CELEBRATING WOMEN IN WINE
On International Women’s Day, we are celebrating all the women we’re fortunate enough to call colleagues, customers, and friends.
A special salute to the exceptional women at Voyager Estate, who are dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind wine experiences for our guests each and every day – including our award-winning Sommelier, Claire Tonon.
Tell us about your wine journey – when did you know you wanted to become a sommelier and how did you get there?
Like many of the best things in life, I “fell into” the world of wine. I returned to Australia from Italy as a young university graduate and didn’t really have a precise career direction, so I applied for a job as a secretary. Within a few short months I was hosting wine tastings for Wise Wines! A few years later I returned to Italy, where historic producer, Bisol, sent me off to complete the Italian Sommelier course. As they say, the rest is history…
You’ve spent plenty of time in Italy – how would you describe the differences in our cultures’ approach to wine?
There are always exceptions, but I find the Italian consumer predominantly knows and drinks wine from regions closer to home. I find Australia’s wine culture to be more inclusive and explorative – people love the opportunity to taste different varieties and wines from a broader array of regions, both from around Australia and the world.
What are you most proud of in your wine career?
Receiving WA Good Food Guide Regional Sommelier of the Year in 2021 confirmed that there’s a growing understanding of the role of the Sommelier being so much more than creating a long list of wines. It recognises the importance of a sensitive approach to wine and food pairing, of impeccable service, and of sharing knowledge without pretention. That’s bigger than just being about me, and would have to be one of my proudest moments.
Are there any women whom you admire, or have influenced you in your wine career?
Jancis Robinson MW OBE is my wine idol…the first woman to become an MW from outside the wine trade in 1986. I doubt there’s a single topic even remotely related to wine she couldn’t explain in exacting detail!
Our Technical Officer, Alex Miller, advises the Production Team on all manner of issue; yields, pest and disease management, sustainability, our organic conversion and so much more, yet she always manages to have an encouraging word for all. Truly inspiring!
What challenges, if any, do you see for women in the wine business?
While I think the days of the wine industry as a “boys club” are numbered, I do feel that women in this industry still need to work harder and longer to be recognised in their field compared to their male counterparts. The limited number of women in top management positions throughout the wine business is testament to this challenge.
How are you supporting and empowering the team at Voyager Estate?
A big part of my job is staff training. I hope, by providing every person – no matter how they identify – with respect and equal access to education opportunities, I am supporting each individual in our team to find their own strengths and way of expressing themselves within the wine business.
What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career in wine?
To succeed in the wine business, you will need passion, tenacity, and drive. Study hard, work hard and enjoy the ride (and a glass or two)!