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Getting to know Victoria Pariente

04/08/2020 Interviews

Chemical sciences graduate and winemaker Victoria Pariente runs the José Pariente winery in the D.O. Rueda and is considered one of the most influential and elegant women of the international winemaking scene, where she has become known for her Verdejo wines. 

The winery carries a man’s name, in honour of her father, but it is run by a woman, mother and entrepreneur who is committed to the environment, tradition and innovation, and we’re here to find out more about her.

Victoria Pariente

– What does wine mean to you?

For me, wine is a passion and a way of life.

– What is your first memory of wine?

The first memory I have of wine is of my father, José Pariente, working in the vineyards.

Having winemaking in the family. have you always wanted to work with wine too?

I was born in Rueda and wine was part of my life since I was a child, so you could say it is completely vocational. However, growing up and training for years in enology meant that wine became a key part of my life and one of my great passions. 

– Your winery, José Pariente, is named after your father. How do you remember him and how has he influenced you?

I remember him as a very kind, hard-working man and a great lover of the vineyard. A picture I always have in mind is my father making wine in our home cellar, which he called “The Other House”.

– The José Pariente winery is now well-known around the world and a leading winemaker in the Rueda Designation of Origin, but how was it when you set up the project twenty years ago, as a female entrepreneur and mother of two teenagers? Did you feel supported? Were you able to balance all the different parts of your life? What were the biggest challenges you faced?

If there is one thing I am truly proud of, it is my family. My husband, Ignacio Prieto, has always been a great support to me, both personally and professionally. Despite how difficult it is to start a new project when you are a mother and an entrepreneur, I have always been able to rely on his support.

New beginnings are always a challenge. Perhaps one of the main difficulties I initially faced was finding my place in an industry that was very male-dominated at the time. However, my male colleagues were always there to help when I needed it.

It is difficult to be a female entrepreneur, with children and without fixed working hours, and to reconcile every part of your life, both family and work. In the early years of any business it takes over a significant part of your life.

– We have asked you about your father and how he inspired you, but what about your children. In the same way your father influenced you, what influence do you think you have had on your children that has led them to getting involved in the winemaking world by setting up their own winemaking project “Bodegas Prieto Pariente”?

Because winemaking has always been part of our family life, making wine is both a job and a way of life for Ignacio and Martina, as it is for me. It has always been an important part of our lives, both professionally and personally, and that means from a very young age, we have all been drawn to this world and to get involved in it.

I should also say that I have never put pressure on them, they have always been free to do what they wanted in terms of work. It was their decision. This line of work demands passion, sensitivity, affection and time, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit that seems to run all the way through our family. In my opinion, that is something that can be passed on to others.

They are now the driving forces behind José Pariente and are setting up Bodegas Prieto Pariente, an exciting project of their own.

Now that Bodega José Pariente is just over 20 years old and the small project has become a big success, how would you sum up its first 20 years and how do you imagine the next few years to turn out?

The last 20 years have been a lot of hard work and dedication. We have very clear company ideals and the main objective remains the same, to maintain the quality of our wines and to continue improving year after year, without giving in to pressure or market trends, and being faithful to the philosophy we set up this winery with

As for the future, although it seems a bit uncertain at the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic that unfortunately we are all having to live through and that is affecting almost every industry around the world, our plan is not to slow down, and instead keep working hard. We want to carry on with our meticulous viticulture, continue investing in R&D and, above all, keep creating great wines.

– Speaking to a successful female entrepreneur who is known around the world, we can’t not ask: How does a feminine vision influence, in this particular case, the viticulture? Would you say there is a different kind of sensitivity or vision that women bring to this environment?

In my opinion, sensitivity in viticulture is not a question of gender. There are many winemakers who work with a sensitivity worth admiring. Personally, I think it is vitally important to care for the vines and the grapes, giving them the attention they need, as well as taking great care of the wines, giving them plenty of time and paying attention to the smallest details. This way of working is innate in each person, male or female.

– We know that you are not only passionate about wine but that you are also committed to protecting the environment and to the research, development and innovation of winemaking technologies. Could you tell us how you put this into practice at José Pariente? How do you reconcile tradition and innovation?

I really think holding onto tradition is not the opposite of learning new things. At José Pariente, we have used organic viticulture for years, and we are always looking at how to improve or apply viticulture techniques according to the needs of each vineyard. We look for the roots and traditions of the Verdejo variety but that always goes hand in hand with innovation.

Our main objective is making high-quality, authentic

wines and we think that requires a combination of the new and old. Tradition and innovation will never be at odds, it is about taking the best of each and using these in our winemaking process.

– The Verdejo variety has experienced a surge in popularity and many producers have got on the bandwagon. How does José Pariente differentiate itself from everyone else?

We are very clear about our objective and what should differentiate us, and we have always emphasised quality. We are very clear about the style of José Pariente and I think that comes across when you taste any of our wines: the finesse, elegance and typicity of the variety we use to make them. 

– What is the key to José Pariente’s success?

Success is always the result of hard work, perseverance, dedication, non-conformity and the desire to keep moving forward and growing. Alongside all of this was a touch of good luck too, and as I said before, we are always very clear about where we have come from and where we want to go.

In our case, we always knew we wanted to make wines with personality that people could identify with and want to enjoy over and over again, telling their friends about them too.

And I think that José Pariente’s success lies with them, because people have let us into a small part of their lives (with friends, family, their partner…).

– Do you have any projects on the go that you could tell us about? For example, is there any chance of a sparkling Verdejo or Sauvignon Blanc made by José Pariente?

We are not currently planning to make any sparkling wines in Rueda. Everything we decide to make must have certain roots in the area we make them.

However, we do have some barrels that we recovered from my father’s cellar and have continued to age throughout all these years. It is still too early to say anything, but it would be nice to be able to sell them one day. 

– Beyond wine, what are Victoria Pariente’s secret and not so secret passions or hobbies? 

I have two great passions: reading, I love novels, and strolling on the beach; And there is no better place for that than Zahara de los Atunes, our little getaway corner.

– Which of your wines is your favourite?

It is difficult to choose a favourite from our own wines because in a way, they are like our children. But if I had to choose one in particular now, it would be José Pariente Finca Las Comas 2016. This is the first wine that was made with my daughter Martina leading the way in the winemaking process. It comes from an exceptional vineyard planted in 1910, with very gravelly soil (which is so characteristic of our area) and made in an Austrian oak foudre. I think it is now at its best in terms of maturity and for consumption.

I would open it for a family celebration or with friends, with a meal based on grilled fish, seafood or rice and at a temperature that is not too low, to let out the complex aromas that it has.

– Which wine has excited you most recently and why?

The truth is that I am often moved, sometimes even unexpectedly, by wines that are unpretentious but authentic and full of personality.

But if I had to pick one, it would be a VORS Palo Cortado made by Bodegas Tradición. Every year we take the whole José Pariente team on a trip to a wine-growing area. Most recently we went to Jerez, and that is where I tried it. It is one of those wines with its own soul and history, it is completely inimitable and makes your hair stand on end.