Wisdom From The Women Leading the Wine & Spirits Industries, with Maryline Gianna Of Patriarche and Veuve du Vernay — BGPL USA

An interview with Kelly Reeves

Make sure you love what you do, it’s this simple. There are long hours in this industry and it’s important

to have a strong passion and constantly be open to pushing the boundaries.


Less than 20% of winemakers and distillers are women. Traditionally, women were excluded from these industries. This number is slowly rising as more women choose to study this profession and enter the wine and spirits fields. What is it like for those women who work in this male-dominated industry? What are some of the challenges that these women face? Is there hope for better representation, and better wages, for women in the wine and spirits industry? As a part of our series about women leading the wine and spirits industries, we had the pleasure of interviewing Maryline Gianna.

Maryline Gianna was born in Beaune, the capital of Burgundy wines. Her grandparents managed a vineyard, where she grew up learning about wine and with respect for the land. After receiving her Oenologist Diploma, Maryline spent years innovating and developing wines at various growers before becoming winemaker at Veuve du Vernay and Patriarche. Her greatest satisfaction is sharing her enjoyment and knowledge of wine with her customers.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your origin story, and your childhood?

Both my grandfather and my father immigrated from Italy — in the 1950s, my maternal grandfather was in charge of the vineyard of a wine estate in Volnay, a small village on the Côte de Beaune, in Burgundy. At a young age, he instilled in me both the respect and the beauty of the land and it was then where my interest for wine began.

Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the wine and spirits industry?

Natural sciences have always been something I’ve felt passionate about, and after taking a winemaking course in 1990 — I discovered Oenology, the study of winemaking, and continued to further my education in viticulture. This discovery propelled me into the rewarding wine and spirits industry.

Now at BGPL USA, I am the cellar master for both Patriarche and Veuve du Vernay, produced by Patriache. As a cellar master, my only ambition is to provide excellence. I ensure that the wines are of impeccable quality, guaranteeing refinement and a consistent flavor. Our quality management and assurance policy have been internationally-certified to meet the most demanding criteria for procedures, techniques, and products. I have been in this profession for 24 years now. It is made of a multitude of facets. It pushes you to surpass yourself, forces you to question yourself with each vintage, in search of divine proportion.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There is a constant push for innovation at Patriarche, and I’m proud to be part of such an amazing team. Since 1780, Patriarche has been the key ambassador for the prestigious Burgundy appellations and great terroirs. As a winemaker for such a great house, no two days are alike. My greatest satisfaction is to see in the eyes of customers the pleasure they feel in smelling and tasting the wines and to share with them the wine knowledge they would like to discover.

Patriarche has forged long-standing relationships with its partner properties, some of which go back over generations. 80% of the winegrowers maintain their loyal collaboration with Patriarche, year in, year out. They all understand our style and requirements very well, which allows them to present suitable lots for our consideration. We take pride in the history and legacy of Patriarche and its reflected in our winemaking.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Wine making requires an incredible amount of trial and error. You must be attentive to detail and always be on the search for improvement in the vineyard and for your wines. These are the elements that drive a winemaker forward toward success.

I’ve found myself in many humous scenarios that will prove that the winemaking life is not as glamorous or romantic as some may think. Pushing through muddy vineyards or cleaning tanks out — it’s all part of the hard work that is being a successful winemaker. It’s important to acknowledge that these challenges exist before pursuing a career in winemaking. But if you have the drive and dedication, along with the skill and craft, you are bound to reach success. You have to work hard and always be prepared to accept new challenges.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

First and foremost my mother, who constantly taught me that the power of knowledge and learning was our greatest liberation — sadly my mother was unable to study herself. It means so much for me to carry her passions into my own career in this industry. Additionally, Mr. Kyriakos Kinigopoulos, a well-known international consultant with a doctorate in Oenology, was a great inspiration to me. He passed on his knowledge of the industry and helped me start my career as a Oenologist consultant in Burgundy after I graduated university.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

There have been many moments throughout my career that have proven to be great learning lessons and from those I have gained a better understanding of what it truly takes to be successful. I’ve learned that even if it’s unconventional in the eyes of others, you have to challenge yourself to always try — even if it scares you. On the other hand, I think it’s important to continue to be intellectually curious and work, work, work!

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Right now, Patriarche is working extensively on refining the aromas, enhancing the tartaric stability and improving the aging of the great Burgundy wines in barrel through developed winemaking techniques. It is true that when there is teamwork, everyone is getting the chance to learn. Ultimately, when we are working as a team — we create better wines for our consumers as a result.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. In Napa Valley, the percentage of lead women winemakers or winery owners is about 12%. Overall, men account for about 80% of winemakers and winery owners. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society as a whole to support greater gender parity moving forward?

We know that women will always have to do more than males. However, because of the women before us who paved the way for change, there is an increasing number of women who are taking on leadership roles and other executive responsibilities. The involvement of intelligent men who see the value of women in the workplace has also contributed to this transition. Adapting to daily life is something that society as a whole could do to encourage gender equality and further, companies could provide corporate crèches, neighborhood daycare centers, or even some type of domestic aid to supplement these efforts.

You are a “Wine and Spirits Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non-intuitive things one should know to succeed in the wine and spirits industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

Make sure you love what you do, it’s this simple. There are long hours in this industry and it’s important to have a strong passion and constantly be open to pushing the boundaries. As a winemaker, we are in charge of many decisions including when it’s the right time to pick the grapes, the aging process, making the appropriate calls to adjust to the climate, amongst so many others, therefore it’s important to be purposeful in your decisions and intentional. As a professional winemaker, great advice I can share is to try to find a winery or a vineyard to work in before pursuing formal education. This will give you a taste of winemaking in its rawest form and you can then decide if it is something that you could do for the rest of your life.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the industry?

There is so much to be excited about in an industry that is ever-changing. If I had to pick three they would be working with my team to develop new wines, challenging myself to be creative with my work, and learning to further my education in viticulture.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

If I could implement anything for improvement, I would look to prioritize time spent learning new trends within the industry, place more of a focus on my work rather than administrative tasks and incorporate shared festive moments together with the people I work with.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is from Socrates, “I know, I know nothing.” This is something that has inspired me to always have an open mind — we are always learning.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to offer little girls all around the world an opportunity to further their education. To me this is something that is so important and if I can help a young girl find her passion in life — I will know I made a difference.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!


Learn more about Patriarche and Veuve du Vernay.

Read the full article HERE