Penfolds’ Stephanie Dutton on Being a Leading Female Winemaker

Penfolds x S/

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, right? That was certainly the case for Steph Dutton, who was putting herself through university by working at a Melbourne restaurant when she realized she was more interested in the wines she was pouring at night than the genetics she was studying by day. Still, there’s no wasted work, and a Bachelor of Science was the perfect degree to have under her belt when she changed direction and dove into winemaking, beginning with a post-grad Masters in Oenology from the University of Adelaide. She started working at Penfolds soon after and, at the young age of 27, was put in charge of reds at the Barossa Valley winery. We recently caught up with her to ask her a few questions about what it’s like to work for one of Australia’s oldest and most respected wineries.


“The biggest surprise for me has been the perks and support which come from regional living. I was born and bred a city girl, and all the frustrations I had during my 20s that were associated with regional living have all of a sudden morphed into the benefits. Regional Australian communities have the most beautiful sense of comradery which is so evident both within and outside of the wine industry.”


“It is so important in any team environment to have diversity and, in a winemaking team, palate diversity is imperative. If we all had the same taste, we would lose so many opportunities to find unique parcels and follow intriguing ideas. I believe my age helps round out an inimitable team.”


“I speak about backing your intuitive feelings in winemaking all the time. Women consider things with such care and thought that we often ignore intuition, even though it serves us so well. I would love to be able to inspire, support, and provide resources for women so they are able to thrive in this industry.”


“There are a couple of wines in our (Penfolds) California portfolio that are worldly, international, and have an air of open-mindedness about them. Like a well-traveled individual that has been exposed to so many cultures, these wines offer a brand new perspective. For this project, I have constantly reminded myself about their ‘reason for being.’ We have to keep forging a new path, rather than replicating anything else.”


“Pasta is always a favourite any time of year. One of my go-to dishes is pappardelle with duck ragu. Cooking the duck down so it falls off the bone is a labour of love, but the payoff is worth it, as is the wine match for this dish: our 2017 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz.”


“For the wines crafted during my time at Penfolds, I hope that they not only tell the story of place, but also of time. A time of technological advancements, a time of a quality-first and a quality-focused Australian wine industry, and a time of curiosity and innovation.”