The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Celebrating the talented women in Aotearoa’s liquor industry

Jane Hunter, Desiree Reid-Whitaker, Tracy Banner, Celia Hay, Jane Allen, Sophie Parker-Thomson, Kate Radburn and Jo James.

From industry titans, to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, New Zealand women are killing it in the wine, beer and spirits categories.

To celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, we’re sharing just a few who have changed the trajectory of Aotearoa’s liquor industry…

Jane Hunter
Owner of Hunter’s Wines

Jane Hunter was born in South Australia, where her father was a contract grape grower. She gained a degree in Agricultural Science in Adelaide, moved to New Zealand and start in our wine industry as a viticulturalist in Marlborough in 1983. A year later, she met husband Ernie and joined him in his fledgling winery operation. Sadly, Ernie died in a car accident in 1987 but Jane continued with the winery and now Hunter’s Wines is one of the country’s most successful wineries.
In 1993, Jane was awarded an OBE for service to the wine industry, she has an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Massey University and received the inaugural Wine & Spirit Competition Women in Wine Award. Exactly 25 years after taking over managing Hunter’s Wines, Jane was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to viticulture and in 2018, she was inducted as a Fellow of New Zealand Winegrowers.

Desiree Reid-Whitaker
Founder and Managing Director of Cardrona Distillery

Desiree Reid-Whitaker is a former farmer from South Canterbury began researching distillation and the crafting of great whiskies and spirits in 2011.
Desiree travelled widely for two-and-a-half years to learn her craft, including visiting many of the world’s great masters in the United States and Scotland and, in 2013, she sold her farming business and went in search of the perfect location for a distillery.
She chose Cardrona – between Queenstown and Wanaka – and two-and-a-half years later, whisky flowed from the Cardrona stills for the very first time. The distillery now produces award-winning single malt whisky, vodka, gin, and other liqueurs.

Tracy Banner
Master Brewer of Sprig + Fern Brewing Co.

Tracy Brewer has spent 40 years in the brewing industry, beginning in England with brewing giants Greenalls and Bass. She moved to New Zealand in 1994 and became Head Brewer for Mac’s in the mid-to-late 90s. She later moved to Brewery Manager and Head Brewer with Speight’s – making her the first female in history to run the Dunedin-based brewery – and she is now the owner and Master Brewer of Sprig + Fern Brewing Co. In 2019, Tracy was awarded an Honorary Fellowship to the Brewers Guild of New Zealand.

Jane Skilton
Master of Wine and Founder of the NZ School of Wines and Spirits

Jane Skilton began her wine career in London 40 years ago. She completed the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits in 1988, gaining both the Frescobaldi and College du Cognac scholarships, and passed her Master of Wine exam in 1993 (the youngest female to pass at the time). In 2000, Jane and her family moved to New Zealand and in 2006 she founded the NZ School of Wines and Spirits, teaching WSET qualifications and general wine courses to trade and consumers. She is a WSET Certified Educator, judges both national and international wine shows and contributes to a number of wine publications both in New Zealand and overseas.

Celia Hay
Founder of the New Zealand School of Food & Wine

Founder and owner of the New Zealand School of Food & Wine, Celia is a qualified chef and holds the WSET (London) Diploma of Wine. In 2016, she gained the French Wine Scholar credential and is certified by the Society of Wine Educators, she is also the founding chair/president of the New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals Association. And in 2022, Celia was awarded the Sir George Fistonich medal for services to Wine Education in New Zealand.

More amazing and talented women in the Kiwi liquor industry…

Alice Rule – owner of boutique wine venture 3sixty2 and one of the youngest wine producers in New Zealand.

Rachael Thomson – co-founder of one of New Zealand’s first craft whisky brands, Thomson Whisky.

Patsy Bass – founder and CEO of Reefton Distilling Co.

Diva Giles – co-owner of Beau wine bar in Ponsonby.

Ava Nakagawa – owner of Beer Baroness in Christchurch.

Jules Taylor – owner and winemaker of Jules Taylor Wines.

Jess Wolfgang – owner, director and head brewer at Rhyme X Reason Brewery.

Jo James – co-founder of Begin Distilling in New Plymouth.

Kate Radburn – winemaker and owner of Radburnd Cellars.

Anna Flowerday – winemaker and general manager of Te Whare Ra Wines.

Dr Jo Cribb – Chair of NZ Women in Wine.

Sophie Parker-Thomson – owner of Blank Canvas wines and Master of Wine.

Jane Allen – founder of Finery Cocktails.

Tash McGillspirits writer and judge.

Yvonne Lorkin – wine writer, speaker and co-founder of WineFriend.

Organisations supporting women in the liquor industry

The Pink Boots Society – a non-profit organisation with international membership which supports women working in the brewing profession, especially in creating craft beer. Pink Boots Society helps women brewers meet mentors, have the opportunity to network with other women in the profession and raises awareness of women in brewing.

NZ Women In Wine – a programme which helps Kiwi women reach their full potential, step up into leadership roles and encourages businesses within the wine industry to assess their diversity and inclusion culture.

International Women’s Day is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8 as a focal point in the women’s rights movement.

IWD gives focus to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women. For more information, click here.

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