Women in Wine - Alison Eisermann MW
Friday, March 8, 2019 in News
Women in Wine: Alison Eisermann MW
Alison Eisermann is a Master of Wine (MW), a winemaker, a wine show judge and the Australian Ambassador to the International Wine Challenge. As a wine educator with the Sydney Academy of Wine, Alison lectures Diploma students for WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust). She is also one of Australia 24 Masters of Wine and part of that growing group of female MWs. We spoke to Alison about resilience, what it takes to achieve those MW letters and unravelling the personality of wine.
Alison Eisermann, Master of Wine (MW)
You’re a wine educator, maker and Master. You’ve held roles right across the wine industry. What first drew you into the wine industry?
I grew up in semi-rural Sydney and was always involved in some aspect of agriculture. After school, I studied Science and worked in Agricultural research and education. In my late 20’s I wanted to further study and work in a rural sector and I considered the dairy and wine industry. I enrolled in the Wine Science degree at Charles Sturt. I loved it! I immersed myself in all aspects of the wine trade from interest courses at The Wine Society, worked every Sunday on a Hunter Valley vineyard, retail on Saturdays while studying PT and working full time as Science and Agriculture educator.
I realised that wine, while it has a scientific and agricultural aspect to its production, it was distinct from most other products in that it also had a creative/artistic contribution and able to reflect its origin, personality and creativity of the winemaker.
Was there a moment where you ‘got it’ or where wine first made sense to you?
I attended a few great events in the late 1990s that were very inspiring. Huon Hooke at Sydney Uni and the Master of Wine Summer School held at the Women's College Sydney Uni. Wine was tasted, discussed and described on a level beyond just technical characteristics. Yes, a scientific approach but also being able to describe the characters, unravel its personality, its varietal traits and markers of its terroir. Being able to describe and explain why it tastes so good, and appreciate there was much more to wine.
“Be prepared for an amazing learning curve...”
To become an MW is quite a commitment. What did you take away from Master of Wine, other than the letters? Did something surprise you?
Yes, It was a commitment of time, finances and personal life. It took up a fair amount of my life with a few years off along the way. I passed. Theory first, practical a few years later and then the dissertation a few after that. I was surprised by the depth of knowledge required across all areas of the wine trade, global wines, appellations, varieties and styles and how they are continually changing.
To any wine student considering the Master of Wine course, what advice would you give them? What advice would have helped you?
Have a solid, broad wine industry knowledge and hopefully experience. Have at WSET Diploma, Oenology or Wine Business qualifications A good support team of family and friends. Be in regular tasting groups. Have a realistic budget for wines and possible travel. Be prepared for an amazing learning curve, networking and great opportunities along the way. Have resilience to ‘bounce back’, accept critical appraisal, disappointment and failures along the way.
As a lecturer with the Sydney Wine Academy, you get to meet and influence potential future leaders in the wine industry. What can we expect from the future leaders in the industry?
I am lucky to work with many talented, articulate and enthusiastic people from all areas of the industry and all over Australia. These are often our ‘front-line’ people introducing our wines to retail customers and wholesale clients. Their knowledge, tasting skills and enthusiasm can influence customer understanding, interest and ultimately customer choices. We have some good wine ambassadors in training.
You also judge at wine shows around the country – it sounds like the ideal life, travel and wine. What are the Australian regions that excite you or have surprised you the most?
Great Southern, Pemberton, Mt Barker WA for elegant cool climate wines. Pyrenees, Heathcote, Mt Avoca, Sunbury for spicy shiraz. Mornington Chardonnay’s, Clare Valley Riesling and Shiraz, Hunter Valley Semillon and my bias Tasmania Pinot!
Who is the woman in the wine industry who has influenced you the most?
On the International front, Jancis Robinson MW and Gaia Gaja. In Australia, Louisa Rose, Vanya Cullen, Sam Connew, Sue Hodder, Fran Austin and Stephanie Toole.
To turn the question around. How do you think you do or can influence the wine industry?
These days, hopefully empowering people with wine knowledge at all levels. To develop their interest, skills and knowledge to enjoy wines and understand why they taste as they do. Give people confidence in their abilities with wine and to pursue their careers and interests in the industry.
“It is pleasing to see Australian women are gaining recognition and standing as winemakers...”
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen for women in the industry since you began your career wine?
When I started working in the industry men dominated all aspects of the industry. Women in the Wine Science and Viticulture courses were less than 20% and there were <10% female MW’s. An early employer I had suggested to me that “women were best employed in the laboratory or cellar door”.
Today enrolments and passes in Wine Degrees, WSET and the MW program are almost equal men and women, yet women are not equally represented in employment in all areas of the industry. There is still a greater per cent of males in viticulture, winemaking and Australian wine shows (internationally, wine show judges are equally represented by men and women).
It is pleasing to see Australian women are gaining recognition and standing as winemakers and they are amongst the most awarded in the industry. Women are also well represented as our highest achieving and respected researchers, educators and hospitality sectors.
Read more interviews from our Women in Wine series.