Mar 10, 2022
Emma grew up on farms in New Zealand, and when her family moved to Hawke’s Bay in her final years of schooling, she decided to become a winemaker. After graduating with a Bachelor of Ag Science in Oenology she travelled and worked overseas for eight years, and in 2002 she returned to New Zealand with her Chilean fiancée to plant the grapes that are now Monowai Estate.
So, tell us about where you grew up, what you wanted to ‘be’ when you grew up, and generally what led you to your role today?
I grew up on farms in New Zealand - first in South Westland, then the Waikato. I have no recollection of what I wanted to ‘be’ growing up, but I knew I needed something challenging and varied that didn’t involve sitting behind a desk all day. So when my parents moved to Hawke’s Bay in my final year of High School, at a time when the wine industry was really taking off, I looked into what the various career paths involved and decided to become a winemaker.
How long have you been involved in the wine industry and what made you want to become part of it?
I headed off to Adelaide University in 1993 where I undertook a Bachelor of Ag Science (Oenology) and, after including a year’s exchange to UC Davis in my third year, graduated in 1996. I was interested in science, took French at school, and a desire to travel were my main motivators in choosing winemaking.
My knowledge of wine when I started was pretty non-existent, but by the time I left University I was fascinated by the huge array of flavours and textures that could be created from a simple grape and wanted to learn more.
From there I travelled and worked overseas and came in contact with a huge range of wine styles from Swiss Riesling, South African Pinotage to Chilean Carmenere. In 2002 I returned to New Zealand with my Chilean fiancée, Marcelo, to plant the grapes which are now Monowai Estate.
What do you love most about your role?
I love that no two days are the same and the satisfaction of creating a product that people enjoy.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Physically vintage is always the most challenging time of year. We are a really small team and so the hours are long and there is always lots to do. But I find the sales and marketing by far more difficult as this is not my area of expertise.
To you, what makes the New Zealand wine industry special / unique?
It is very collaborative compared to some other places I have worked.
Winemakers in New Zealand are very willing to share ideas and work together.
Emma Lowe, Monowai Estate
Do you think there are gender-specific challenges in the wine industry? Do women have a harder time becoming successful/being taken seriously, or is that a thing of the past?
It is 20 years since we started Monowai so I haven’t worked in a corporate environment for a long time, so it’s hard to comment on this at that level. There is definitely gender-specific challenges for women who want to raise a family, as juggling motherhood and vintage is a struggle and I have seen many female winemakers leave the industry or take teaching/consultancy roles once they have kids.
What goals in the wine industry are you still wanting to achieve?
My main goal is to grow our Monowai Brand, we are really happy with the wines we produce but every year looking to improve and increase sales. I have enjoyed being part of the Young Winemaker competition committee this year and would like to continue to encourage young winemakers coming through.
What would you say to women considering a career in wine?
It is a great career, challenging and varied with a good community feel.
What is your favourite place in New Zealand to visit and why?
Central Otago… wine, skiing, biking, hiking, spectacular scenery!
And finally, what is your favourite wine variety?