Last Tuesday 5th of March was a happy date for women in the different areas of the Irish drinks industry. The networking organisation Wine and Spirit Women was formally launched, in the beautiful Merrion Hotel, in Dublin.
Co-founded by Lynne Coyle MW, Wine Director at O’Briens Wine, and Justine McGovern, director of California Wines Ireland, the group gathered over 80 founder members on the day, who enjoyed the empowering words of two guest speakers and then shared a networking lunch.
Research, creativity and innovation
The first speaker was Marie Byrne, co-founder of Chinnery Gin. She founded and is an Adjunct Lecturer of the B.Sc in Brewing & Distilling at Dublin Insitute of Technology. Proud of being “a farmer’s daughter” and coming from a science background, Marie shared her praiseworthy achievements and ambitious goals for the future with the attendees.
After co-founding, growing and then selling the Dublin Whiskey Company, she went on to create Chinnery Spirits, alongside business partner David Havelin.
She guided the audience to the painstaking process to create the brand, which is inspired by the life and works of artist George Chinnery as well as the aesthetic of Georgian Dublin and the far East.
She noted that among the designs on the gin’s intricate bottle there is a dragon, just because she likes Game of Thrones that much.
She talked about her passion for the drinks industry, where “you and be creative and build long-lasting relationships” and she pointed out that Ireland’s competitive edge won’t be quantity, but innovation.
For that, education is key, and that is why she’s directing her efforts into the creation of a brewing and distilling institute. “With great research, comes great teaching”, she added, celebrating the work of people who are currently setting the bases for this goal.
What’s next for Marie? “Global domination, really.”
A business that brings the community up
The second speaker was Nora Sperling-Thiel, CEO of South African winery Delheim. Force majeure prevented her from speaking in person at the event, but her eagerness was such that she tuned in via skype despite being caught up in a personal emergency.
She reflected on “the deep underline issues of racial priviledge in the wine industry”, a topic painfully intertwined with the history of South Africa and the shocking levels of inequality in a country with 60 million people and an unenployment rate of 28 per cent.
As the leader of Delheim, Nora has made the company stand for causes that help the most vulnerable communities and has adopted a policy of susteinability and environmentally-friendly ethos.
“Wine is not for rich, privileged university students” said Norah, who promotes several initiatives to empower and educate the community and the winery is involved in the Black Economic Empowerment project.
Suporting women in the Irish trade
The three pillars of the organisation are”network”, “influence” and “advance” and one of their key objectives is to empower the younger generation.
With this in mind, they offered free memberships to students and intend to fund a Scholarship WSET to support those that wish to enroll in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust course, levels 1 to 3.
Among the many activities Wine and Spirit Women has in-store, they mentioned more networking events, seminars, wine trips and educational events.
Many of Ireland’s outstanding drink-industry professionals are listed among the committee tasked to make this happen, including Barbara Boyle MW, Nisea Doddy, Jules Mahon, Corina Hardgrave and Cora-Jane Wynne.
For more information, you can contact Wine and Spirit Women on Twitter.