Category Archives: Women in Wine Fridays

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

I didn’t post this on a Friday so I am reposting to keep in line with my women in wine series. Enjoy the holiday weekend and remember to think about what Memorial Day actually means, Say hello and thank you to a sailor if in NYC during Fleet Week.



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…

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Filed under Memorable Events, Penedes, spain, wines, Women in Wine, Women in Wine Fridays

Women In Wine Fridays: Matilde Poggi from Le Fraghe (Veneto)

This week’s Women in Wine Fridays is about Matilde Poggi from Le Fraghe. I met Matilde at the Slow Wine tasting back in February. I was really impressed with her wines and wanted to find out more about her. These are her answers to some questions that I emailed her about her winery and her winemaking. I found her wines all very clean and intriguing. People, myself included, often don’t take Bardolino seriously enough. Made from Corvina and Rondinella, this wine proved very interesting and food friendly. Meeting Matilde made me want to learn more and I think this Vinitaly I will take advantage of that opportunity.


1.Tell me about Le Fraghe and your family history?

I began to vinify my father’s grapes in 1984. Till that year the grapes were given to my uncle who has another winery

2. How did you get into the wine business?

It is something I grew up with as the winery was in the family since 1960s. as a child I liked so much the seasons’ cycle and imagined the vines going to sleep after the harvest and waking up in spring and growing in summer time. I wanted to meet the challenges of this world.

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

In 1980s many people were surprised as they thought that wine was a male business. There were not so many women making wines, now it is much more common. I have to say that sometimes I felt people were not trusting me being a woman. I guess that this impression is shared by women in many other businesses

4.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?

Since I started there are many more small producers compared to 1980s. People are more sensible to artisanal, organic and sustainable wines. I believe that this trend will go on in the next years too. In the next years I think that there will be consumers groups: one side people drinking wine as a commodity, no matter where it comes from and, in the more educated countries, people looking much more for indigenous grapes made from artisanal winegrowers

5.What do you see happening in the Italian wine world in the coming years?

I think that there will be more attention for artisanal, organic, natural wines coming from indigenous grapes. I think that there will be more and more direct contact with businesses, people like to know where the wine is made and who is the winemaker.

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

I believe that there is a bigger interest for indigenous grapes

7.What wines from the Veneto that are truly interesting to people these days (as you see from tourists visiting you?

People coming visiting mostly look for Chiaretto, my rosè.

8. What do you think about the level of wine education in general and about wines from your area in particular?

Not so many people are highly educated in wine, too many look just for wines which are trendy. Wines of our area are known but sometimes not so well known as Bardolino is often considered an easy drinking wine and few people give it the consideration it deserves

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

Many women decide to study enology, I guess that there will be more women engaged in the winemaking processes

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

I like serving Bardolino slightly chilled, pairing fresh water fish as well.

11. What is going on with sustainability in your area?

I turned to organic in 2009, not many producers were organic at that time. Now it is becoming more popular, winegrowers understand that we are the first to make something for a better environment.

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Filed under Italian indigenous varieties, Italian regions, Italian women in wine, Veneto, wines, Women in Wine, Women in Wine Fridays

Women In Wine Fridays: Meet Meg Houston Maker of


This week’s piece on women in wine focuses on Meg Houston Maker of I met Meg some years ago at a conference in New York and have followed her writing as she travels around the globe. One of the things I like about her writing is her use of language. She is very precise and uses interesting turns of phrase, not typical in the wine writing world, alas alak. You can tell that first and foremost she is interested in the craft of writing. This series started as a series solely on Italian women in wine but I have opened it up to women from all aspects of the wine business and from all countries. I think the answers are really interesting and I enjoy having other people discuss their views on Avvinare. I sent Meg these questions and she emailed me back with these answers kindly in the midst of the Christmas rush to finish everything before the holidays. For more on Meg, check out her website and social media feeds.

Site: Maker’s Table:
About: (Author page)

How did you get into the wine business?

I began writing about wine in 2008. I was in the midst of a graduate writing program focused on creative nonfiction narratives about nature, culture, food, and place. Wine seemed a vexing and difficult topic to write about well, so became an attractive challenge. Soon I was contributing to and editing wine publications, but I gave that up to serve a two-year stint as manager of consumer marketing for a California winery. That experience proved invaluable, deepening my understanding of the industry, but I missed the writing and the engagement with other winegrowers and makers. So, in the last five years I’ve returned to the writing, traveling throughout Europe and the New World to meet with producers, find out what links them to their land, and share their stories with readers.

