– Aude Bression, Champagne Bression-Lourdeaux
How many generations of women have contributed to your Champagne House?
We have been able to trace back our family tree to 1651 which equates to 10 generations of women growers. We didn’t call them women growers at the time, we spoke about the grower’s wives because it was a man’s world. Women transferred their family’s domaine through their dowry, but the owners were the husbands. They were considered part time employees and were not allowed to go into the cellars as it was thought that they would spoil the champagne. ‘Vigneronnes’ or women winegrowers is a recent term (on birth or marriage certificates, only the profession of the men was included, however historically speaking, it is known that women always worked alongside their husbands)
Today, what are your responsibilities at Champagne Bression-Lourdeaux?
I take care of the administrative side of the business, accounting, communication, marketing, client relations, delivery logistics. I greet all our clients at the domaine when we have tastings. I take care of the look and labelling of the bottles. The rest of the time, I work in the vineyard where I try to conduct as many of the tasks as possible: pruning, tying, de-budding, vine lifting, trellising in summer as well as the management of a team. I cook for the harvesters during the harvest. There is very little down time.
How has the role of women in Champagne evolved?
Women today have much more responsibility and are no longer hidden in the shadow of their husbands. They have claimed their place and become decision-makers. The proof is that in France, a third of wine growers are women. Not only that, more than ever before there are women cellar masters, oenologists or at trade fairs. That said, there is still a lot of work to be done for mindsets to evolve: men still laugh when they see a woman driving a tractor, it happened to me when I delivered our grapes at the wine press.
Which woman inspires you the most?
The person who inspires me the most is not famous but quite simply my grandmother. She lived in the same village to me and my greatest memories are the times I spent with her at the farm (we have cattle), in the vines, in the orchards and in the garden. She and my grandfather lived a self-sufficient life with their own produce, I think that it was truly a good model. What was normal at the time seems utopian now, but it is the example we want to follow. She worked very hard and was content with little without frustration.
What are your wishes for the generations of women in Champagne who will come after you?
I feel like we have our place in the world of wine growing, my only wish is that future women have the same rights as what we have today but maybe without the biases of some. I don’t know if it is because I feel good in my role of wine grower, I don’t feel like the obstacles are overwhelming, I go forward little by little at my own rhythm.
It is almost Easter. What champagne would you recommend to celebrate this time of renewal?