Women In Wine Series: Mele Sosa
The wine industry is one of a number of professions where women hold disproportionately fewer seats at the table than men. While every aspect of this business remains a male-dominated environment, the culture is slowly changing. In company ownership, vineyard management, and winemaking, women are slowly assuming more leadership roles and having great success in the process. In this and subsequent articles, I would like to showcase a few examples of women who are making their mark in the wine world.
Many women in the wine world ply their trade in relative anonymity; working behind the scenes in the vineyards, wineries, or the business aspect of the profession. The subject of this month’s ‘Women in Wine’ series could arguably be called ‘the face of Tannat in North America’. Tannat is a minor wine grape indigenous to the southwest region of France, but after vine cuttings were imported in the 1870s, Tannat has developed into the national red wine grape of Uruguay. Most people wouldn’t think of this South American country as a source for fine wine, but this is a misconception that Mele Sosa is working to change.
Mele is the North American brand ambassador for Bodega Garzon, a well-respected wine producer in Uruguay. Traveling through the United States and Canada, Mele champions Tannat and other wines produced by Bodega Garzon through press interviews as well as wine festivals, dinners, and trade events. With a formal education in viticulture and enology, and stints as an assistant winemaker at Viña Santa Carolina in Chile, as well as Spring Mountain Winery in Napa Valley, Mele has the credentials to proficiently represent the brand.
The love of nature and the outdoors, as well as the prominence of agriculture in Uruguay drew Mele into the wine industry as a career path. She was also attracted to the creative and artistic aspects of winemaking as it presented Mele the "ability to express (her) self through colors and textures, while bringing what nature offers to its fullest expression.” After several years in the vineyards and wineries Mele sought out a different avenue for her talents. “I’m basically a social person and being a winemaker can be pretty lonely at times.” She said that she enjoys the ability to educate people about wine as it is a different way to channel her creative spirit.
Establishing a career in the wine business within the traditional, patriarchal culture of Latin America has not been easy. “It’s was a real challenge to be taken seriously, but I’m proud to be a woman in what has been considered a man’s business.” Mele believes that women should embrace their nature and roles both in the family and the workplace. She remains hopeful though and takes every opportunity to speak up for women, for herself, for equality and a better world. “Conditions are changing; we are becoming more respected for our abilities and we just need to keep finding creative ways to make our voices heard.”
When speaking of the wines of Uruguay and particularly Bodega Garzon, Mele’s voice becomes filled with energy. She takes great pride in her role as a brand ambassador; representing her country and its growing wine industry. Whether describing how the free-draining, decomposed granite soil contributes to the wine’s crisp acidity or the fact that Bodega Garzon was the first LEEDS certified, 100 percent sustainable winery outside of the United States, you can sense her passion.
As for the future, Mele would like to return to winemaking at some point. Becoming an empty nester this year will afford Mele and her husband the ability to spend more time in her native country; potentially working at the winery for part of the year, while spending the other part traveling across North America, meeting with fellow wine lovers and sharing her love for Bodega Garzon and the wines of Uruguay.
The wines of Bodega Garzon can be found in retail shops nationwide. Their reserve Tannat has received high praise from critics and is extremely affordable. It is a muscular wine, but with a vibrancy and elegance that rivals better known French reds. The winery produces several other exceptionally well-made wines as well, including a stellar red blend, crisp Alberino, and flavorful rose’ of Pinot Noir. These are wines worth seeking out in that they provide the consumer with the ability to branch out, trying wines from one of the world’s emerging regions and besides, they’re delicious. I have little doubt that Mele would agree. More information about Bodega Garzon, including a directory of retailers in the US, can be found at their website: www.Bodegagarzon.com.
Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England. He is available to assist you with your wine events or answer your wine questions. Contact Tom at [email protected]