We are raising a glass to celebrate women in the wine industry for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022.
Simpsons’ Wine Estate is proud to be leading the way with women in a diverse range of roles across the business – from the vineyard to the winery, plus managing marketing, logistics and events.
We are delighted to share the stories of our amazing team members on their journey to Simpsons' and the critical roles they undertake to continue the successes of the Estate.
RUTH SIMPSON – CO-FOUNDER
“My husband Charles and I co-founded Simpsons’ Wine Estate, in 2012 and have been busy building this business over the past 10 years. Although we still feel relatively new to the English wine industry, we are not new to wine, having grown grapes and produced wine at our Estate, Domaine de Sainte Rose, in the Languedoc region of southern France, since 2002. With 30 hectares of vineyards now established on the iconic chalk terroir of the North Downs and a state-of-the-art winery and visitor facility situated minutes from the vines, we have accomplished a lot over the past few years, with the help of our brilliant team.
As well as jointly managing both of our businesses, I recently joined the WineGB board as a Director, at what is an incredibly exciting time for the English and Welsh wine industry, and I am passionate about championing diversity and inclusion across our industry both nationally and internationally. This is actively encouraged by my two late-teens daughters, who have inspired me to step up, engage and represent.
I come from a well-known Scottish whisky family, being a 5th generation descendent of William Grant, (so I believe there might be alcohol production, or just alcohol, in the blood!) and prior to what is now 20 years in the wine industry, I worked in the Humanitarian Sector, focusing on international aid and development. As a result of this international experience, my hidden talent is that I speak both Mandarin Chinese and Azerbaijani and used to be an expert with the Tai Qi Jian sword!”
DEN’E VAN WYK – ASSISTANT WINEMAKER
“I was fortunate to grow up in the beautiful South African Winelands. I have always loved science, the outdoors, art and good food and drink. By studying BSc Viticulture & Oenology at Stellenbosch University, it allowed me to blend all these things together.
My career journey began in 2016 as a tasting room assistant at Delaire Graff Wine Estate followed by Rust en Vrede Wine Estate in 2017, where I also did my first harvest internship. I experienced my second harvest at Kanonkop Wine Estate in 2019/20. During the pandemic I completed my WSET level 3, got married and moved to London to join my husband.
My move to London enabled me to discover more international wines, as well as to gain further knowledge of wine sales and logistics. I kept an eye on the English wine industry and an opening appeared in Kent. Today I am the Assistant Winemaker at Simpsons’ Wine Estate, where I continue to live my dream of making wine.
My hidden talent is that I do photography and videography in my spare time, where I capture people and their beautiful moments.”
NIKKI WELLS – WINERY APPRENTICE
“I previously lived and worked in London as a Chartered Accountant in tax advisory for over 6 years before deciding that there has to be more to life than the rat race of the city!
Having always had an interest in wine, in 2021 I began researching the fast-growing UK wine industry and the many wineries that we have here. I also undertook my WSET Level 1 and Level 2 courses to broaden my knowledge and this only increased my interest - I loved the extent to which the winemaking drew on my Biochemistry degree.
When researching 'Inspirational Women in Wine', Co-Founder of Simpsons’ Wine Estate, Ruth Simpson, popped up on my screen. I swiftly emailed the team at Simpsons’ and was invited to spend some time over harvest 2021 helping out in the winery. Six months later, I now live in the beautiful Kent countryside and work as a Winery Apprentice, learning on the job.
In my role, I am also lucky enough to spend some of my time at Domaine Sainte Rose, Ruth and Charles' wine estate in the South of France, which has incentivised me to kick-start my French again!
Outside of work I am a keen golfer and hope to get my handicap down on the challenging courses in Kent.”
NICOLE SMITH - OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR
“I have recently joined the Simpsons’ team and I am really looking forward to learning more about the English wine sector. I have always had an interest in wine and I was even married in a château with a vineyard in Bordeaux, near to where my parents live.
