Our featured wine maker this week is Candice Helbig of CRFT wines, based in South Australia. CRFT wines focus on showcasing the best of a small handful of vineyards in the Barossa Valley, Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills to make for seriously unique and refined wines. We've proudly been flogging Candice's wares at the shop for months and are thrilled to share her beautiful words below.
Don't forget to visit https://www.1800respect.org.au/ if you want to donate to our chosen charity. Better yet, come by and share a bottle of wine, the proceeds of which are to be donated to help support victims of domestic, family and sexual abuse.
Hello, I’m Candice Helbig. I’m a winemaker, vigneron, small business owner and co-founder of the wine label CRFT. My husband Frewin and I live on our 12 acre property ‘Arranmore’ in the Piccadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills). Our winery, vineyard and cellar door are all located on our property and we make all of our wines by hand on site. Our 5 acre organically grown Arranmore vineyard is planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gruner Veltliner.
Why have you agreed to participate in this project?
I watch our industry closely and am excited to see more females joining the wine industry and more freely having their say. The spotlight is really on how diverse our industry is. I think it’s fantastic to see and hear stories from women in wine – I hope it inspires other women to pursue a career in our industry.
Why are you passionate about being involved in these collectives?
When I started in the wine industry most of the people around me where men. There was a small group of females, but female mentors were few and far between. Hopefully we can inspire more women to join us in the wine industry. And for those woman already working in the wine industry, it’s exciting to shine a light on them and to hear their story.
How did you become involved in this field?
My Dad has worked in the wine industry his whole life so I have been in wineries since I was little and spent many a time at the crusher watching grapes come in. I also grew up in the Barossa Valley so I was never far from a grape vine. My family were among the first generation of immigrants to settle in the Barossa Valley back in the 1800s, planting vines and farming – so grapes are in my blood, but I am the first person in my family to go on and become a winemaker.
My first job in the wine industry was on a bottling line, followed by working as a laboratory technician. From here I was inspired by the wine makers around me and I started my wine science degree in 2002. I then move to the Riverland to pursue my winemaking career, working for Hardy’s whilst studying the Wine Science degree by distance education through Charles Sturt University. In 2009 Frew and I quit our winemaking jobs and left Australia travelling for 7 months around the world, seeing 32 countries and experiencing many of the wine regions around the world. Upon our return, I worked for a small contract winemaking winery in McLaren Vale. In 2010 I started working at Mollydooker and spent 2 years learning the ropes with Sparky and Sarah.
At the end of 2012 it was time to go out on our own, and CRFT was born. I have been working full time with CRFT ever since.
If any, can you run us through some trials or tribulations you’ve faced based on your gender?Being part of a winemaking duo with my husband, and doing many meetings / tastings together with different people, I often feel the inequality of being a female winemaker. Never from my husband of course, but from those who we are talking to. Questions are often directed to him and the conversation is steered towards him. There seems to be a general assumption that men are the winemakers and make the decisions in the winery and vineyard. It’s incredibly frustrating and infuriating at times.
How do you think we can challenge these attitudes in future?
As more women become winemakers and are involved in the industry I think the attitudes will change. Unfortunately, this is something that will only come with time. The fact that is is still such a male dominated industry doesn’t help. But sharing our stories and opinions is a wonderful way to show that we are here, doing amazing things and yes, we are actually winemakers!
Are there any women in your industry that inspire you?
I have been inspired by so many women over the past 20 years. Fiona Donald was the first female Senior Group Winemaker for Hardy’s back in the mid 2000’s when I was new to winemaking. She inspired me hugely and gave me a lot of room to grow my confidence as a winemaker – something that had been severely knocked by some of those around me. I looked up to her for many reasons and found her to be a great mentor. I am also inspired by those winemakers who’ve started their own labels and successfully hold down running their businesses with families in tow – Kerry Thompson, Sarah Marquis, Sue Bell, Charlotte Hardy, Briony Hoare, to name just a few. I think this is very inspirational for young women to see that they can pursue a career in wine and have a family.
What are you most proud of?
Starting our label CRFT and also graduating with my Wine Science degree. I’m really proud that I went to university and completed my degree – I saw a lot of people drop out! CRFT will always be special to me. We have created so many wonderful wines and as time goes on we rely more on our intuition for making the wines each year, instead of doing what we have been taught and doing things the way they’ve always been done. I’m also super proud of our vineyard ‘Arranmore’ and that we now have our own winery. From a dream of someday owning our own vineyard and winery to actually having the space, turning it into something amazing and now farming organically still blows my mind. It’s amazing how much can be achieved in a relatively short period of time if you put your heart and energy into it.
What are your projections for the future?
I’m excited and inspired by the young women joining the wine world. We have a long way to go to create equality, but I know the industry we have in 20 years is going to be far different to the one we have now.