Ilana Atlas | Oakridge Wines

Ilana Atlas
Occupation: Director of Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley
Lives: Sydney

Ilana was a guest speaker at our recent event Women of Oakridge. As a corporate lawyer, Ilana has extensive experience in business, holding executive and non-executive positions in a selection of Australia’s most well-known companies. She currently sits on the boards of Coca-Cola Amatil, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westfield Holdings Limited. The following is an excerpt from Ilana's inspiring talk at the event...

We all have war stories and it is fun and therapeutic to share them but what can we do. Here are a few things I have learnt along the way

1.     Celebrate and learn from success. There are incredibly talented women making wine, growing grapes, running wine companies - incredibly talented women chefs, women running brilliant front of house, owning restaurants, incredible women suppliers to restaurants of magnificent produce. Ask them to tell their stories, learn how they did it, how did they manage their kids during vintage, how did they make sure they got paid the same amount as the men and got bonuses when they performed brilliantly, how did they start their restaurant. The constant theme will be bravery, taking calculated risks.

2.     My second thing is to make sure we help each other. To be brave you need a support crew; people you ask and tell, who have shared experiences. The sisterhood is powerful. I have had so many wonderful women in my life, I know how important it is for me to be a wonderful women for others.

3.     And to help be brave you need to be prepared. I look at the prep that our chefs do at Oakridge, or front of house before service - women in food and wine know everything about being prepared. That needs to translate to your career and place in the world. If you want a pay rise you need to put together the reasons and present them so it is obvious. If you want to work more flexibly, you need to build the case and put it so confidently, no-one in their right mind could object. It is all about preparation and planning. That helps make the risks we take more manageable and helps us be more confident.

4.      Enlist the blokes. This is really important. I have spent a lot of the last 40 years talking to other women about equality and opportunity. Surprise, surprise they all agree with me. That feels good, but does not create change. Blokes are 50% of the audience - we need to enlist them to the cause and send them out to convert all the other blokes. They need to be our front line.

5.     Finally and most importantly, whatever it is - enjoy it. If you are not, every minute will be like an hour, every day like a year and you will be crossing the days off your calendar. Love it whatever it is. I listen to Jo Barrett talking about creating a sustainable restaurant, milling her flour, her desert made out of waste and she is rapturous. I wish I had felt that way about the Corporations Law. Passion and joy …. That is what we are after. I thank the women at Oakridge for giving me passion and joy and hope you find a lot of it in the future.



Victoria Sharples | The Wine Station

2 minutes with Victoria Sharples
Occupation: Senior Wine Judge/Owner (& Buyer) The Wine Station/Consultant
Lives: Melbourne, Australia

Victoria Sharples, career spans over two decades, having had a myriad of roles in the international wine industry. First and foremost she works as a Senior Wine Judge to the International Wine Challenge (IWC). She owns the well respected wine distribution company, The Wine Station ( exporting cool climate Victorian wines to United Kingdom, and importing Spanish and French wines into Australia. Currently she is about to embark on a new challenge as Head of Wine Operations at St John Restaurant Group. Recently Victoria visited me in San Sebastian and we discussed her career over a few glasses of albarino at Zelai Txiti.

How many candles were on your last cake? 
There was no cake!

What led you to a career in wine?
I was studying for a PhD which drove me to drink, literally! So an interest in wine was initiated and I cut my teeth at the Melbourne Supper Club and cultivated my interest further in London.

Tell us about your career as an Senior Wine Judge and where has it taken you so far?
Over a decade ago I was invited to judge at the International Wine Challenge in London, and from there my career has seen me travelling internationally three times a year to Europe and the UK and throughout Australia.  As a Senior Judge I have exposure to a significant range of styles and qualities of wines from hundreds of regions across the globe every year. It offers insight into emerging wine regions as well as providing an invaluable snap shot of vintage style and variations of key regions; whether it is 2014 Bordeaux, 2017 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir or vintage Champagne. 

As a judge I am surrounded by some of the world’s leading judges, winemakers, journalists; all the various people that make the European wine industry what it is today. One of my interests and something that I am pursuing closely, which my role as a Judge has shown me, is the breadth of fault assessment of wines. For almost a decade I have been given tremendous insights into the level of faults through the IWC.

Why did you create, The Wine Station, your own wine distribution company, importing and exporting?
Two reasons. Firstly having spent seven years working in the most dynamic wine market in the world in the 2000s, I returned home in the hope of continuing working in the wine industry but I was continuously turned down for roles because although I had a wealth of knowledge, I didn’t have a marketing degree. And secondly, I saw that there was a massive opportunity to bring interesting, smaller producers from Spain and France to Australia. And as they say the rest is history. I continued to grow the business and follow my other passion, Victorian small producers, and The Wine Station has enabled me to support these producers something that is usually missing with larger distribution companies.  I love finding new wines and spirits and bringing them into both international and Australian markets.

What do you think the wine world will be talking about next?
Probably the most pressing matters is the affect of climate change on vineyards & varietals planted. BUT If you want to talk more about trends, the popularity of extended skin contact wines, with little or no sulfur. Obviously this is the current trend in both Melbourne and London. But I believe (and hope) there will be a shift back to more traditional styles. We know that some customers will be curious or more likely encouraged by enthusiastic wine staff to try the latest funkiest style; I have seen first hand that the confronting nature of these styles wines results in a downturn in sales, with customers actually just wanting a good glass of wine that they can enjoy rather than something that is a trend & not always particularly delicious.  It is easy for wine professionals to become carried away with what’s new and different for different’s sake, rather than the audience for whom they are selecting.

Given the the industry changed since you started? What do you see as the key changes? Give me two.
Price. Simple as that. When I established The Wine Station in 2007, trade customers were willing to pay $20 LUC for a wine to pour by the glass (& charge $15). Now customers are hesitant to spend more than $12 a bottle (& still charge $15 for the glass). 

Also, everyone who likes wine thinks they can write a wine list - that it is easy, but actually its more than just about hype and label or using one or two suppliers and letting them direct the list, a good list is about balance and matching the cuisine & occasion & that means tasting the wines with the dishes which sadly does not happen as often as it could.

Here we are at Zelai Txiti, we’ve ordered Lubina (Sea bass), what are you matching it with from your Victorian cool climate wine company?
Great fresh fish! Keeping things local I have selected the Terras Gauda O Rosal. This is also a wine I am proud to have introduced to the Australian market nearly 10 years ago.  Looking at a Victorian alternative I would be drinking Anthony Brain’s Livewire Jolt Sauvignon Blanc from Geelong. This is a fume style and has wonderful texture while maintaining lovely brightness.  Like many in the trade, I tend to avoid sauvignon blanc but this is just a wonderful, easy delicious wine that brings a smile to my face!  Good wines need not be expensive!!

You can follow Victoria on Instagram @thewinestation