Women in Wine — Simone Furlong
Wednesday, March 7, 2018 in News
Joint CEO, Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River
To mark International Women’s Day 2018, Langton’s spoke to five leading women in the wine industry. From its very beginnings, Leeuwin Estate, founded by Denis and Tricia Horgan in 1973, has been counted among the leading Margaret River wineries. Simone Furlong, daughter of the founders, is today Joint Chief Executive with her brother Justin.
Leeuwin Estate’s flagship ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay has featured in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine since its beginning in 1990 and has since been joined by the ‘Art Series’ Cabernet Sauvignon.
You grew up in a prominent Australian wine family, also famous for its support of culture and the arts. Were you destined to join the family business?
My parents purchased the Margaret River farmland that was to become Leeuwin Estate when I was two years old and it has always been a very special backdrop to what we have done as a family.
Initially I went to University thinking I wanted to become a diplomat but after graduating I moved to London and worked in marketing, eventually joining the family business. The combination at Leeuwin Estate of fine wine, food, the arts, music and the travel involved working across our 30 distribution markets is a pretty unique way to combine so many of my interests in a professional capacity whilst working with an incredible team of people!
You’ve said that the hallmark of your iconic Art Series Chardonnay -- Langton’s Classified ‘Exceptional’ -- is the ‘harmony of the fruit’. Is there also a harmony between art and wine?
Each wine tells the story of its site, the season and the people who created it. We are a proudly Australian fine wine producer, so combining Australian artworks on our labels allows us to reflect our country of origin, the individuality of each wine and our philosophy that winemaking is an art as well as a science.
Can you remember a standout wine moment in your life? For example, that glass where it first all made sense, changed the way you thought about wine?
When I first started drinking wine I remember being at a Wine Australia fair and my brother told me I had to try the Bass Phillip Pinot Noir. It is a wine I will never forget!
How do you balance making your mark and honouring the work done by your parents?
Leeuwin Estate had its first vintage in 1979 and so much was achieved by my parents very quickly. My brother Justin and I, as second generation Joint CEOs, see ourselves very much in custodial roles, developing the Estate with a long-term vision.
While it’s important to respect our strong foundations, we continue our commitment to excellence by working with our team on striving to better understand our sites and develop our viticultural and winemaking techniques to continue to evolve and make the finest wines possible.
Imagine, if you can, that you are able to drink only one wine for the rest of your life. What would that wine be and why? And to make it interesting, you can’t choose one of your own wines...
If it’s only one wine for the rest of my life then I’m going to choose a variety! As a seafood lover I would spend my time exploring the breadth of Chardonnay from Margaret River, enjoying the nuances and complexities of each producer and the outstanding consistency of quality from the region.
What advice would you give graduates starting out in the business of wine?
Explore the diversity of the world of wine, always remain curious, find yourself a mentor and surround yourself with talented people, travel, ask lots of questions and taste at every opportunity.
Thinking about women in the wine industry, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen during your career?
From its earliest days Margaret River had a strong contingent of pioneering women involved in the industry and it is wonderful to see the increasing number of women operating across all facets of the Australian wine industry including viticulture, winemaking, marketing and management. I think the future is really positive for women in wine.
Who is the woman in the wine industry who has influenced you the most?
My mother, Tricia Horgan, who co-founded Leeuwin Estate with my father, Denis, and was herself Managing Director for many years. She combined her vision with a management style that empowered our technical team to pursue excellence. She was a pioneer in the Margaret River region and handled any challenge with assurance and grace. I am very lucky to have her as a mentor in her retirement!
Discover the Langton's Classified wines from Leeuwin Estate here.