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More women than men now graduating with winemaking degrees

'It is science-intensive, but there's also the artistic side of wine production': Brock University

Emma Garner

Emma Garner, 2015's Ontario winemaker of the year, is a graduate of Brock's Oenology and Viticulture program. (Brock University)

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More women than men have graduated in the last three years from a science-intensive program oriented around grape-growing and wine-making. 

Debbie Inglis, the director of Brock's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, said the success of women in winemaking is opening opportunities for other young women.

"With the field being science-based, some of the elements within the job may be thought as traditionally male-oriented, but that's not the case anymore," Inglis said. "The new generation of grape-growers and winemakers are very technologically savvy; they have a lot of science training."

Back when Inglis started teaching in the program in 1999, all her graduate students were male —two years in a row.

But this year, each of her four graduate students is a woman.

Debra Inglis

Debra Inglis, Director of Brock University's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute says the success of women in winemaking has opened the door for others to see it as a potential path. (Aaron Saltzman/CBC)

Over the last three years, 58 per cent of graduates from Brock University's Oenology and Viticulture program have been female, with either a B.S. in oenology and viticulture or a certificate in grape and wine technology.

Compare that to other science, technology, engineering and math graduate rates: A 2011 StatsCan report showed women accounted for just 39 per cent of STEM graduates, and 66 per cent of non-STEM graduates. Only 22 per cent of those working in the sciences are women.

"It is science-intensive, but there's also the artistic side of wine production that is an important element within this industry." - Debbie Inglis, Director of Brock University's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute

​Oenology refers to wine science, and viticulture is the science behind grape growing.

The program at Brock aims to train the next generation of winemakers, grape-growers, winery managers, and people going into the business of grape and wine technology — with a real-life application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

'Each year having the creativity to do something a little bit different'

It's blending day at the winery, which means Emma Garner is hard at work.

Together, the team at Thirty Bench winery in Beamsville will taste every chardonnay, pinot and gamay that was made from the previous harvest. It is this session that will determine the upcoming vintage, with 18 blends due to end up in a bottle this year.

Oenology and Viticulture Brock

Kailee Frasch, left, and Abigail Metcalfe, currently a student in the Oenology and Viticulture program, are seen here crushing and stemming fruit. (Brock University)

"You're looking from a vine growing throughout the entire season to getting those grapes to making it into wine, the finished product," says Garner, who was last year's Ontario Winemaker of the Year. "Having that sense of completion, each year being a little different, each year having the creativity to do something a little bit different, that's what makes it a fun job."

Garner graduated from Brock's program in 2004.

"As more females are gaining recognition in the industry, part of a really fulfilling and successful career option, it's opening up opportunities for more young women to enter into this field," said Inglis, the Brock professor.

'It is science-intensive, but there's also the artistic side of wine production'

Inglis believes research at the institute benefits greatly from the added perspective of both men and women, who she believes approach problems differently, and allows winemakers to stay competitive in a demanding industry.

"From a research perspective, we're looking at resolving issues that our industry has and putting forward solutions to move grower industry forward, and I think diversity spawns more innovation."

Emma Garner

Winemaker Emma Garner says a strong love of science led her into the world of oenology. (Brock University)

Brock has given rise to many winemakers like Garner, but also creates jobs as varied as tractor drivers, vineyard workers, viticulturists at wineries, and even researchers in winery operations and academic institutes.

For young women, especially, Inglis encourages them to step out and learn more about the industry by talking to those who are already part of it — male and female.

"It is science-intensive, but there's also the artistic side of wine production that is an important element within this industry," Inglis said. "Look to see those components that are intriguing and drive a passion within you. Because when you find your passion that makes all the difference in the world."

Garner says the best part of her career is the satisfaction that comes from watching the entire growth cycle.

"It's far more than just a job, it's a career, it's a life," says Garner,  "You can't count the hours that you're at the office, because you need to enjoy it."

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