Spend five minutes with Samantha Bailey and it’s clear she’s an extraordinary woman. As Boutinot’s Wine Ambassador and Master Blender, she divides her time between buying trips, selecting juice for our own label production and acting as a spokesperson for our wine. She’s credited with having “the best palate in the business” and there are few more intrinsic to Boutinot’s own story than her.
Samantha has been with Boutinot France since 1990: “I was the sole employee in France back then! It was a time in my life when I knew if I didn’t grab the opportunity to go and live in France, I may never do it. There were very few women working in wine at that time, but I just got on with it!”
I am sitting talking to Samantha on loudspeaker and, even over the phone and from across the Channel, her passion for her work is palpable. She confesses that she was once seriously considering getting into the perfume industry * :
“Even now, when I’m travelling in airports, I aim to smell as many perfumes as possible!”. But whether it’s perfume, cooking, walking outside or crafting one of Boutinot’s incredible blends, everything to do with sensorial activity is really important to her: “If I didn’t have a nose, I’d be a very unhappy person!”.
So, what does she think about women working in wine today?
“Attitudes to women in wine have changed enormously over the past 20 years. It’s great that women are now actively encouraged to pursue studies in wine but as I said, it was a very male-dominated environment when I first arrived in France, probably as it was a fairly manual role, but there’s no reason why women can’t work in a cellar – there’s no reason why women can’t handle grapes, drive tractors or manage hoses.”
“In terms of any advice for women wanting to start a career in the wine world, I’d say ‘if you want to do it, make it happen’. It sounds a little abrupt but there are so many opportunities for studies, travel and experiences outside of the home environment. For me one of the hallmarks of a strong woman is knowing what you want and combining that with a sense of empathy and willingness to listen – I think those are also excellent traits to have if you want to succeed in wine, too!”
Samantha tells me the most influential woman in her life had been her grandmother, who she says had a wonderful understanding of the difficulties of life and ways of coping that resonated with her;
“I spent a lot of time with her when I was younger – it made me realise just how much she was able to embrace change. She was born in 1898 so modernisation of society must have been a big shock but getting to grips with it and going along with it was just what she did – a trait I feel is incredibly important in today’s world”.
Samantha is an incredible woman in wine and a successful mother of two girls, of whom she is immensely proud, but if she could have just one more superpower what would it be?
“Making people happy. I’d like to be able to make a lot more people happy.”
*if you’re wondering, her longstanding favourite perfume is Chanel no. 19.