’s” one, particularly because my sister and I have been involved in every aspect of the business, from the challenging and less glamorous tasks to the leadership roles.” Ana Peršurić, Peršurić family winery in Istria.
“Sometimes it is not easy for women in this business; the world of wine is traditionally a man’s world in which women were not taken seriously until recently because it is a physically demanding and painstaking job, whether in the vineyard or the cellar.” are the words of Ivana Puhelek, Puhelek-Purek family winery in Upland Croatia, and she continues, “On my winemaking journey, I often had to prove myself much more than men. Today, all my contacts and business relationships are related exclusively to men, and I feel completely equal with them.”
Encouraging perspective also offers Ivana Prgin Horvat, Prgin family winery in Dalmatia, “It’s probable that I’ve encountered situations where I wasn’t treated equally, but there wasn’t anything specific that I could point out, nothing that burdens me… because I always insist on my vision, not out of spite, but out of love.” Ivana Prgin finds an abandoned old school near Primošten and decides to accomplish her love. Her husband and children follow her love for the Babić variety and move from the capital to Primošten. “I am fascinated with legendary Bucavac vineyards where the Babić variety is a part of heritage. Growing grapes and making wine here is a continuation of a broken tradition. There is potential to achieve something truly exceptional.”
As a women winemaker who truly started from scratch, coming not from agricultural but economic sciences, planting her first vineyard in the year 2004, and building a winery afterward, Jasna Antunović, Antunović winery in Slavonia, achieved wisdom in her wines as well as in her words: “It was a leap into the unknown, but since then I am deeply aware that I belong in a world where everything is my way – the land, the Danube, the vines, wine, creativity, curiosity, challenge, and inner happiness and peace.” When asked about the challenges, Jasna offers her insight: “When I first started, it took a while for people to take me seriously and recognise my abilities. But, once they saw the quality of my work, they no longer had doubts or concerns. Nowadays, it’s becoming more common for people to recognise that gender doesn’t determine someone’s abilities, and women are becoming increasingly successful in all kinds of industries, including winemaking.”
When it comes to experience and wisdom, few can compare, regardless of their gender, with the legendary Mare Mrgudić, Bura-Mrgudić family winery in Dalmatia. Aged only 11 years and having helped her mother with the vineyard works after her father’s death, Marija was destined to become a winemaker. More than destiny, she was encouraged by her mother and grandmother, both accustomed to working under the Pelješac peninsula sun. Besides her mother and grandmother, Mare always mentions her other role model – Anđelka Ančić.
“Anđelka was an engineer who worked at the Dingač winery. In a small town where men usually held all the power, she managed to gain respect and trust from 500 members of the agricultural cooperative and the well-known Dingač winery. For many years, she was the leader of the wine industry in the country, and she did it all with great skill and confidence.“
Mare, too, feels the prejudices are now a stereotype, although she admits she had issues with male colleagues: “Maybe they didn’t take me seriously at times, but I never experienced humiliation or bullying from any colleagues in the industry. In fact, most of them were always ready to help, so from my experience, I can say that it is just an old stereotype.”
A daughter of a famous father, Martina Krauthaker, from Krauthaker winery in Slavonia, steps out of her father’s shadow. For a while now, Martina has been fully responsible for running one of the most respectful wineries in Croatia. She remembers the winemaking from the very beginning as her father, Vlado Krauthaker planted the first vineyards when Martina was born. When asked about her highest accomplishments, she answered, “Success is getting the most out of every vintage. Of course, none of them is the same, and despite that, I try to maintain a consistent quality. When consumers accept the wine, it is my greatest success.”
Another daughter of a strong father comes from Istria. Ana Ritoša, from Ritoša winery in Istria, now runs the place, home to many beautiful Istrian wines. She is also very positive regarding the challenges females are exposed to, “I understand how it might seem easier for men to handle physical work while also taking care of their families. Sometimes, customers might take men more seriously in certain industries, like winemaking. However, as a woman in the wine world, I have found that people are often surprised and impressed by what I do. They are curious about why I chose this career path and are willing to try my wines because they can see the passion and hard work that goes into every bottle.”
This Women’s Day, let us take the time to appreciate women winemakers in Croatia and worldwide who prove that women can make wine just as good as men. Sometimes, even better because “In the world of wine, women are increasingly gaining recognition and opportunities. It has been scientifically proven that women tend to have more advanced senses of smell and taste compared to men. As a result, women’s wine creations can add a unique energy and bring refinement to wines, which can enhance the overall wine scene.” (Ivana Puhelek)
Let’s ask women winemakers in Croatia what makes an accomplished woman in their eyes, and Mare Mrgudić answers, “A truly fulfilled and successful woman is someone who defines success on her own terms, based on what brings happiness and satisfaction to both herself and those closest to her. Unfortunately, society often pressures us to follow certain preconceived notions of success, causing many young people to chase after these ideals and ultimately burn out, even if they appear to have achieved success by society’s standards. However, this path isn’t healthy for individuals or society as a whole, because true happiness comes from within, and a happy individual creates a positive environment that leads to a healthy and content society.”
Jasna Antunović adds, “To do what she likes and in which she is creatively fulfilled every day, to be in an environment that suits her with people who are dear and close to her.”
Ana Peršurić says, “A woman who achieved herself in the areas she wanted to achieve herself. For me, success means different things than it might for others. I feel successful because I have been able to keep my family’s winemaking tradition alive, and I have a loving and supportive family. I am also grateful for my good health and the opportunity to complete my education as I had hoped. With these achievements, I am now able to live a comfortable life and even travel. All of these accomplishments have made me feel fulfilled as a woman, and I am truly happy with where I am in life “
Ivana Puhelek concludes with her view, “A successful and accomplished woman lives the life she dreamed of as a girl, the life she prepared for through schooling and growing up, and the life in which she achieved all her desires and goals, whatever they were.”
This Women’s Day, we are taking a stand: women from Croatia have always been making great wines and should be celebrated for their achievements, just like every woman worldwide!
Let’s celebrate the achievements of women. Let’s celebrate it properly. With a glass of women-made wine that shines with its quality and devotion.
Long live our queens!
Article originally published on winendmore.com