My background is in the fashion industry, where I initially trained as a Management Accountant for a luxury fashion brand. With the experience I gained, plus my focus and determination, I have since founded not one but two fashion businesses!
I draw my inspiration from European style mixed with quintessentially English traits, with sustainability as its core. This shares a synergy with the Simpsons’ story and I look forward to working with the team and learning more about the running of the Estate.”
MARY LEHNER – EVENTS COORDINATOR
“I was bitten by the English wine bug in the summer of 2018 at a friend’s BBQ in Tooting, London. She served, for fun, a bottle of still wine made from grapes grown in neighbours’ back gardens. It tasted just as you can imagine, but it was a light bulb moment for me – if individuals were having a go, what were the professionals up to? I went straight to Waitrose afterwards and bought as many bottles of English sparkling wine as I could carry. And then I went back the next day to get more. It was the beginning of a love affair that hasn’t waned and after many vineyard visits that amazing summer and since, I decided I wanted to immerse myself in the industry and work for a winery.
I took a couple of the WSET courses to brush up on my wine knowledge and moved to Kent in 2019 to live near the sea. It was only a matter of time before I gave up my London job in the summer of 2021 and joined the team at Simpsons’.
I am an editor by training and spent a number of years in communications in the art world in London. Now I help the Events and Sales team at Simpsons’, welcoming customers to the winery and sharing information about our wines. English wine is my passion and working here is truly a dream come true.
I’m originally from New Jersey and have cousins in the wine industry in California – you could say I’ve joined in the family business, in more ways than one! My hidden super power is that I love to bake and am known for my blondies. Just ask the team!”
SILVIA CACKOVA – SALES & EVENTS EXECUTIVE
“Wine has always been a part of my life as I come from a wine region in Slovakia. Even more so thanks to my Dad, who has been producing his own wine as hobby for the past 20 years.
I came to the UK nearly 19 years ago and one thing I know is that if you told me back then that I would end up working in the wine industry in England, then I would most certainly have not believed you!
I started my wine career over 10 years ago now when I joined Majestic Wine, where I started building my knowledge and confidence in talking to people and sharing my passion for vino.
In November 2018, I joined the Simpsons’ team within what was a relatively small business at that stage and I haven’t looked back since! I’m incredibly proud to be working for this local, family-oriented winery and to be able to watch it grow from strength to strength.
I have also been responsible for establishing our partnership with Demelza Hospice Care for Children and have continued the Estate's support for this incredible local charity through virtual tasting experiences and also our Open House events.”
HELEN POWER -
MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
“I was raised in the Garden of England before moving away to The University of Manchester to complete my degree in History of Art and Italian, where I honed my keen eye for detail and linguistic skills, plus my thirst for travel grew. I spent the third year of my degree studying in Umbria, Italy, which is where I fell in love with ‘la dolce vita’, revelling in the joy of good food, amazing wines and culture.
After a decade of working in education and teaching modern foreign languages, I joined Simpsons’ Wine Estate in spring 2017, just in time to witness the second plantation of vines on the Railway Hill vineyard site, which provided a wonderful introduction.
Since starting at Simpsons’, I have been fortunate enough to work across all aspects of the Estate, including providing assistance with the Simpsons’ sister vineyard, Domaine Sainte Rose, in the Languedoc.
This experience and understanding of the brand lead me to take on the role of Marketing and Communications Manager in summer 2019, with my primary focus on sharing the Simpsons’ story via social media, marketing and press releases.I have recently been supporting Ruth with the Diversity and Inclusion work across the Estate and beyond into the wider wine and luxury sectors, as well as working with our Wine Garden of England partners on boosting the Kentish wine tourism trail.
Aside from photography, I enjoy cooking and baking and have really missed hosting friends over the past couple of years. I now have a little pair of hands joining me in the kitchen and I look forward to taking my daughter on some gastronomic adventures now the world is opening up again.”