Interview with Winemaker Gloria Collell

BATD ON Jul 24, 2012 AT 4:26 pm

Gloria showing us the proper way to taste wine

Gloria Collell grew up in the Catalan region of Spain, the area on the east coast centred around Barcelona, she comes from a family of winemakers. Even though Gloria set out to be a lawyer perhaps she always knew she would be a winemaker, it’s in her blood. She works at Freixenet in Barcelona, we know them best for their Cava, but they also make fantastic wine which is sold worldwide.

I took a trip over to meet Gloria where she works at Segura Viudas, the spectacular vineyards owned by Freixenet to taste and talk about the wine she has made called Mia, I asked her to talk about women working in wine making, an industry which is dominated by men.

BATD: You said that you think women have a better library in their brains for tastes to make them better at wine making, how do your male colleagues cope with this information?
GC: I don’t think it makes them automatically better wine makers – I think women are better tasters than men because we have more references. Women cook more, we have perfumes, creams, even kitchen cleaners, all these create brain references, so we are more sensitive to smells which makes for better tasting. So, I don’t think we are better at making wine, just that we have the right tools to be better.

I think most men recognize that women think and work in a slightly different way to them – this is just one of those ways. There are a growing number of women in the industry, I believe if we produce good wine that we will be respected. Although the world of wine in Spain is a very male world, I think my male colleagues respect me and my winemaking skills. I believe if you prove your professional worth you will be respected.

Segura Viudas Barcelona

BATD: How would someone go about a career in wine making, and how early should they start?
GC: At home I encourage my children to learn about my work – they smell wines that I bring home, they of course visit the vineyard (especially at times like the harvest) and as they get older they will discover more. I grew up with the world of wine all around me and still love it. So, I think you can start as early as you like!

Really my advice would be the same as I would give women trying to get into any industry! The world of wine & drinks industry in general is very competitive. For this reason, my advice is that someone should only aim to enter this world if they really feel passion for it, because only passion will equip them for the hard work! The people who do best in their careers are people who are their true selves. I abandoned my studies in law because I realised that I was not being true to one of my first loves – wine!

So, if women are trying to get into wine making, a good start point is a genuine love of wine! I’d also suggest spending some time really thinking about where they want to work & how, what level they aspire to, and how they want their work and home life to balance.

Obviously, to be a wine maker you need to study, so you will need to look into the different Oenology and Viticulture courses there are. When I studied Oenology there were 12 women in a total class of 20 students. And, I can honestly say that, in general, the women achieved higher grades and were perceived as better students. My studies took me to a number of wine regions including Burgundy in France and eventually back to Penedès where I lived and worked as an oenologist and eventually took a position with Freixenet.

BATD: You went to study wine making in Burgundy, do you think the schools in France are better than anywhere else?
GC: My studies took me to a number of different wine making regions, including Burgundy……each of which gave me a different experience and all of which enhanced my wine knowledge

BATD: What are the highs and lows of your profession?
GC: I love my job, but like everyone I have days when I am tired or down. However, it is mostly highs! I always have the first buds on the vine to look forward to; or the thrill of the harvest coming in with lines of growers meandering towards the winery and the excited chatter of the growers talking about the harvest and their family news; and of course there is the time when a new vintage is first opened and I can share it with my friends and family.

And, it is great to see an historic, family company like Freixenet develop new and innovative products. I’m excited to be part of that. It’s a fantastic feeling to know that so many people are enjoying a wine or Cava that I have helped to create!

I am very lucky because I travel a lot, but this might be seen as a low – I am often away from my children and family. However, I am lucky that my family and friends are very supportive, so I think my professional and home-life work well together.

