Women and the Future of Organic Wine

Women and the Future of Organic Wine

Written by Claire Paparazzo

I have always been inspired by women working in the male-dominated field of winemaking.

----

When I was asked to write an article for the LBV Club this summer, I knew just where to focus. I am particularly interested in those stories of women who find their passion in working closely with the land—in the future of organic wines.

----

One of the first women that came to mind was my longtime friend, Esther Pinuaga. Esther is the definition of commitment to Organic winemaking. She is the third generation founder and owner of Bodegas Pinuaga in Toledo, Spain. Esther is carrying forward the family legacy begun by her grandfather in the 1960’s. He was responsible for planting this clone of Tempranillo called Censibel—possibly the key to the winery’s success today. The Cencibel berries are smaller with tighter grain and have a longer ripening time than other varietals that thrive in the sun and dry heat of Toledo. The altitude in Toledo is 750 meters above sea level, so it’s extremely windy. If you notice the windmill on the Bodega Pinuaga wine labels, these are actual windmills from the family farm. It is very dry here as well. The vineyard is set on this high plateau with mostly clay-limestone soils. The vines are stressed and work extra hard to find water that exists in an aquaphor deep under the ground. Despite all this, the very precious older bush vines are somehow protected from the extreme wind and heat.

----

Esther is a visionary. She saw all the possibilities of her family farm and made the decision, years ago, to preserve and convert this land to Organic farming.

----

Esther is a visionary. She saw all the possibilities of her family farm and made the decision, years ago, to preserve and convert this land to organic farming. She has been exporting her organic wines for the last 15 years.

 

I always wondered, “Is it really that important to be Certified Organic even if you are living and practicing respectfully?” For Esther, it is. The Organic Certification status distinguishes the respect her family has for the land and sets an example for the region. By no means is Organic Certification easy. It takes time and a new way of thinking, followed by regulated testing to maintain quality. It’s a minimum 3-year conversion to be Certified Organic. This is the way to the future of winemaking. As the President of the Spanish Organic Wine Association, Esther is very vocal about her stand on the future of winemaking and her family’s commitment to it.

 

There are a few reasons that Toledo, Spain is a great place for practicing organic farming. The area is situated on a plateau with high altitude and extremely windy conditions. The old native bush vines are durable against the extreme weather and work as a source of protection from the winds. Another reason the area is easy to farm is the diverse soils. In Spain, the work to prepare the land for organic farming started in the ‘80s—protecting the land from chemicals and creating an environment diverse in plant and animal life. This important change in perception has done wonders for our planet. Now there are incentives in place to use more sustainable methods such as creating distance between Certified Organic farms and land that could have been contaminated with pesticides or sprays and choosing to plant cover crops that will leave nutrients in the soils. There are incentives to turn pruning residues from healthy vines and grape marc into compost, and convert farms to solar energy systems. Other ways to reduce a farm’s carbon footprint include using a bag in a box, lightweight bottles or natural corks instead of synthetic. Some organic farms reuse wastewater and create artificial wetlands. It certainly seems to me that Spain is setting an example in organic farming.

 

The last time I saw Esther it was on the precipice of our entire world changing. It was February 2020 and Esther was in town, as she often is, to sell her wines. Travel is a big part of Ester’s life, and we all know how difficult that was. However, Esther’s number one concern during the pandemic was for her workers. She worried about keeping her workers and their families safe while still safely holding hands with nature to produce these wines from the incredibly challenging year.

 

The 2020 vintage ended up as a blessing in disguise for Esther and her business. They were able to dedicate more time in the vineyard because there was no more travel. The job at hand all of a sudden shifted and she had time to dedicate to growing the business in other ways. She started working with local farmers, developing a new high-quality Bag In The Box called La Frasca Pinuaga. She pivoted to selling to more retail markets and set up deals with a few organic groceries in France and the US. Esther relied on her deep knowledge of her craft and her community to further her vision despite trying times.

