Celebrating International Women’s Day with Winemaker, Sophie Ward

Published on: 6th March 2024

Sophie Ward | Winemaker

On this International Women’s Day, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to Sophie Ward, an esteemed presence within our winemaking family. Sophie’s pursuits in wine have seen her undertake considerable study and work experience around the world. Her high level of expertise is matched by her dedication to the craft and by her character. We are very appreciative of all of her contributions to Xanadu.


Originally hailing from the South Island of New Zealand, Sophie embarked on her academic journey by obtaining a Science degree, majoring in Biochemistry. The blend of her Biochemistry background, coupled with a passion for travel, gastronomy, and a diverse set of skills crucial in Winemaking, steered her towards a Master’s degree in Oenology. Sophie’s early foray into the world of Cabernet Sauvignon commenced with a Master’s Degree Research Scholarship, leading to the publication of her research in The American Journal of Enology and Viticulture.

Transitioning from academia, her professional journey commenced with Pernod Ricard at Orlando Wines in the Barossa Valley and Boutique Martell Cognac in France. She has worked vintage in Central Otago, Burgundy and the Okanagan Valley in Canada, however the allure of Margaret River drove her to settle into the region in 2014. Joining Naturaliste Vintners for her inaugural Margaret River vintage, Sophie then joined Xanadu and has progressed from Cellar Hand to Winemaker in 2020.

Sophie’s journey to becoming a winemaker

“I was finishing up my Bio Chemistry degree, and whilst I enjoyed the challenge of studying Bio Chem, when looking at jobs utilising that knowledge, there weren’t many options that interested me – all the jobs seemed a bit uninspiring. I loved food and wine, so the sommelier at my part-time university job recommended looking into winemaking. After a bit of research, it looked like it fitted the brief – travel, food, wine, working outdoors when required, and utilising my science degree. This led me to moving to Adelaide to study Oenology.”

On facing Challenges in the industry

Sophie explains, “I don’t feel like I have had more or less challenges than anyone else in a similar role.  We all have different strengths, weaknesses and experiences. I have been lucky to be part of passionate, highly skilled and experienced teams for most of my career.  I have utilised others experience and knowledge to develop and have shared what I have learned.  Most people that work in the industry thrive off being challenged. It is something I really enjoy about being a winemaker.”


“I have seen an evolution of wineries hiring a more diverse range of personalities. I have experienced that having a diverse range of personalities, skills and experiences leads to a more cohesive team.”



“We are lucky in Western Australia with the quality of wine and life here, particularly Margaret River, as it attracts many knowledgeable and passionate people across the wine industry.  We have a number of influential females working in the Western Australia wine industry.  I have been fortunate to have been part of tastings and wine shows with Cath Oates, Gen Mann, Virginia Willcock and Ely Jarvis.  I am impressed with their knowledge and experiences and how confidently they can communicate about wine and the wine industry.”


“Do and say things with confidence. Only you know the experience and skills you have. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to have confidence in the decisions you are making.”


To the women of Xanadu

Today, we recognise the efforts of all of the women in the team at Xanadu. We are very thankful for the impact that they have on the wider business and are delighted to acknowledge all of their successes.