Mar 08 2021

Women Making Waves in Spanish Wine

We take a look at some of the women who are helping make Spanish wine as dynamic and exciting as it is today.


Women winemakers in Spain. Mercedes García Rupérez. Photo: @ICEX
Women winemakers in Spain. Charlotte Allen. Photo: @ICEX

Charlotte Allen, of Almaroja in DO Arribes del Duero has many such tales about her arrival from the UK (via France) in the remote village of Fermoselle, where she has managed the whole process of making sustainable wines from vineyard to bottle since 2007. “Generally, my experience has been a positive one. Of course, living in a village I’ve had to put up with older men telling me that they know best when it comes to my vines. And people often talk about “my husband,” assuming I’ve got a partner involved. But it’s more of a generational thing.”

Current successes

As Sarah Jane Evans MW, continues,  “As one indicator of [how far it has come], Spain now has its own first woman Master of Wine from Spain, Almudena Alberca, and there are other women students on the way to success. There are women in very significant positions in large wine businesses, and who have a major influence on what we drink: in Rioja, for instance, Maria Larrea at CVNE; María Vargas at Marques de Murrieta; the López de Heredia sisters; Elena Adell at Campo Viejo; and my fellow member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino, Cristina Forner at Marqués de Caceres.”

Women winemakers in Spain. Almudena Alberca. Photo: @ICEX

Almudena Alberca MW, who has been Technical Director of Bodegas Palacio 1894 for over six years, after starting out in Viñas del Cenit in 2003, comments, “The truth is that the world of wine has been a masculine one, but it is gradually changing. I consider myself fortunate, as I have worked in companies where there has always been a high proportion of females and I’ve been able to develop and grow as a professional. At the same time, I am conscious that I’ve had to prove myself twice over, whether that’s due to my youth, or the fact I’ve led projects that involve a lot of responsibility or the fact that I’m a woman.”

Women winemakers in Spain. Paola Medina. Photo: @ICEX

Another of the younger generation of rising stars, Paola Medina, started her career in 1999, before becoming Technical Director of the Williams & Humbert Sherry winery in 2010. Ten years later, her Sherries have won high profile awards including the IWSC Sherry Trophy 2020 and Decanter World Wine Awards International Fortified Wine Trophy. She was also the only winemaker from Jerez to feature in an article in Decanter by Pedro Ballesteros MW entitled the “Ten Next Generation Spanish Winemakers to Know,” alongside Almudena Alberca and Maite Sánchez from Arrayán.

When asked about her experiences of the world of Sherry, which could be seen as quite masculine from outside, Paola comments that she has not experienced any issues: “Rather than gender, we put a focus on the capacities of the person who is carrying out their work. There are many women in our wineries in positions of responsibility, from capataz (winery foreman) to other management roles.”

Do women in Spain make better wines?

A controversial question, but sometimes it’s suggested that women make more sensitive tasters and more elegant wines. It’s certainly true that Marqués de Murrieta, one of the only wineries in the world to achieve a perfect 100 Parker point score has a female winemaker, María Vargas. Both she and Mercedes López de Heredia of R. López de Heredia have been named Tim Atkin MW’s Rioja Winemaker of the Year in recent editions of his Rioja Report.
How do winemakers respond?

Women winemakers in Spain. Mercedes López Heredia. Photo: @ICEX
Women winemakers in Spain. Sara Pérez. Photo: @ICEX

Mercedes says that sense of camaraderie between women in the sector is fantastic: “It’s marvellous that when you receive a prize, one of your friends or colleagues congratulates you, there is a lot of collaboration. Perhaps the experiences we’ve had that have got us to this point, and the importance of the moment, mean that we understand each other better and we are genuinely pleased about the successes of other women in the sector.”

To finish, I’ll leave you with a quote from Sarah Jane Evans MW about the future: “Spain is bursting with exciting projects from the next generation: Sara Pérez, Bárbara Palacios, Paola Medina, Anne Cannan, the Ochoa sisters, Maite Sánchez… And the newer ventures, from people like Beatriz Herranz of Barco del Corneta, and Pilar Esteve of Filoxera. And then there are consultants, notably Ana Martín Onzain, who have had a wide influence. It’s buzzing! It’s not a perfect world, but it is changing.”

Text: Anna Harris-Noble

Women winemakers in Spain. Paola Medina. Photo: @ICEX
Where we are
Foods Wines from Spain
Trade Commission of Spain in London

125 Old Broad Street London EC2N 1AR

+44 20 7776 7730