 

The second woman I’d like to highlight is Serena Gusmeri, from Panzano, Italy. Full disclosure: I have never met her in person. But, I attended a Zoom wine tasting where I got to taste a vertical of Serena’s wines and was ultimately inspired by her story. The wines tasted included the Montefili 2015, 2016 and 2017 Chianti Classico’s. It was an immersive eye-opening experience. Serena’s view on farming and working with the land is an invitation into the magical world of Montefili winery. This is a special place founded by a noble Roman family who built a castle on the hilltop with the vision of fruitful things to come. The vineyard is situated 500 meters above sea level in the heart of Chianti. This micro-climate has lots of sunshine and grows a mix of galestro and alberese marl—a true match for the Sangiovese grape.

----

Last year, when the world shifted due to the pandemic, Serena admitted that Panzano was a perfect place to lock down—protected all around by nature.

----

In 2000, Montefili joined with neighbors to create the first Organic district in Italy. Overseen by Panzano in Chianti Winemakers Association, the area represents sustainable and organic viticulture in the hills of Tuscany. Quality and care are always the most important factors when assessing land’s true potential. Serena was introduced to the land of Montefili and fell in love. Her first vintage was 2015 and that was just the beginning. Last year, when the world shifted due to the pandemic, Serena admitted that Panzano was a perfect place to lock down—protected all around by nature. She was able to work with her team as they reorganized the structure. She trained the person who worked in sales and the person who worked in the office to help in the vineyard. They discovered a special place for wildflowers on their property while working with the land. With international travel shut down, Serena and her team hosted more Italians than ever before. This pivot was the definition of team building.

 

Both women are fantastic examples of resilience and determination—allowing their time in the vineyard to create moments of research and tangible connection to their craft. They made the best out of a restricted moment in time—defining something beautiful out of the chaos of the last year.

----

Wines From My Tasting:

Bodegas Pinuaga ‘Nature’ Toledo, Spain 2018:

This wine is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes that are sourced from two different vineyard sites. The grapes are all bush vine trained, with ages of vines ranging from 22 to 65 years old. Soils here are a blend of red clay, limestone, and pebble stones.

 

The grapes are all hand-harvested and sorted for quality before entering the winery. The grapes are de-stemmed without crushing the fruit, then fermented in stainless steel. This wine is aged in stainless steel tanks for one to two years then it is finished in barriques for three months. This balance maintains the freshness and creates a nice round mouthfeel from the smaller oak barrels. Tasting notes: I found the wine to be very complex upon opening. Notes of cherry rhubarb pie, blackcurrant, tar, and earthy undertones. There were some savory notes as well like tomato pie, tomato vine, and herbal undertones. As the wine opened over time it was still juicy and showed cassis notes with a medium body. This wine is waiting for your dinner. I found myself daydreaming about enjoying this wine with a huge meal like a Thanksgiving celebration or a Sunday supper.

----

The beauty of this wine is that there is no recipe. Just listen to the land, be present with the vintage, and it will guide you.

----

Montefili Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy 2017:

The beauty of this wine is that there is no recipe. Just listen to the land, be present with the vintage, and it will guide you. This wine is made up of 100% Sangiovese from younger vines coming from a hilly terrain. It’s vinified in stainless steel tanks with native yeasts. Then the wine is transferred to large oak barrels where it spends around 15 months before it’s transferred to the bottle for 6 more months of additional aging. Tasting notes: This wine was showing its true essence upon opening—sandalwood, red fruit leather, charcoal, cola, dried red currants. This wine has a bright acidity. As it opened I got sweet tart and dried raspberry with some earth and a hint of tobacco. This is a great representation of Sangiovese that makes me think of authentic Italian food. I dream of joining Serena one day, for a meal in her vineyard where I can experience this all together. Until then, I am grateful to connect on a virtual platform because passion and respect for the land translates across any medium.

----

 

If you would like to buy these two wines please contact Shiraz Noor at Acker Wines. LBV Social Club members get a discount through our partnership!

 

Claire Paparazzo is an LBV Social Club member who also leads some of the Club's wine tastings. Find her on Instagram at @clairepaparazzo and @wineifyouwantto.

 

First photo via Montefili Wines

----

 Join the Club to participate in
future wine tastings.

Join Now

Members, view the
calendar for upcoming tastings.

View Now

0 comments

Comments are Moderated