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Getting to know Paula Fandiño, winemaker at Mar de Frades

02/02/2023 Interviews

Recognised as one of the ten most influential winemakers in Spain, her passion for wine is something that cannot be taught. Her more than 10 years at Mar de Frades have undoubtedly guided the winery to success and her Albariños, sold in an iconic blue bottle, are already known all around the world. It is clear to see that this master of the leading grape of the Rías Baixas knows how to show off her wines better than anyone. We couldn’t say no to an opportunity to interview her.

- Paula, since you were a child you have had a connection to wine, because your ancestors, especially your great-grandfather, made wine with local varieties, but could you tell us about your first memory of wine that you look back on fondly?
My first memory is from my childhood, going to harvest Albariño grapes with my cousins, at their house, seeing how the grapes were pressed at night and drinking the must. These are sweet moments that I will always remember.

- Your passion for wine is evident. When did you first feel the wine “calling”? What prompted you to dedicate your life to it?
When I finished my degree in Agricultural Engineering, I had already specialised in the food industry, whereas the area I really liked was the wine industry, I wanted to be an
oenologist. I have always loved to see, smell and taste, especially wine. This is something that comes naturally to me that I like to do.

- The saying goes that “No one is a prophet in their own land”, but the truth is that since you arrived at Mar de Frades more than 10 years ago, you have become a key part of the winery’s place as a leading brand in Galician viticulture and a benchmark in the production of Albariño wines. In an era when you still didn’t see many women working in oenology, being so young and also a woman must have been quite a revolution. Did you have lots of obstacles to overcome because of this?
There were, there are and there will always be obstacles, but I can now put them into perspective, and once I’m out the other side, I see that they help me grow, they bring me knowledge and the ability to make decisions and keep getting better
at making wine from the Albariño variety, that is where I have found the greatest challenge to achieving the desired winemaking.

- And, on the other hand, what do you think have been your best contributions to Mar de Frades?
My greatest contribution is the interpretation of the Albariño variety, each year I get the expression of the variety with a different climate and environment, with a careful and diligent process to create a wine that reflects its landscape (sea and land) and its brand, Mar de Frades.

- Recognised as one of the 10 best winemakers in Spain, according to The Drink Business. Chosen by the prestigious publication Decanter as one of the six most outstanding female winemakers in the country. Selected by Wine Spectator as one of the top ten most influential women in the wine industry... What a record! How did you manage that? Did you ever imagine that your work would be recognised like this, not only nationally but also around the world?
No, I never imagined it! This is a great source of pride when it happens. Now I think about it because of the responsibility it brings, the expected level of work is higher, so, it leads me to be more rigorous and meticulous with the wines, the grapes, the vineyard, with the landscape in general. And now we are making constant progress in being more sustainable when it comes to the environment.

- As an expert in making Albariño wines, you know it better than anyone, so could you tell us what is it about this grape that wins over everyone who tastes its wines?
Its liveliness, its sparkle, its freshness, its elegance, its nuances, its volume... it is a vibrant and very expressive variety, a reflection of the landscape it grows in. A very versatile variety
allows me to make wines for all personalities, those who like sophisticated and appetising flavours and those who prefer delicate and tasty wines.

- Mar de Frades is the first winery to produce a 100% Albariño sparkling wine. Galicia being a land of great tradition in the production of white wines, what is it like trying to reconcile tradition with innovation?
In this case, tradition and innovation are not at odds, but they work together, without the tradition of the vineyard you wouldn’t be able to innovate with winemaking methods, where the second fermentation in the bottle determines how the vineyard should be cultivated. We have worked out how to interpret the vineyard to get the best Albariño grape, which we can then turn into wine using the new Albariño winemaking method. Now, with 12 years of experience, our Mar de Frades Brut Nature wine has become one of the most recognised in the Denomination of Origin.

- Albariño and Galicia are a perfect pairing. A white variety that is perfectly suited to the area’s climate and Atlantic character. What dangers do Galician Albariño wines face through climate change? Are you beginning to notice any difference between the current vintages and the wines of years gone by? Are measures being taken in light of this?
The greatest danger is that climate change will change the aromatic profile of the variety, and we have already seen this. To maintain its varietal profile, we choose cooler and higher altitude areas for new plantations and bring forward the harvest date to maintain the freshness and vitality that our wines carry.

- If Mar de Frades is known for one thing, it is for its iconic blue bottle. A symbol of modernity and winemaking excellence, the design is a true reflection of its own Atlantic inspiration. Do you think the bottle is the key to your success?
The bottles are part of our identity, the first change made since the wine was released with the Mar de Frades name. The bottle has been evolving with us, I wouldn’t understand the Mar de Frades project without its blue bottle, the ultimate interpretation of the Atlantic blue.

- Although Albariño is the star variety of the Rías Baixas, more and more people are choosing other local varieties. Do you intend to try your luck with other native grapes? Can you imagine a red Mar de Frades?
Yes, I already make Mar de Frades Godello Atlántico, the first wine made using collections of native varieties, we also grow Loureira and Caiño Blanco that we use to make wines that we will be able to share one day, including, I admit, a Mar de Frades red! I might have to think about a Mar de Frades rosé first, innovation is in our genes and new ideas for Mar de Frades are sure to emerge.

- Dedicating yourself to the vineyard and wine is the passion that surely takes most of your time. Do you have any hobbies, wine-related or not, that you like to spend some of your precious free time on?
My passion is wine tasting and I dedicate most of my time to it, but there is still time for family, friends and other hobbies like enjoying the beach and the sun in summer, or skiing in winter.

- Finally, would you share with us one still or sparkling wine you tried recently that surprised you?
Yes! The Champagne Rose de Craie by Etienne Calsac, what bubbles, and so creamy on the palate!