Discovering Anna Rovira, oenologist and technical director at Celler de Capçanes
The third best winemaker in the world and the best in Spain according to the German wine magazine "Selection Das Genussmagazin", Anna Rovira has made a name for herself in the world of wine since she joined Celler de Capçanes, a cooperative located in the D.O. Montsant (Catalonia) more than 8 years ago. This recognition of a job well done has given her the strength to continue with a project which more than 80 people in the village depend on and which shows that cooperativism can obtain really good results. These high-class wines are the result of working together and perfectly reflect the great potential of the Montsant wine region.
- In your curriculum we can see that before studying oenology, you studied agri-food engineering. What made you decide to choose wine?
At home we’ve always had vineyards. My grandfather was a farmer, he already worked a small vineyard and my father followed him by planting a couple more hectares, so we’ve always worked the land. They’ve always been happy in the countryside. The world of wine is exciting, it mixes a creative side with a more technical side and the work is so different throughout the year!
- The truth is that in your house there’s always been a close relationship with agriculture and vineyards. Surely you have some role model in your family who guides you in your day-to-day life. Could you tell us what your first memory with wine was?
It has always been my "turn" to go to the harvest! My role models have been my grandfather, who has always been dedicated to agriculture, and my father. He’s an optician, but I have always found him infinitely happier in the vineyard. Perhaps that’s why neither my sisters nor I have followed his profession.
- You studied your third year of oenology at the University of Bourgogne (Dijon) and then you stayed in France for a three-month internship at the Mont Touch Cooperative. What has your time in France contributed to your professional career?
We can consider France to be one of the most important countries in terms of wine culture and history. At the University, the contents were of a high quality and standard. I was able to taste many wines from different areas, visit many wineries... but what I’m left with is the pride they take in their products. Here we need to believe it a little more. It was already very different in Mont-Tauch. There we handled large quantities of wine and grapes, so as a large winery/cooperative it was very interesting to work with a lot of technology and other dimensions. In short, I was able to evaluate the small and large wine producers, products from different areas, more traditional and more modern methods...
- Once back home, how did the opportunity to work at Celler de Capçanes come up?
It was quite fortuitous. A professor at the university informed me of a vacancy in the winery as an export assistant, to control the vineyard, help with the grape harvest... a multipurpose position. At that time I wasn't looking for anything, because I wanted to finish my final project and I didn't want to be distracted by anything. But in this case I only had to send a CV and do a couple of interviews. I graduated on the Friday and on Monday I started working at the Celler de Capçanes, and that was 9 and a half years ago.
- Young and female, two adjectives that a priori are positive, but which might at some point been created inconveniences for you. Have you ever felt pressure for either of these two reasons? Do you think there’s still a long way to go to balance the gender forces in the world of wine?
We’re talking about having to manage the entry of a million kilos and having to deal with 80 winegrowing partners whose average age is around 70 years old. It was complicated at the beginning. They’ve got experience that you haven’t got and that's a handicap. Then I guess being a woman hasn't helped either, although I've never heard any comments about it. In fact, they gave me the opportunity to take over as technical director, but I had to earn this by working very hard. In this world of wine we women play with a clear disadvantage, there’s still a long way to go for this balance, but little by little we’re raising our voices to be heard.
- Third best oenologist in the world and the best in Spain according to the German specialist wine magazine, Selection Das Genussmagazin. What has it meant for your career to receive this recognition?
Personally, it’s lovely to receive external recognition. In my career it hasn't meant very much, maybe I have even more pressure to try to match or improve the standard of our wines!
- Cooperatives have long been associated with bulk wines. However, there are already many of you who are choosing to develop higher quality products. Is it hard to make a niche in such a traditional world and above all such a branded one?
It’s very difficult to gain a foothold in the market, especially for higher quality wines. I’ve always considered that the standard of our wines is very good but it’s difficult for people to compare you with wines from smaller or high quality wineries and it’s even difficult to get the wines tasted by certain publications. The Cooperative brand is still assigned somewhat negative labels.
- Bearing in mind that in a cooperative you have to join forces and all members have to work together, how do you ensure that a farmer manages to sell as many kilos of grapes as possible without losing any quality?
That’s our challenge! The important thing is to make the partner/winemaker see the wheel we’re on: if the grapes they deliver are of good quality, the wine will be good, it will sell well and they will get paid well! Here they have this very internalized and they have blind trust in what we ask of them. I know that I’m often very strict and I ask a lot, but I ask knowing the result we want. With good grapes it’s difficult to make bad wine, that's all there is to it. It’s true that being a Cooperative makes it necessary to have a balance between the quality which is technically required and the quantity of kilos, so they don't lose too much either. Therefore, we adapt some vinifications and strategies so this doesn’t happen.
- Celler de Capçanes undoubtedly began its journey as a quality wine cellar with the creation of its kosher wines. Knowing that these wines are subject to strict supervision throughout their production by a person qualified by the Jewish religion, what’s your role as the winery's oenologist in this whole process?
My role is to oversee that work. They’re my eyes and my hands. They must be responsible for all handling of the wine. They take samples from me when necessary and I make the decisions. It’s a wine with very little intervention since we don’t have them in the cellar every day. But they’re as aware as we are that quality always has to be the best and that’s why we are always in contact and offer availability.
- Although we know that a mother loves all her children equally, there’s always one she has a soft spot for. Which of your wines has stolen your heart? Why?
Exactly! For me all the wines are very important. Each one of them has taken me a while to work on, I haven’t been able to focus on all of them at the same time. But the ones that give me the most satisfaction are the Mas Donis rosé and the Cabrida. Both made with Grenache, I always find it stressful with rosé to achieve the perfect color! And with the Cabrida I enjoy experimenting with different elaborations with the best Grenaches in the area; we’re very lucky.
- At a time when microvinifications are a trend, it’s a very good excuse to look for the maximum expression of the variety and the terroir and above all to experiment. At this point, what’s the latest news from the winery?
As far as Grenache and Carignan are concerned, we’re always on the lookout for their maximum expression! Whether with different maceration times, different treatment of the grapes, different selection of grapes in the field... we always try to show the variety as it is and to reflect the vintage.
- With a long and fruitful career ahead of you, Anna, do you see yourself always being linked to the D.O. Montsant? Or are you curious about making wine in another wine region?
I’d like it all! I love the DO Montsant, as a student I always wanted to work in this area, which was showing signs of potential and was yet to be discovered. And it hasn't let me down, to this day I'm still fascinated by the versatility grapes have here! But of course I would love to open up to new areas and learn more! Whatever the area, there’s always something interesting. In this aspect I’m very restless, I love to learn.
- Apart from wine, do you have any other passion you can confess to us? And if you do, is it compatible with the world of wine?
In my free time I love sports, running, hiking, playing the guitar, I love European cinema, and of course I love to eat well, which is totally compatible with the world of wine!
- Finally, could you share with us the last wine which has pleasantly surprised you?
The last wine that surprised me was Pedra de guix 2017 by Terroir al Límit. A white wine with aromas of phosphorus, slightly oxidative and very mineral, I loved it!