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Kärnten / Carinthia, Austria

In German, nouns are gendered, and there’s a specific word for a female winemaker:“winzerin”. Sabine David is one of many winzerinnen that we’ve met, pioneering new routes in winemaking in a world traditionally dominated by their “winzer” counterparts.

A native of the Lavanttal, Sabine grew up in a wine-loving family, but pursued her education to establish herself as an industrial engineer in the Styrian capital of Graz.

But the call of wine, and home, was strong, so Sabine convinced her grandmother to let her plant grapes on her land as a weekend “Pilot Project”. Shuttling between Graz and the Lavanttal, Sabine’s 5 years of tending the young vineyard coincided with a “plot” to move back and change careers.

And she did. In the span of barely a decade since her first vintage in 2010, Sabine and her husband Dominique bought an old farm, Vulgo Ritter , converted and renovated its 3 buildings into a home, guest apartment, winery, and tasting room, planted 1.8 hectares of new vineyards, and gave birth to three daughters along the path to crafting her award-winning wines.

“How do you do it all?” I ask – it seems hard enough to make a go of it with barely 2 hectares of vineyard, let alone transform an estate, raise a family, and win what now numbers dozens of awards for her wine. As an engineer, she tells me, she’s leveraged her prior experience to introduce time-saving innovations throughout the vineyard and winery to optimize her time, reduce labor, and maintain a high-quality focus, including the highly mechanized, temperature-controlled winery of her own design.

But with up to 45 degrees of slope, the vineyards are still mostly handwork – and Sabine offers that she’s also woven a community around her – her husband Dom, who still works as an engineer, her family, and a close-knit group of other pioneering winemakers in the region that collaborate, support one another, and advance their shared mission of restoring Kärnten to the ranks of great wine regions.

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