Female harvesters and vineyard tenders at De Toren Private Cellar play an integral role in the estate’s world-class wines. The permanent vineyard and cellar team is sixty percent female, and women hold key senior management roles, too. It’s an unusual statistical skew for the wine industry, but for De Toren — which boldly embraces innovation — being an exception to the rule is all in a day’s work.
De Toren, a boutique winery specialising in luxurious, world-class Bordeaux-style wines, is situated on the Polkadraai Hills in Stellenbosch, Cape Town. Over and above its exceptional female team, the estate also lays claim to other industry firsts, like being the first to plant and produce five-varietal Bordeaux-style blends in South Africa and the first to introduce a gravity-fed cellar.
Acknowledging the finesse that women bring to the vineyard and production process is woven into the De Toren’s philosophy, but in Women’s Month, glasses are raised to celebrate their contribution.
"It is such a pleasure to be associated with an estate where innovation on a scientific and practical level remains a topic of discussion. There is no lack of excitement at De Toren when it comes to producing wine in a quest for perfection!" says Charelle van den Berg, Brand Manager.
The choice to employ female-only harvesters and vineyard tenders is also a practical one: De Toren believes that, because women have smaller hands with a slightly gentler touch, their work is more meticulous and delicate. The estate has stuck by this theory for over 20 years, and — as the saying goes — the proof of the pudding is in the eating. De Toren was ranked as one of the Top 10 Red Wine Producers in South Africa by the South African Wine Index, and their De Toren Z and Fusion V wines have been awarded incredible 4.5-star ratings by the Platter’s Wine Guide.
The all-female vineyard team at De Toren is led by Johanna Paulse, Fransiena Radloff, and Wilma Riet. This respected trio is responsible for the execution of all viticulture practices on a single shoot level, all the way from pruning to harvesting, as well as training contractors and managing the internal team. Paulse, Radloff, and Riet ensure that De Toren’s superlative standards are always adhered to.
In the cellar, quality controllers Rochelle and Christine Scheffers are highly valued for their meticulous attention to detail in sorting, particularly during the pressures of the harvest season. Outside of harvest season, this pair handles bottling, labelling, individual packaging of wines, and the elaborate custom packaging of De Toren gift boxes and cases.
In addition to the dynamic team on the harvest and cellar side, women also hold key senior management roles at De Toren. These include Brand Manager, Charelle van den Berg; Marketing Executive Mariëtte van Tonder; Client Relationship Manager, Marizaan Beukes; Front of House Manager, Else-Marie Muller; and Finance Manager, Nicolette du Preez.
De Toren is quick to raise a glass to the power of women in the workplace; after all, they play an integral role in maintaining the estate’s world-class status.