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Sep 10 2018

Almudena Alberca, Spain’s first female Master of Wine

The year 2018 will go down in history, among other things, for the call to arms for women to play a bigger role in all spheres. Along these lines, it is interesting to note that this was also the year that a Spanish woman finally reached the highest zenith of the international wine world. Her name will go down in the history of Spanish wine: Almudena Alberca, the first female Master of Wine from Spain.

Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/®ICEX.

Almudena Alberca MW

With a degree in enology as well as Agricultural Technical Engineering, Alberca has had a brilliant professional career thus far. She has formed part of the technical teams of wineries like Viñas del Cénit, Dominio de Atauta and Atalayas de Golbán, with her wines receiving excellent scores from The Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator. Throughout this period, she combined her work as an enologist with consulting for the American wine importer Aviva Vino NY, selecting and preparing Spanish wines for distribution in the United States.

In 2004, she was named the technical director of Viña Mayor (DO Ribera del Duero) – brought onboard for the purpose of transforming the winery. She took charge of the winery’s repositioning from day one, starting with the revamping of its traditional line, followed by the creation, design and launch of eight wines. Other achievements include the elaboration of wines in new designations of origin like Valdeorras and Rías Biaxas, where the group had no prior presence.

Almudena Alberca has also been one of the driving forces behind the Wineries for Climate Protection seal. Viña Mayor was the first winery in Ribera del Duero to receive this certification, which targets the reduction of greenhouse gases, improved water management, waste reduction and energy efficiency.

Currently only four Spaniards hold the Master of Wine title: Almudena Alberca MW, Pedro Ballesteros MW, Andreas Kubach MW and Fernando Mora MW. Additionally, Norrel Robertson MW of Scotland and David Forer MW of England, both work in wineries in Spain.

First female Master of Wine from Spain; a sense of vertigo, pride, great responsibility?

The wine world is a mirror for what happens in society and women are slowly obtaining positions of greater responsibility, which is why I am so proud to be the first (woman) Master of Wine in Spain. We need to keep working and supporting positions that contribute to making the wine world a more equal place, giving women visibility and breaking down barriers in the industry.

When did you decide to embark on the road to becoming a Master of Wine? How would you summarize this adventure?

Almudena Alberca MW

After finishing my degree in Enology, I felt like I still hadn't learned enough and I wanted to delve deeper into all of the subjects related to the world of wine, which I am passionate about. It has been a very interesting adventure full of great satisfaction. It is a long road and obviously you go through all kinds of moments, but the balance is always positive thanks to the people that surround you and everything that you learn. It is a great personal and intellectual adventure.

Do you think that the MW title will give you the opportunity to promote Spanish wines in international forums?

I am sure of it, since I've been doing it already and I will keep doing it every chance I get. I am very committed to my country and I trust that, as a Master of Wine, I will be able to make Spanish wines even more visible, both in national and international communities. Spain is a wonderfully rich country, with huge diversity in terms of grape varieties and a fantastic climate for organic farming in a large part of the country. We need to work on communicating all this in order to sell it better. We need to generate value from the vineyard to the glass.

Have you had the opportunity to share what it means to obtain this title with the other Spanish Masters of Wine?

Of course. Pedro Ballesteros was my mentor during the training program, or what we would refer to as a “tutor” in Spain. He has been by my side throughout this journey and not only is he a brilliant academic and professional, he is also a fantastic person and a great friend. Andreas Kubach, Fernando Mora and I coincided in our studies over the years, and have therefore shared trips, tastings and trainings. We have also had the opportunity to get to know and respect one another as friends.

What advice would you give to people who dream of becoming a Master of Wine?

The first thing would be to learn English in order to eliminate the language barrier in the theoretical part of the program. Afterwards, I would advise them to be diligent. This course of studies is like a marathon. You need to focus on the finish line, in order to maintain the strength to keep moving forward.
Translation: Adrienne Smith/®ICEX.


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