Women In Wine: An Interview With Maria Elena Jimenez from Pares Balta in Penedes


Today I am posting an online conversation I had with Maria Elena Jimenez, one of the winemakers at Pares Balta.

1. How did you get into the wine business?

Although it may seem sappy, love was the reason for everything. My husband, by then just my boyfriend, was the one to introduce me to wine and make me fall in love with wine along with him. I am a chemical engineer, and in those days working as a consultant, when my husband proposed me to return to the university to study enology in order to work together in the family business.
And all the tiny pieces began to fall in its right place after that, wine , love, family, children, passion till reaching the point where I am nowadays, managing the cellar altogether with Marta

2. What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

Even when I have been fortunate to have the backing of the family, public trust and prestige does not come easily for women, just after years of consistent work does it arrives, whenever men achieve it more naturally.

3. What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business?

Talking about wine, I saw the rise and decline of the “thick” wines (red full-bodied wines you could nearly cut with a knife or smoky barrel branded whites) in favor of a much more elegant and balanced style.

In the last few years, it has appeared a new trend that looks for a much more natural approach to winemaking, in favor of a more artisanal way. Decreasing or avoiding the use of sulfites and technological manipulation, favoring traditional local varieties and accepting wines out of the mainstream taste.

At Parés Baltà we are traveling along this road, searching for the maximal expression of our vineyards and our soil. Organically and biodynamically certified, we try to respect our environment, our heritage and bring them to our customers.

4. What do you see happening in the Spanish wine world in the coming years?

I am not a wine guru neither I pretend to be a visionary so I leave this role to others who are more involved in the end market development.

But as far as there appears to be an increasing interest in different grapes, tastes…, new opportunities seem to open for Spanish wine apart from the well-known good-for-their-price Riojas.

5. Are people interested in different varietals? International varietals?

As I was just telling you in your prior question there is an increasing interest in local varieties, unknown by the general customer, who nowadays is looking for different wines and tastes from the mainstream chardonnays ,cabernets and Riojas.

6. What wines from Spain are truly interesting to people in the US these days?

Following with the same argument, there would be two sort of wines that would be interesting.

On the one hand, we find the good value reds and whites that provide easy drinking and lovable wine for an affordable price.

On the other hand, there are that many different wines that bring new experiences for the more mature palates tired of always the same old taste.

That gives an opportunity to other wine regions from Spain with an incredible variety of grapes and styles since now invisible for the US market.

7. What do you think about the level of wine education in general in the US about Spanish wines?

Spain is still a country to discover for the Americans. Its culture, gastronomy, differences and of course, wines.

8. Who is the average wine drinker today? What do they care about?

There are many kinds of drinkers today, interested in different kinds of wine. Uncomplicated wines to enjoy in a relaxed way, exotic wines for the curious, natural, organic… wines for the more concerned ones. The customer spectrum is becoming broader and new market niches appear every day.

9. Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

The presence of women will be increasing in the end of the process, not so much in the winemaking in such a short term, unfortunately. I am not seeing an improvement in the fight for the equality between men and women.

10. What secrets can you share about pairing Spanish wines with food?

Due to the incredible variety of grapes, regions, styles. There is always a perfect, or many of them, pairing for any food you may think.
Rich in acidity or mature, dry, sweet, full bodied or light, oaked or non, white, rose, whites, dessert wine. Flavorful or delicate. Anything you may need.

Cava with everything, especially iberico Ham.
Xarel·lo as our Calcari and oysters

There are endless possibilities.

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