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Meet the Women Taking the Spanish Wine Industry by Storm

Meet the Women Taking the Spanish Wine Industry by Storm

Women make the world go 'round. They are fearless leaders, caring partners and strong business owners. Without women, we quite literally would not be here. So what better way to commemorate International Women's Day than to celebrate Cosecha's very own female winemakers? These ladies are passionate professionals and add dimension and strength to our portfolio. We are so proud to represent them and call them friends. 

We interviewed three phenomenal winemakers in our portfolio, Beatriz Herranz of Barco del Corneta, Meritxell Palleja of Meritxell Palleja, and Laura Ramos of Envínate, about their experiences as winery owners and as women working in the Spanish wine industry.

 

BEATRIZ HERRANZ: BARCO DEL CORNETA

What inspired you to get into winemaking?

B: I have been going to my family vineyards since I was a baby. One memory I especially remember from when I was little is harvest time. We were always going to “harvest”, which, for us meant picking clusters of grapes to take home to eat. I remember vividly what it felt like to walk on those sandy floors and boulders in the vineyard. I have that sensation and the image of the vines of my grandfather's vineyard, Judas, burned into my memory. I was in El Infierno, and the oak on foot from vineyard where we sat to snack.

Thanks to my childhood experiences, I have always been connected to the world of viticulture. Grape growing was what I initially wanted to devote my time to when I planted my first vineyard with my mother. I wanted to work the vineyard and sell the grapes. 

While we were in the plantation I began to study oenology, and that’s where I began to meet winemakers in the area with small projects, and started working winemaking internships in other parts of Spain. I began to travel and taste thousands of wines and that’s when I got hooked!

What advice do you have for women who want to become winemakers?

B: For me, during these 12 years I’ve spent working, I’ve been more than just a winemaker. My job has involved developing a product, a business, a warehouse, and a brand (or six!). It has been just as hard as it’s been rewarding, and so my advice is to create a project that inspires you to want to work consistently, persistent (and insistently). 

You must be hardworking and above all, be filled with passion. You can ignite this passion by getting into the world of wine first-hand. Traveling, meeting  and mingling with people, enjoying the wines and the wonderful people in the industry, asking questions, and savouring. I think this advice applies to men as well as women!

How are men and women different when it comes to making wine? Do they taste wine differently?

B: As women, we may perceive more detail and we may be a little more subtle. I think that this difference is mainly due to our tasting practices rather than our gender.

If I had to make a distinction, I would say it’s not in the winemaking itself. In the development of the projects, women can become (to generalize) a little more tenacious and present, we can do several things at once and therefore, get ahead a little faster.  But there are also so many men who have executed their projects wonderfully!

As for how men and women taste, I think every individual tastes wine differently and I can’t really tell a major difference between men and women.

Do you think the wine industry is still dominated by men?

B: I see two very different worlds of wine. The first is the world of the major wineries, large companies detached from the countryside (and almost the wine) that make millions of bottles and behave like one giant corporation - this world I do believe is dominated by men still. It’s a more hierarchical and macho industry.

The second is our world of wine, with people who really live and breathe it, who work with sensitivity for the vines, for the wines and for their partners. If you look at this world of wine objectively, yes there are more men than women, but the gender gap is shrinking and - most importantly - women are valued the same as men.

Which female winemakers do you admire?

I really admire my friend Victoria Torres, who comes from La Palma in the Canary Islands. I look up to her as a winegrower, a winemaker, a woman and as a human being. You could not have a more difficult terroir to work with where she is, and she makes wonderful wines. Both she and her wines have a magical aura.

I admire all my friends (I am very lucky) because they have had to fight so hard to create or maintain their wineries. There are some with wineries that are between 15 and 20 years old and others that are just starting out. These women always come from a place of honesty and a pure love for wine. I can give you names but I'm sure I would forget some and that’s not right!

Do men ever try to explain winemaking to you thinking they know better?

B: In my town yes, especially when it comes to how to work the field. La Seca is basically a town of wine growers, and according to them I do a lot of  things wrong.

