On November 16, the Australian Women in Wine Awards announced South Australia’s own Sarah Marquis, CEO and chief winemaker of Mollydooker Wines, as Owner/Operator of the Year. An enormous achievement for Sarah and her McLaren Vale winery, the award is also a testament to the incredible women of wine we have in not just McLaren Vale, but throughout our wine regions.
We spoke to Sarah after the announcement of the award, to learn more about her story and her thoughts on the Awards… Congratulations, Sarah!
How did you get into the wine industry?
Growing up, my father had an enormous passion for wine which was passed onto me at the early age of 11. Once I graduated at high-school, I fulfilled his dreams and studied Oenology at Roseworthy, where I met my husband and business partner of 20 or so years. We became a husband and wife winemaking team, building businesses with family and friends until we created Mollydooker Wines in 2005, which I am now the sole owner of.
How did Mollydooker begin?
The road before Mollydooker was a pretty rocky one for us, with the separation of our previous partnership in Marquis Phillips. During this time, the people around us, our staff, growers and families rallied around us to support our dream, until we created our new business, Mollydooker; Aussie slang for a left hander. The next year was a whirlwind for us, with our initial releases receiving outstanding scores from Robert Parker, and our wines selling out in record times. By 2007, a year after our first release we were able to purchase a winery on Coppermine Road in McLaren Vale, which has now been our home for over 10 years!
Can you describe a day in the life of Sarah?
This is a hard question because no day is really the same when running a wine business. Most days you’ll find me down the winery popping in and out of meetings, tasting wine or creating something new in marketing. Other days you’ll find me travelling around the world hosting wine dinners and events. Either way, there’s usually a glass of Mollydooker in my hand.
How does it feel to have won this prestigious award?
It’s a tremendous honour to be recognised as a valuable contributor to the industry I am so passionate about, and in doing so help the community organisations we support through the success of the business
What are your thoughts on the Australian Women in Wine Awards?
I have been to many awards ceremonies celebrating winemakers all across the world throughout my career as a winemaker, but this is the first that celebrates women specifically. The Australian Women in Wine Awards is a terrific initiative celebrating women as leaders and highlighting their contribution to wine industry.
What do you love about the Awards as a whole?
Annual awards in any industry are a great way to celebrate those that have worked hard to create something they’re passionate about. Whilst women are sometimes not as celebrated as men, the AWIWA shine a light on women and the amazing work that they do. Hopefully these awards will inspire more women to become leaders in the wine industry.
Who are some other women in wine who inspire you, and why?
Early on in my career, Pam Dunsford was a leading winemaker in McLaren Vale which gave me hope as a junior winemaker in the region. Now, there are a lot of great women in the Australian wine industry that inspire me such as Jane Ferrari from Yalumba, Virginia Willcox from Vasse Felix and Corinna Wright from Oliver’s Taranga .
At Mollydooker, we also have an amazing young winemaker called Anna Saville who is showing incredible leadership and great talent. Currently 50% of our staff are women which I love as I like the equal gender balance, I believe it provides strength to our team. I also am inspired by the women leaders and young girls within an organisation we support, called Transform Cambodia. They inspire me daily to do the best that I can, so that I am able to give back and give these women and girls hope.
What do you think this means for South Australia and our wine industry?
The acknowledgement and empowerment of women is an amazing step forward for our industry. I know so many amazing women here in South Australia and across the world that contribute their life and their passion to wine, without whom the wine industry would not be as bold and vibrant as it is today. The awards are a platform to inspire more women like them to follow their dreams and promote diversity in the industry.
What message would you like to send other aspiring winemakers or wine business women looking to crack into the industry?
It’s no secret that hard work is the key to success in most industries, so my message to other aspiring winemakers or women in business is to never give up on your goals, all you need is for one person to believe in you to succeed, and that is something that has been reinforced to me throughout my entire journey as a winemaker.
What do you love about your job?
What’s not to love? I get to spend my days with people that share my love of wine, creativity and fun, all whilst being able to give back to those in need.
What are you looking forward to in the future? What do you think or hope it holds for you?
I am extremely excited about the new opportunities that lay ahead and the personal growth that goes with it. It is a real honour for me to be recognised as a valuable contributor in the wine industry and my goal is to increase the reputation of Australian wine around the world. Currently we are exporting 80% of our production to 25 countries. My personal life goal of empowering others and enriching lives is in motion!