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

I’ve worked in a range of industries, from software to publishing to education, and have experienced problems everywhere. Often the affronts are personal rather than structural—one colleague with a baleful attitude making it difficult for others, rather than systematized sexism, which seems mercifully less common. What is common everywhere is simply a lack of gender diversity, which dulls innovation and impoverishes the work enterprise. Wine communications in particular used to be male-gender dominated, decades ago. I was in Bordeaux recently, traveling with two other young women wine writers. We were met with surprise by one vigneron, who confessed that when he was told he’d be hosting “three American journalists,” he expected three old men. But there is a palpable shift underway, and there are now powerful women editors and publishers working in wine and food. I’ve been fortunate to work with many.

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?

Even just in the last five years, digital outlets have amped up their publishing volume and velocity. Traditional print publications have added online magazines with their own content wells, too. That has produced a terrible appetite for content to fill the maw. It’s yielded more publication options for excellent journalism, and more exposure for new, fresh voices. But it’s also yielded more non-excellent work. Editing is often minimal or nil; ditto fact checking. Some of the work winds up feeling rushed and unconsidered, and some seems designed only for social sharing, with its predictable 24-hour poof! flameout. Unfortunately, digital paydays are extremely poor. Many popular sites pay far less than $100 per story, while digital gigs that pay more rarely graze $500. These pieces are just as labor intensive to produce as stories for print. I don’t foresee a shift anytime soon, because the forces are so powerfully aligned around this model now. But I don’t believe it’s sustainable for either readers or writers. On a brighter note: Twenty years ago there was almost no literary food writing, and now it’s everywhere. Recently several new food literary magazines have launched, and I think readers need these chewy pieces, while writers need these new outlets to conduct deeper inquiries. In 2017, I plan to do a lot more literary work, returning to my creative nonfiction roots and trying to sort out what “true stories, well told” might mean for wine and food.

Are people interested in different varietals? International varietals?

It depends on whether the people in question are casual wine drinkers or industry insiders. Wine styles take hold slowly, especially in the hinterlands. Consumers are still catching up to Nerello Mascalese, while somms feel like it’s over. Repeat. Especially with other shiny topics that have blazed through recent wine discourse: orange wines, natural wines, “balanced” wines, sweet Riesling, yadda. The industry begins to tire of them before they actually get traction with customers.
I think I do see expanding appetite for native grapes. Maybe I’m delusional, though, because I value them and am doing what I can to promote them. But I think grapes like that Nerello that are well suited to their place of origin—and arguably ill suited anywhere else—have a strong personality. Strong personality makes a compelling narrative. It makes the wines matter. People like stories about delicious things that matter.

What do you think about the level of wine education in the US ?

The U.S. doesn’t have a strong wine culture, not like in Europe or Argentina, for example, where wine is almost unexceptional because it’s simply part of the rhythm of the day. I often hear Americans who enjoy wine say, “I love it, but I don’t know anything about it.” This perhaps translates to, “I haven’t enough experience with it to have baked it into my life.” So, they treat it as glittery object, highly charged and rarefied, intimidating. And it’s hard to get motivated to learn about something that intimidates you. Many people also seem to feel incapable of talking about wine. They worry they’ll sound, to themselves and others, like fools. When I teach wine classes, I try give people simple language for talking about what they’re experiencing with their senses. It’s amazing how liberated they feel when they have a few reliable words for some of these sensations. You can see a weight lift. Food and wine are social, so building a vocabulary for describing what we’re tasting can connect us not only to the food but to one another. I call this “taste literacy,” and I think it’s critical learning.

What secrets can you share about pairing wines with food?

