Imbibe’s winner of this year’s Personality of the Year Hot Stuff award, Melania Battiston is currently working as assistant head sommelier at Medlar Restaurant. Imbibe asked her to chose her top five wines made by women to celebrate International Women’s Day
1. NV Blanc de Blancs, Perrier-Jouët
Séverine Frerson, cellarmaster
Previously at Piper-Heidsieck (where I had the pleasure of meeting her), Séverine Frerson is the first woman to hold the position of cellar master at Perrier-Jouët and one of only eight cellar masters at the Champagne house since it was founded in 1811.
It’s NV Blanc de Blanc is an ideal aperitif-style Champagne. I’ve never tasted anything like this before – and I love to try different types of Champagne. It has a very delicate mousse, dancing refined bubbles and a very creamy and round palate; lively flower aromas, mineral intensity on the finish; the softest expression of Chardonnay for a very pleasant start of your meal. It’s feminine, delicate yet powerful, perfumed and angelic.
2. 2018 SP68 Bianco, Arianna Occhipinti, Sicily, Italy
Arianna Occhipinti, winemaker
Arianna Occhipinti started in the industry at the age of 16, working in her uncle’s (Giusto Occhipinti, founder of Domaine COS) cellar. She began making wines in the area of Vittoria (Ragusa province), after falling in love with one of Sicily’s greatest grapes – Frappato.
She embraced a philosophy of winemaking based on finesse and elegance over power, and her first vintage was released in 2006, when she was just 24, from only one hectare of land.
The 2018 SP68 Bianco is 60% Zibibbo (also known as Muscat d’Alexandria) and 40% Albanello grown under a byodinamic approach carefully adopted by Arianna. Fifteen days on skin gives it an intense exotic touch, white flowers, lychee, fresh oregano and a deeply aromatic finish.
Why have I chosen this wine? Because I love the freshness it displays, the aromatic character and its persistent, mineral finish. I admire it as much as the work she does, her strength and will. Bravo, Arianna!
3. 2015 Ata Rangi, Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand
Helen Masters, winemaker
New Zealand Winemaker of the Year 2019 and head of winemaking at Ata Rangi for 16 years, Helen Masters is one of the most super-dynamic, fun and strong women that I have had the pleasure of meeting.
Last year I had the incredible honour to be part of Sommit 2019 in New Zealand. That is where NZ became one of my absolute favourite wine regions, not only for the great quality of the wine but also thanks to the brilliant winemakers, their philosophies and their uniqueness.
It was the 26 January 2019 when I tried this wine for the first time and I can say that since then it has never left my heart (or my wine list). We tasted the 2008 and 2015 vintage side-by-side; what a treat! This wine really has incredible ageing potential.
Charming red flowers, red roses and hibiscus; red fruit elegance such as cherries and fresh plums; ample acidity and mellow tannins melting together; a great sense of earthiness with coffee scents and slight dustiness.
4. 2014 Carrodus Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarra Yering, Yarra Valley, Australia
Sarah Crowe, winemaker
Sarah became a winemaker by accident. She wanted to be an accountant during high school, after which she got her first job and soon realised that she hated being inside an office all day. She always had a thing for nature, studying horticulture and working in garden centres selling plants. It was after travelling in Europe, when the idea of working in a vineyard became more tangible, that she went back to Australia and contacted Brokenwood in Hunter Valley for a casual job – she stayed there for nine years.
The move to Yarra Yering happened in September 2013 when she started thinking where else she wanted to make wines outside of Hunter Valley. She narrowed it down to few cool climates and the position at Yarra Yering was advertised and so she applied.
The 2014 Carrodus Cabernet Sauvignon shows Old-World elegance and aromatics such as cassis, green pepper, leafy notes but with an unique Australian generosity: riper fruits, more concentration. I have easily picked four or five bottles, based on my experience.
5. 1996 Château d’Yquem, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Sandrine Gabray, winemaker
I consider Sandrine Gabray’s story as one of the most fascinating. With a degree in oenology, Gabray always considered wine as a very interesting product, but at a young age she was never attracted to it. She had an epiphany at 20-years-old, when doing her first apprenticeship at Chateau Latour, when her taste buds finally started to develop. She worked in a laboratory for five years and then followed her husband to Sauternes where she found her first job in the area at Chateau d’Yquem in their brand-new lab.
Following the winemaker's departure, four years later, she was promoted to maitre de chai. She had just turned 30, and none of her peers were keen to accept her as the new 'head': her colleagues made the job very difficult. She took around four years to find peace at Yquem, and now after 15 years, she’s incredibly happy.
1996 is not the most concentrated year, but it is perhaps one of the most charming. Inviting and appetising toasted hazelnuts; fragrant orange marmalade; crème brûlée and honey.
It’s the exceptional result of careful winemaking, strict selection of individual grapes, hard-work and helpful weather conditions and it should be treated and enjoyed as a rare treasure, a gem. And not to match only with dessert, but perhaps with anything.