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Winemakers Women in Wine, PT 2

Cellar Talk with Claudia Small

In honor of Women’s History Month, get to know New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc savant. Interview by Nick Baines.

Honoring Women in Wine:
Small on agricultural science – and why relationships should be easy

Interviewed by Nick Baines 

Women in Wine: Claudia Small

“My career is exactly where I want it to be right now. It’s not what I imagined 20 years ago, but it’s 100% the best spot for me.”


1. How did you get your start in wine?

A month or so before my final school exams I started to worry that I wouldn’t like being a lawyer. I think it was my Mother who suggested trying viticulture. Before long I was living in Adelaide doing a Bachelor of Agricultural Science majoring in viticulture. Luckily I loved the subject and after completing honors I started a graduate program at a large Australian wine company.

2. Where are you in your career now?

Hmm, not where I expected! It’s just Bill and me in the business, so together we do everything. A couple of years ago we bought a hillside Pinot Noir/Pinot Gris vineyard and we try to do most of the work on this vineyard ourselves. My career is exactly where I want it to be right now. It’s not what I imagined 20 years ago, but it’s 100% the best spot for me.

3. How do Naked Angels empower you as a winemaker?

We would never have our own wine business if it wasn’t for the incredible support of the Naked Angels. Selling wine through traditional channels is hard and in the past has involved a lot of travel, something we’re just not interested in, especially as we have three kids. So having such strong relationships with the customers of Naked has made Small and Small possible.

4. What’s a BIG lesson you’ve learned along the way?

A big lesson for me is that relationships should be easy. There are always going to be unexpected bad times in business and in life, and you want to work through these times with people who share your values. We’ve had some tough vintages in the past four years and we couldn’t have gotten through them without the wonderful people we work with. Make your relationships with the right people during the good times because they are the ones you will want around in the bad times. 

5. What’s the message you have for other women winemakers?

That careers in wine can look different at various times during your career.

6. What is your big hope for women in wine in the future?

That it becomes so normal that we don’t even have to talk about it.

Women in Wine: Claudia Small

Follow Claudia & Bill Small on Naked Wines

Nick Baines is a food and travel writer based in London.

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