IWD Exclusive: How Dan Murphy’s and Brown Brother’s are supporting the next generation of women in wine

March 8, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Dan Murphy’s and Brown Brother’s have joined forces to offer seven female wine experts and retailers the opportunity to learn the end-to-end process of harvesting a vintage first hand. 

Taking place next weekend, the initiative will see seven women chosen from Dan Murphy’s ranks spend two days at Brown Brother’s Winery where they will be tutored first-hand by esteemed winemakers Katherine Brown and Cate Looney. 

Drinks Trade took the opportunity to sit down with two of the key women behind the initiative, Brown Brother’s winemaker Katherine Brown and Dan Murphy’s Wine Merchant and National Lead for Dan’s Women in Drinks Colleen Haggarty, to discuss what the initiative entails, why it’s important, and what state they think gender equality is at in Australia’s wine industry today.

Drinks Trade: Can you briefly introduce yourself and your work?

Katherine Brown: Sure, so I’m part of the fourth generation of the Brown family – the Brown family has been making one for 135 years in Miller in Victoria – and I am a winemaker, and I’ve been making wine for Brown Brothers since 2015.

Colleen Haggarty: So I’m affectionately known as the wine mom.  I am originally from Canada and the US, I’ve been in Australia now for almost 10 years, and I’ve always had a background in wine, food, events and hospitality. 

I’ve almost hit my two year mark at Dan Murphy’s as the Richmond wine merchant, which basically is your in store specialist. On top of that, I’m currently the National Lead for Dan’s Women in drinks.  

I’m also on the WCA, which is the Wine Communicators Australia – the Victorian board.

DT: Can you explain a little more about the upcoming Dan Murphy’s and Brown Brother’s initiative?

KB: Brown Brothers have had an extremely longstanding relationship with Dan Murphy’s and it’s been fantastic over the past few years.

Dan Murphy’s has brought on sort of a women in wine program internally, and then last year Colleen and I met each other at an event and so chatting about a crazy idea of getting a group of women up here around the same time at International Women’s Day and our Patricia launch to give them a hand-on experience in a winery.

CH: It’s a fantastic opportunity to take some of our leaders within the Dan’s stores – and again, it doesn’t have to be all of the wine merchants.

So it’s an opportunity to dive into essentially everything that is wine making! We’re on an active winery site – so we’ll go through, we’ll learn about the different winemaking processes, we’ll be [involved] in the harvest picking grapes, making wine and just learning everything about it.

When you look at who the female leaders are in that company, they’re such amazing role models!

DT: You’ve both been in the industry for a while – How far do you feel it has it come in regards to gender equality? How far does it still have to go?

KB: It’s improving but it’s only because we’ve been talking about it. 

I think over the last sort of decade it’s becoming more and more normal to have women in a winery and it seems like it’s a bit of a snowballing effect in the way that if you have women in the winery, they attract more women in the winery because you started culture that women want to be part of… the winery culture in the past has been pretty blokey.

I feel that we’re on the right pathway, but there’s still so much more we can do of actually retaining women in the workforce from a wide room perspective, especially during the time of them having young children and so forth, of being able to be flexible with hours and flexible with working conditions and so forth.

CH: I think it’s made great progress. 

I previously had a panel discussion with Kathleen Quealy from Quealy Wines and Clare Viotin from Heathcote Gin and while we were interviewing them, and I don’t want to speak on behalf of them, but to sort of give you an example, we asked them “did you have any female leaders in the industry that you look up to?” and their answer was sort of, “oh, not really.”

And now when you come full circle, these women are now leading the way for future generations so I think it’s absolutely made progress.

DT: What advice would you give to women who are interested in pursuing a career in wine?

KB: The best way to do that is to speak to someone like myself or someone like Colleen! 

We want to be able to help you at Brown Brothers, we offer vintage roles so people that can come and work with us for a three month period over the harvest time every year to really do a bit of an internship to understand how it all works and I’d love for them to be able to contact me and be able to get involved in that!

CH: I’d say I have two [pieces of advice]. One of them is be loud: I think, like, go for it, try put your hand up at things, even if you’re not necessarily feeling 100% confident or comfortable – I think you grow from that. So put yourself out there.

And the other one is to align yourself either with a mentor or to find that community sense to really give you that support because there’s going to be some days when you don’t have a good day and you need to go and talk to someone about it but there’s also going to be the total opposite when you’re going to have really, really good days and you want to celebrate those wins, and those are the perfect people to do that with.

DT: Any final comments?

KB: Just about the Patricia wines, so the wines that pay homage to my grandmother: we’re releasing them next week, so the week after International Women’s Day, which happened to be Patricia’s birthday. 

Nana was very much the unofficial CEO… she was an amazing woman and really kept our business together over the years of really rapid growth of Brown Brothers going from sort of like a family farm into an international wine business.

CH: I think at the end of the day, the biggest thing to take away about is it’s really a community sense, and it’s really just to find your people because at the end of the day, if you do walk into a room and there’s only a few of you, you want to create that strong connection together.

Share the content