Winemaking has historically been a male dominated occupation. But the gender ratio has shifted markedly in the past few years, with more and more women being seen in senior positions across Griffith’s wineries.
One of the rising stars of the industry is 30-year-old Stephanie Lucas. Raised in Junee, Stephanie started as a cellar hand when she left school, and worked her way to become one of just five winemakers at McWilliam’s Wines Hanwood estate.
The Area News caught up with Stephanie this week to find out her journey in the industry, and what tips you has for girls who would like to follow in her footsteps. He responses are summarised below.
How did you get into winemaking?
It wasn’t something I ever planned. When I left school, I knew what I didn’t want to do. I don’t think I would’ve had the patience to be say a teacher, as much as I respect that profession.
But I loved science at school, and I enjoy wine.
My grandparents actually used to work for McWilliam’s, back in the day, but I only found this out later.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I started off working as a cellar hand. That gives you a good grounding of winemaking.
I did a lot of pressing, crushing, transfers and racking; and I learned how to drive a forklift and a chase tractor.
I then did a traineeship at Charles Sturt University before working in a winery in Canada. I moved to Griffith five years ago and have settled here with my husband.
What exactly does a winemaker do?
The role is really varied, which is why I love it.
It’s overseeing the whole process, from grape picking to wine bottling.
During vintage I go out to the fields and check the quality of the grapes, to grade the vinyards and to constantly review the process.
I also get to go to wine shows and dinners and provide my views of wine and food pairings.
And there’s a fair bit of paperwork too, there is lots of legal documentation to follow to ensure everything is approved before the wine is bottled.
Have you found any particular challenges being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Not really, I think I’ve been very lucky.
Everyone at McWilliam’s has been really supportive of my career.
And things are changing in terms of the gender ratio. This year for vintage around half the staff recruited were women.
What advice would you have for a girl at school considering a career in the wine industry?
Go for it. But you’ve got to have a genuine passion.
I think it’s a great idea to start working on a vintage as soon as you can to get some hands-on experience in the industry.
Science and maths are the most important subjects at school, you need to do well at them.
I was really in to team sports at school, like netball and soccer, and they always help.
Anything exciting coming up for you?
McWilliam’s are organising for me to to an international vintage, possibly with one of their subsideries in France in September/October.
It’s not fully confirmed yet but it would be a great experience.
What’s the winemaker’s wine of choice?
I’m a fan of red called Touriga. It goes well with a meal or drinking alone.
I also like the Parlez Vous Rosé, a chilled drink which is nice in our hot summers.