But it’s more “this was done like this all my life and the way you’re doing it now is wrong” rather than “you’re a woman you don’t know what you’re doing.”  They really do want to help and it comes from a good place. 

 

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MERITXELL PALLEJA : MERITXELL PALLEJA

What inspired you to get into winemaking?

M: My family has a company, CONCENTRADOS PALLEJÀ, where they make concentrated juice from grape, fig and carob fruit for concentrated syrups. It’s the most famous syrup in Europe! I started studying winemaking to help out at home and eventually started my own project.

What advice do you have for women who want to become winemakers?

M: Becoming an oenologist is easy, you just have to study. I would tell them that if they have the dream of having their own wine or winery,  fight for it even if you don't have anywhere to get started. Dreams can come true if you’re ready to fight for them.

How are men and women different when it comes to making wine? Do they taste wine differently?

M: These gender differences don’t exist for me. Male winemakers are as good as female winemakers if there is a solid professional behind each winery. 

You have to refine your palate to be good at tasting and that means tasting a lot. We have to behave as equals to achieve equality.

Do you think the wine industry is still dominated by men?

M: No, I don’t.  If you mean what the world of wine looks like, I would like to know the percentage of women who are working in each winery.

Do men ever try to explain winemaking to you thinking they know better?

M: I have never been in this situation personally. We always share our ways or experiences with each other since in each vintage and winemaking experience you learn something new that is not in the books.

 

LAURA RAMOS: ENVÍNATE

What inspired you to get into winemaking?

Since I was a child I’ve always had a relationship with wine. My father always liked wine so at home there were always uncorked bottles of wine around, and from time to time he would let me and my brothers taste some. As time went by and I grew up, I began to taste more wines and learn more about where they came from and how to cultivate grapes, and so I got hooked on this wonderful world.

What advice do you have for women who want to become winemakers?

This world of wine is very exciting and when you’re fully in it, you want more and more. You stop seeing it as a job and it becomes a way of life.

My advice would be to make a huge effort and put all your passion into what you do and the rest will come. The abundance of fulfillment that the world of wine gives you through its culture and the people who create it and know it, is infinite. I would give this same advice to a man.

How are men and women different when it comes to making wine? Do they taste wine differently?

I don't know if there are major differences between men and women, but rather I would say that there are differences between people; each one has their way of perceiving based on their experiences, and with it, a different sensitivity to interpret soils, places, places, varieties, vintages etc. Perhaps women have a subtlety that allows them to reach those small details.

Each person will have a different sensory memory, depending on their experiences, hence the importance of traveling to visit producers and understand the work of each of them and try the maximum possible wines from around the world. 

Do you think the wine industry is still dominated by men?

I believe that it is still dominated by men, but that the number of women working in any sector related to wine is increasingly being taken into account. We have to keep working hard because it will cost us a little more than a man to reach the top.

Which female winemakers do you admire?

I have admiration for many viticulturists and winemakers, perhaps more for people who do both (viticulture and winery) so I will name two of them who are a major source of daily inspiration for me.

My friend Arianna Occhipinti, who is still so young, is incredible. I think that thanks to her strength and determination she has already achieved a lot and all alone, without anyone giving her anything and in a land like Sicily, which is so difficult for a woman. She has a strong character and when it comes to work she is concise and decisive, she knows very well what she wants and how it wants it. She is so hospitable with her friends, so generous gives you and it teaches everything she knows.

On the other hand, I want to name Lalou Bize-Leroy, my reference, in whose steps I followed as a fighter and strong woman. She has an overwhelmingly strong character, faithful to her thoughts and with what she does. She puts her utmost passion into her vineyard and her wines.

Do men ever try to explain winemaking to you thinking they know better?

This has not happened to me in the winemaking sense. But this has happened to me in restaurants, where I've asked for the wine list and the server gives it to the man at the table or they try to give the wine to him to taste, even though that man has not even asked for wine!

 

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