Every year on 8th March we celebrate International Women’s Day, a day where we think about women’s fight for equal rights in all areas of life.
Here at Decántalo, we want to take advantage of this celebration on 8th March to pay tribute to women through these three great women in the world of oenology and viticulture that we have had the honour of interviewing: María José López de Heredia, who runs R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia, Estefanía Rodero, Head of Business Development for Pago de los Capellanes and Victoria Pariente, manager of the José Pariente winery.
These three women represent a small sample of the women who share their passion for grapes and their land with us through their wines. Feeling and emotion runs through their veins and has passed from generation to generation. Here they are to tell their stories.
María José López de Heredia
– María José, coming from one of the most deeply rooted and world-renowned winemaking families, what does wine mean to you and what is the first thing you remember about it?
Wine has been my life and, like you said in your introduction, it was my ancestors’ life too. It is everything: work, hobby, passion and fun. I have many memories and I have talked about them a lot, but I particularly remember Sundays with our father in Viña Tondonia; in October the sweet smell of the harvested grapes and, at Christmas, putting caps on the bottles in the winery’s old wine rack when we were little. The workers gave us 5 pesetas and that made us go back every day. Those are my first memories.
– Since you have taken over the management of Viña Tondonia, what have been the greatest challenges you have faced?
Running a business always involves solving problems and overcoming difficulties. Without a doubt, 2020 was one of the most difficult years of my professional life. Not even all the experience of our ancestors could help us in this totally unexpected and unknown situation, which we have to work through on our own, but I must confess that the experience has helped us a lot. Just knowing that they went through even more difficult times and overcame them fills us with courage, strength and hope.
– We would like to know the most recent wine that has impressed you and why?
I am excited by the Manzanilla that I have every day as an aperitif. I am more about the simple, everyday pleasures than something more memorable. However, on reflection, one of the wines that has excited me lately and that I wasn’t familiar with before, is an Italian wine called Travaglini Gattinara Riserva 2013. Fine, elegant and fresh, with nerve and personality. Really great.
Full interview here.
- You are currently Head of Business Development. What advantages and disadvantages do you experience as a woman in a man’s world?
I have been fortunate to learn from the women in my family, who have been able to thrive in the professional world through their hard work and strength, and women make up 50% of the team in the winery, we have many female clients and suppliers as well, so I don’t feel like I’m in a hostile environment. As a woman, I enjoy many advantages: the ability to use empathy and sensitivity as a way to see things before they happen and be able to find solutions in advance, as well as our ability to solve five problems in one go.
- Aside from working in the winery, you are the mother of two little ones under 3. In a country where balance is a myth, how do you do it?
I guess like all parents in the same situation; organisation, working together as a couple and very importantly, prioritising, avoiding unnecessary tasks to be able to connect with our children properly, making sure the time we spend with them is the best it can be.
- If you had to choose one wine from the winery, which would it be?
It’s very difficult to choose, but lately our wine from the Parcela el Nogal estate is an absolute delight.
Full interview here.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
Full interview here.