I met Sara Perez of Spanish wineries Mas Martinet and Venus La Universal at the Society of Wine Educators conference in New Orleans in May of this year. She was speaking on a panel entitled Female Finesse: Outstanding Women Winemakers about her wines and the difficulties that female enologists (winemakers) encounter. She was the first female Spanish enologist with whom I have spoken. I imagined that their experiences would be much the same as their Italian counterparts. Sara confirmed these thoughts but said that there were many, many female enologists working in Spain while the same cannot be said of Italy. She said that 80% of the people studying Enology in Spain are women however.
Sara noted that women are often behind the scenes and are not necessarily the public face of the company, even if they are the reigning enologist. She said that at first few people take you seriously but that you must fight to make yourself heard. She added that sometimes, being a woman can actually give you an advantage because you are allowed to take more risks. Interestingly enough, most of the people buying wine in stores, especially in Europe because they can buy wine at supermarkets, are women.
According to Sara one of the difficulties of being a full time enologist was how to manage while you are raising a family. What is needed, she noted, is a good network of people working with you at the winery whom you trust. She is very lucky to have that she said and was pregnant when I met with her in May.
Whether the winemaker is a man or a woman is not quite as important as if they make good wines and Sara certainly does. Sara and her husband, Rene Barbier Jr. are trying to bring back Carignan to her area in Spain. She is doing this using very low yields. They are also doing a considerable amount of organic farming, trying to perserve life and humidity in the soil. We tasted her Cami Pessorles 2006, a DOQ Priorato. The wine was made from 80 year old vines and was deeply alcohol, and meaty with wood notes, black fruit and some mineral accents. It was very powerful and was made from 60% Garnacha and 40% Carinena (Spanish for Carignan). We also tasted her Gratallops-Partida-Bellvisos 2004, another DOQ Priorato. This one was made with mostly Carinena grapes grown in the village of Gratallops and had a small amount of Garnacha added to it. It was filled with aromas and flavors ranging from raspberry to liquorice, and cherries. It had quite a high alcohol note and was extremely persistent with a very long finish.
Her third wine was called Especial carinena “Crossos” 2004. This wine was made at her new operation called Venus la Universal, a DO Montsant. This was made from 100% Carinena wines from a single vineyard called Crossos. This wine was slightly different showing lots of spice, liquorice, and wood notes. According to Sara, it was a true expression of the Montsant terroir. Sara is certainly an up and coming winemaker and it will be exciting to watch as her career and DO Montsant develop with her.