It’s a big topic! I actually have so much to say that I’m writing a book about it. I used to be more orthodox about pairing, but my perspective and palate have loosened dramatically over the last couple of years. I think it can help to think of wine as food. It evolved to serve a particular role on the table, namely to provide companionable refreshment to other foods. In that way it’s inherently similar to dressings, sauces, chutneys, pickles—foods designed to refresh the palate.
Putting a finer point on it, wine is an acidic food, and good pairings hinge on that acid factor. More acidic wines are more versatile, because they act as peers of high acid foods, but can also balance rich, savory, or unctuous foods that need a cleansing counterpoint. Less acidic wines are more difficult at the table. They flatten out when tasted with more acidic foods, and feel fatiguing and non-refreshing with richer, savory foods. Almost all popular beverages are at least somewhat acidic: coffee, tea, soda, lemonade, even seltzer water. Same principle. So, here’s one pairing tip: Focus first on the wine’s acidity. Then worry about other factors, like fruit, flavor, and texture.

What is going on with sustainability and the natural wine movement?

I’ve encountered may smaller producers in the U.S. and abroad that are quietly committed sustainability and sensible viticultural practices. These winegrowers often forego certification because of the expense, or because of regulations they feel bind their hands. But they uphold a commitment to viticultural holism and pragmatism, to la lutte raisonnée (reasoned struggle). Many live on or next to their vineyards and want to keep their living environment free of chemicals for themselves, their kids, and their employees. (Of course, it’s easier to be an organic producer in sunny, dry, southern Spain than in rainy, gray Bordeaux.) The larger commercial producers seem less interested in the extra handwork and attention that organic or sustainable viticulture requires, and in its perceived risks. But I’ve been encouraged by the dedication and commitment I’ve found among the smaller families who have been on the land for generations—and want to stay there for generations more.

Are you excited about any particular area or varietal these days?

Right now I’m particularly curious about viticulture in special biomes, both cultural and anthropological: islands, high altitudes, cold climates (really cold). Sometimes there’s an enduring heritage of winegrowing in these regions—the Dolomites, Mallorca—which begets a site-specific, autochthonous viticulture and winemaking tradition. Other times these regions are new, or being renewed—southern England, northern Vermont—so the viticulture is based less on legacy and more on personality: Who wants to undertake this winegrowing, on this piece of land, right here, right now? Both types of story fascinate me. On one hand are people working within the constraints and expectations of long history, on the other are people working at the edge of a frontier. This is partly why I love writing about wine. Wine exists within the framework of culture, a dialogue between nature and tradition. But it also must be made anew each year, a fresh interpretation of what the land can yield.


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Women In Wine Fridays: An Interview with Justina Teixeira from Quinta da Barca in the Douro Valley


This week’s Friday post is in the Women in Wine Fridays series. I meet a lot of wonderful women in the wine industry during my travels and I also seek them out at whatever trade tasting I attend when in New York. I have done this series over the years with a variety of women. Usually I pick someone because I either love the wine, something about them appeals to me, the property is beautiful or some other feeling of connection. I met Justina Teixeira just once at her amazing winery this past September during a press trip. I immediately took a liking to her, even before I tasted her wines. She seemed very down to earth and approachable. Someone I could imagine as a friend if I lived in the Douro. She was also very humble and somewhat shy which was appealing as well. She brought her daughter out to say hello at the end and that too, endeared her to me. Quinta da Barca is located at a stunning point along the Douro with incredible views and sun exposure for the grapes


The vines were quite close to the river in what is called the Baixa Corgo. The river valley is split into three areas. Quinta da Barca make its first wine in 2005 with the label Busto.


The busto or bust in question is of the Marquis of Pombal who first demarcated the Douro Valley in 1756 as the first region in the world of wine to have that designation as a demarcated area. All over the Douro people should us stones that the Marquis had planted to demarcate the area.


Justine answered my questions via email. I will write about the wines at the end of the post.

How did you get into the wine business?

This is a business family. Through the last 10 years I was working not in this business. But, because it´s a family business and I thought that it could be a very interesting challenge and the products were having a good ranking and good feedback from consumers and professionals from this sector, I decided that it was the right time to start with this new challenge. And the work on sales began in January 2016.

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

Until now I didn´t feel any difficulties. What I notice is the surprise from customers, competition, distributors because is not usual to have a woman in this business particularly in sales. So sometimes what I feel is that the difficulty is in the other side: having to negotiate with a woman is something “strange”.

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?

I really started some time ago, but my all experience tells me that we will start to see much more women in this business, especially in sales. Making wine, directly, at this moment we can see some women names getting notoriety and this will increase in the next 5-10 years. And this change needs to happen because we have a different sensibility and vision that is something very positive.


