Women in Wine Sarah Crowe of Yarra Yering
Friday, March 1, 2019 in News
Women in Wine: Sarah Crowe
Sarah Crowe is an award-winning winemaker and General Manager at Yarra Yering - one of Australia’s great wineries. With two wines in Langton's Classification VII, a Halliday Winemaker of the Year award amongst many others, Sarah Crowe is one of Australia most impressive and highly-regarded winemakers. Sarah took some time (around harvest) to discuss her experience in the wine industry, the progress made and what we can do to maintain momentum.
Sarah Crowe - Winemaker
For many in the wine industry, the life is an inheritance. You’re not from a wine family. What first drew you into the industry?
I came into it through Horticulture which I studied after high school, I figured Viticulture was only a small step sideways. They’re all plants! My first job was a pruning season at Brokenwood, I stayed on for 8 months working as a vineyard hand before moving into winery work for harvest because there would be more hours and I was a casual employee. I had no ambition to become a winemaker at that point.
Have you had an ‘I get it!’ moment? If so, was there a particular wine.
The 1996 Giaconda Chardonnay blew my mind! I’m not sure I got what exactly “it” was but there was something captivating about that wine. It stayed with me for a very long time.
“ Drink widely and travel. ”
You took over the helm at Yarra Yering relatively recently and in that time you’ve achieved a lot. During your time the wines have also changed, notably for their elegance, purity and perfume. How do you negotiate your custodianship of the legacy of Dr Carrodus while making your mark on Yarra Yering?
It's easy to forget that the wines underwent a continual evolution with Dr Carrodus as the vineyard plantings expanded and also changed as he learnt about what worked well on this site.
I made the wines largely as I had been told he would have in my first year (2014), that then became part of my learning and experience. Then I decided that it was OK for me to be true to myself as well as to what Dr Carrodus had built and the key for both of us is his amazing vineyard. I asked what would make these wines even better? Rather than accepting that our future was set by our past, I decided to take the winemaking foot off the accelerator, we invested in some new equipment with the purpose to let the vineyard be the hero.
Cutting grapes at Yarra Yering
To a budding young winemaker, what advice would you give to them looking to break into your industry?
Work hard, be prepared for it to take time, listen and learn from as many people as you can. Drink widely and travel.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen for women in the industry since you began your career?
There is now a conversation about gender balance, the pay gap and awareness of unconscious bias. Next step is acting on the numerous reports that show the benefit to business of keeping women in our workplaces and promoting them to management and board positions. We have to embrace flexible working hours for parents (male and female because, you know, it takes two to tango).
Who is the woman in the wine industry who has influenced you the most?
The woman who first told me I could be a winemaker and encouraged me to go to university. Jane Donat was the Assistant Winemaker when I worked my first vintage as a cellar hand. She made me believe in myself because she believed in me. Sadly, she is no longer working as a winemaker or in the industry at all (see my earlier answer about flexible working hours for mothers).
“ Don’t ever think you’ve got it all sorted,
continually challenge yourself. ”
To turn the question around. How do you think you do or can influence the wine industry?
I am sometimes contacted by women who have had a bad experience and want to leave the industry. Often, they just need someone to point out that they can be the master of their own destiny, they should believe in themselves and do what feels right for them. I point out that it shouldn’t be someone else’s decision. Women can feel invisible. By listening to them, showing them kindness and believing in them makes them realise it’s OK to believe in themselves.
No longer are we satisfied with not being seen, we want respect for our efforts, oh and equal compensation! I hope that one day people will see me as having inspired, encouraged and supported them in following their dream.
Explore the wines from Yarra Yering.