BATD: Which new wines are countries producing that we should look out for and try?
GC: I am passionate about Spain’s native grapes so I would recommend trying wines from DO Utiel-Requena – It is one of Spain’s oldest wine regions, the Bobal grape is one of the few varieties that can be successful in what is a particularly harsh climate. Despite being Spain’s third most planted variety behind Airen and the ever-popular Tempranillo, Bobal doesn’t get the same profile. However, wines such as Freixenet’s Beso, can be rich and powerful with a long smooth finish and they offer fantastic value. Moll (also known as Prensal blanc) is another grape variety which is quite trendy now. Wine is such a personal thing – one should always be open to trying new and different grapes or wine regions to find out what one enjoys!

Gloria's wine, Mia

BATD: Since you have been travelling so much promoting Mia, are there any new inspirations and tastes you have discovered to add to your personal ‘library’?
GC: Back in November, I travelled to China to promote Mia. I was surprised at how well the Mia wines go with Eastern cuisine so that is something I would recommend you try! My real inspiration from my travels is the wonderful people I have met throughout…..so many interesting individuals – open and welcoming – from so many different countries and backgrounds.

BATD: The Freixenet Group seems to be a very special place to work, how often do they give someone the chance to make a wine, how lucky do you feel?
GC: The Freixenet Group has a very large portfolio of vineyards, from Spain to California, France to Australia and many more countries, with wines created under a variety of names.

However, Mia was the first wine created under the Freixenet name, to have a name on the label other than a Ferrer family member’s name

I was honoured to be asked by the family to create wines for women. I wanted to create wines that are fresh, vibrant and contemporary. Easy drinking wines, to be drunk in company. Mia Signature Blend No.1 (a red wine) and Mia Signature Blend No 2 (a white wine) are modern, stylish, Spanish wines. They use Spanish grapes, but are created in a modern style (unlike traditionally heavy / oaked wines), so they will appeal to the contemporary female wine drinker. In my mind’s eye she is a busy woman juggling many different roles, who enjoys her social life and loves wine! She chooses wine as her beverage of choice, with meals or at the end of the day and though she would not consider herself a connoisseur, she does enjoy trying new and different wines and sharing her knowledge with friends and family. I wanted Mia to be a wine that would be a good introduction to Spanish wine and our amazing indigenous grapes, so the wines are premium, energetic and fun. I hope women like me who love food, love company and love life will enjoy them!

I feel privileged that my name and picture are featured on a Freixenet wine. It is a wonderful family company and I enjoy being part of the ‘Freixenet Family’.

BATD: You wanted to produce a wine using only local Spanish grapes, what other Spanish ingredients do you love and enjoy making at home?
GC: I love being able to get my children, family and friends around – to share typical Spanish foods. I love seasonal foods – like Calcots in the spring. They are similar to large spring onions, but with a sweet taste all of their own. They are versatile and great in tempura, or mousse, but of course they are best barbecued over old vines! Calcots are wonderful with Freixenet Codon Negro Cava!

Last month I went foraging for wild vegetables with my kids we found wild asparagus – slim, delicate spikes of green found by the edges of fields and paths in and around San Sadurni – they are delicious in tempura too, and are especially good with cold white Mia wine.

Around our vineyards there are olive groves. Here they grow the very special, famous, dark green Arbequina olives. I love them, when they are cured, and enjoyed curing them in water, sea salt and typical Catalan herbs myself last year. It was fun and I found they were very good with Mia red wine.

I also love simple food like Iberian ham, bread with tomatoes and garlic and coca d’escalivada – all are wonderful with Freixenet Elyssia Pinot Noir Cava – Delicous!

The Vineyards at Segura Viudas

BATD: What can we expect to see next from you and Mia?
GC: We are currently taking Mia around the world, I have been to China, Dominican Republic, Sweden, and other countries all around the world! It’s great introducing a wine that I have helped develop from the vine and grape to the label on the shelf! Everyone around the world seems to be enjoying Mia, my wine, which as you can imagine I am very proud of.

We are working on the next addition to the Mia family – A rosé, I am hoping that we can release the first vintage in 2012

Mia is very drinkable, the white chilled is perfect for summer, but you can try Mia to see what you think at www.tesco.com

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