What do you see happening in the Douro Valley area?

At this moment in Douro Valley are appearing many small/medium producers with their own wines. And in this region, we have something that is fascinating: wines with profiles that are completely different from each other even when the farms are very close, in the same location.
Another point is that wine tourism that is growing very fast. It´s another opportunity to increase the products to offer to the customers.

What do you think about the level of wine education on Douro Valley in general?

In this point, I think that we have a lot of work to do. In Douro Valley we start later with “table wines”, because the big companies were only focused in Port Wines. Other Portuguese regions started much earlier to promote their “tables wines”, like Alentejo, Vinhos Verdes, Dão… So this kind of work takes time, and the final consumer needs time and a lot of promotion and education from the producers.

Who is the average wine drinker today in Portugal?

We have different segments, but nowadays people between 30-50 years are the principal consumers that want different things and are starting to have a critical sense, in a positive way.

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

Slowly, I think that in the next 10 years women in industry (making wine directly) will be at the same level and number as men. In sales I think that will be a little more complicated because it´s necessary to change the “chip”. So in this case I think that we will see 15/20% of the sales being directed by women.

What do you think will happen with climate change in your area?

This is a delicate issue, because we depend a lot on the climate, and we know that the years have started to be more and more unstable and this can interfere with the production and quality, which is a big problem for us.

Where do you see your products in the US market? Restaurants? By the glass programs? Stores?

Restaurants and stores, particularly “gourmet” stores.

What do you like most about the business compared to your first career?

The dynamic of this business it´s completely different, the people and the fact of being a business family. It´s like a dream that we are looking for everyday!

Will your daughter be the future of the company?

I hope so! But who knows??


Quinta da Barca makes whites, roses and reds. I liked all of the wines.

Busto Branco Moscatel Galego 2015

A lovely white wine with refreshing acidity, nice citrus flavors and zest. It would have been great with seafood.

Busto Colheita Branco 2015

A nice white made from a blend of Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, Arinto and Moscatel. Fresh and floral, I liked this wine which had perfume aromas and flavors. It too would work well as an aperitif or with light fare.

Busto Reserva Branco 2014

Made from Arinto, Viosinho, Rabigato and Malvasia Fina, this wine was lovely and one that I could drink a bottle of all on my own. Each of these indigenous varieties brought something to the party and the blend was elegant, full bodied and refreshing at the same time.

Busto Colheita rose 2015

Made from the typical port varieties, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Francisca.
It had both good acidity and moderate alcohol which was perfect. I could see drinking this with seafood, a light pasta, as an apertif or even with pizza.


Busto Colheita Tinto 2013

Again a blend of the same port grapes as the Rose but this deep ruby red wine had a nice mouth feel, juicy tannins and good balance. It would have worked perfectly with the roasts and pork that we were served each day in Portugal

Busto Reserva Tinto Touriga Nacional 2011

This wine was the big powerhouse of the lineup. Most wineries in the Douro are making a monovarietal of Touriga Nacional. Touriga produces full bodied wines with good tannins and structure. Theirs ages for 6-9 months in oak.

Busto Touriga Nacional  Grande Escolha 2010

This was the top of the ling of their wines. I found it to be elegant and balanced which is what they are looking for. Again, Touriga is making its claim to fame is the signature variety for the Douro and for Portugal in general. I think Americans who like powerful wines will warm to these very easily. All of their wines were very polished and refined, like their owners. Justine’s husband is the winemaker.

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Filed under Douro Valley, Indigenous Grapes, Indigenous Varieties, Portugal, Women in Wine Fridays

Women In Wine Fridays: Women Winemakers In Israel


I wish that I had written any of these posts myself,   about women winemakers in Israel but alas I have not met any yet in my wine travels. I wanted to write about Israel today because it is the 21st anniversary of Rabin’s murder. I remember that day perfectly. I had just moved back to Florence after a year in school in Washington, DC. I remember thinking there will never be peace after that event and sadly there has not been yet. As the US election will be held next week, I am just hoping that people on all sides of the aisle will remember that we are one country and that we do not harm our leaders. No good came to Israel after Rabin’s death and nothing good will come to the US if violence comes from our election. I am hoping peace will prevail and blessings be on all houses.

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