THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE RIBERA DEL JÚCAR PROTECTED DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN
Carolina Hernández, Enologist: “They say that when tasting, women have a finer threshold for the perception of aromas.”
Mª Carmen Parreño, Manager: “Men always rely on female enologists, managers and directors … and this is perhaps because of our organizational capacity.”
Sonia Peralta, Field Technician: “We get far more involved and we make sure that everything will turn out alright, although this may only be because we have to prove that we know how to do it.”
Eva Ovejero, Member of the Protected Designation of Origin Steering Board and Administrative: “I do believe that we are much more organized and the winery benefits from our greater capacity for sensible decisions and moderation.”
The Ribera del Júcar Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is located south of Cuenca and it is characterized by the exclusivity and exquisiteness of its wines. The Appellation saw the light seven years ago and represented the first Spanish Designation of Origin that had been adapted to the most demanding Community legislation. These are only details. Minor details, yet they have allowed this small and exclusive Designation to excel and shine in the world of wine, both within our borders and abroad. Isn’t it true that the small details are precisely the ones that set us apart from the rest?
Hence, to be found among the details and particularities of this PDO are the features that the Júcar River confers on it as it passes through the vineyards, as is likewise the case with the climate, the rich soil overflowing with pebbles and shingles, the humidity… without forgetting the important role that women hold. At the La Magdalena Cooperative we find Ana Belén, Head of Quality, at the Cooperative Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno Mª Dolores, who is the Administrative Assistant; Rosa, who is in charge of records and logistics at the Cooperative Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza, at the winery Bodegas Illana is Maria José from the Financial Department and Viviana Aguirre, who works for the Export Department, likewise at the San Ginés Wineries we find Micaela, Head of Quality and Laboratory and Sonia from the Administration Department, to only mention a few of the many women, with a final example represented by Faustina Bonillo, Head of the Laboratory at the Cooperative Teatinos. As can be seen the incorporation of women as managers, departmental representatives, enologists, administrative and field technicians is more than obvious, with all of them contributing to the elaboration of premium quality wine with their work. The feminine role is decisive in all the management areas of this PDO in order to see the business take off and consolidate. The truth of the matter is that women’s contribution to work is a factor that is increasingly more frequent in all areas of life and indeed, as could not be otherwise, in this Designation of Origin.
While on a hot August stroll through the vineyards of the Ribera del Júcar PDO we encounter Carolina Hernández Martín. This incredibly young Enologist is the driving force behind the wine made at the winery Bodegas y Viñedos Illana. She was born in Guardamar de Segura, in Alicante. She studied to be an Agricultural Engineer and Enologist in Orihuela, and it was during this period that she met her husband, Javier Prósper, with whom she currently also directs Bodegas y Viñedos Illana, a winery that is located in Pozoamargo, Cuenca.
She started her professional trajectory at the Cooperatives in Algueña and Teulada in Alicante, where she remained until 2001, and it was in this year when she decided to move to La Roda to take over management of the estate that is owned by her husband’s family. Between the two they took care of the management of both the livestock and the crops.
The idea to create a winery and produce their own wine actually saw the light as of this alliance and in this case with the quality label of the Ribera del Júcar Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). “We had already turned it over in our minds time and time again and we finally decided to take the step. I had always liked the world of wine and then we met Josep Lluis Pérez of the Mas Martinet winery, one of the great enologists of Spain; he invited us to take part in the grape harvest and it was with him that we learned this exquisite way of making wines”. This represented the starting point for the creation of Bodegas y Viñedos Illana in the year 2003, which despite its brief history is enjoying an excellent level of prestige. Thus we cannot forget that these wines have the added touch of Carolina’s feminine sensitivity when it comes to the perception of the aromas.
This exciting and thrilling project involving the Bodegas y Viñedos Illana Winery has contributed considerable recognition and prestige to the PDO, as all the wine that the winery produces is bottled under the Ribera del Júcar Protected Designation of Origin, having obtained scores standing between 87 and 92 in Robert Parker’s famous international wine guide.
Carolina, one of the many women who leave their imprint on this Protected Designation of Origin located in Cuenca, points out that the differences in the work that an enologist can do are not that great, be the enologist a man or a women, although “they do indeed say that when tasting wine, women tend to have a more finely honed threshold for the perception of aromas”.
Mª Carmen, Manager
Continuing along our stroll through the villages that make up this Designation we reach Casas de Benítez, where the wines of the San Ginés Winery are cultivated in a high plateau 740 m above sea level with a Mediterranean climate and clay-based soil, wines that are likewise worthy of this Designation. During the last few years the winery has wagered on renewal of the vine grafts and on recuperating varieties that already in the time of the Phoenicians were being grown. The resulting wines have their own personality and a high quality, which according to its Manager, Mª Carmen Parreño Martínez, is precisely the differential nature of the winery.
This professional studied Business Administration in Madrid, where she first undertook her professional career. She abandoned the city later on due to family reasons and returned to her life in Casas de Benítez, hometown of her family roots. It is in San Ginés where she finds the possibility to develop her profession in the winery’s administration and management areas, sharing the post with a colleague and performing her duties to full satisfaction.
The feminine figure is gradually appearing in management areas that up until recent years had been male-dominated, with women contributing to the industry in a fundamental way and with a point of distinction. “Men always trust female enologists, managers, directors… perhaps because of the organizational aspect, because I do believe we have more capacity for organization,” Mª Carmen comments.
San Ginés is one of the founding wineries of the PDO and it produces the highest volume of bottled wine, hoping over time to distance itself with its bulk wines and thus add even more to its point of distinction. “Belonging to this rather small PDO, which joins together the municipalities that make up the same in a very special way, is also a privilege and a tribute of prestige for me as the manager of the winery” she concludes.
Sonia, Field Technician
Now then, we must not forget that in this PDO we also find women that “wear the pants” and are out working in the fields. Whether it rains, snows or shines, Sonia Peralta Fernández, Field Technician for the plant health care group that works for all the farmers that are members of the winery registered in the PDO, the Purísima Concepción Cooperatives, better known for its Teatinos wine, is also currently collaborating with the “Ribera del Júcar” PDO and the IVICAM (Institute of the Vine and Wine) in a project on clonal identification of the BOBAL variety.
Sonia, who is an Agricultural Engineer and Graduate of Food Science and Technology, accepted a job offer from the winery four years ago. Enthusiastic and committed with the project, she is in charge of monitoring the crops, plagues and disease that attack the vines, grain and crops. In addition she monitors ripening of the grapes and during the grape harvest she works in the laboratory insuring quality control of the grape juice concentrates.
She does however admit that it has not been easy for the farmers to accept her advice as “I imagine it is difficult for men with vast experience to simply accept that someone so young tells them what they should do, although I have earned their trust over time. Men don’t have to fight it out to be recognized in their work, as nobody doubts their knowledge and skills, taking them for granted as they do. However, with women the situation is quite different. We get ourselves much more involved and we make sure that everything will be perfect, although this may just be because we have to prove that we know how to do things.”
The Purísima Concepción Cooperative Winery combines the most traditional methods with the most cutting-edge techniques. The winery that opened in the fifties still conserves a series of “tinajas” (large round cement tank with domed top) that are currently used for the most appreciated wines and a modern winery equipped with the most avant-garde technology, apart from a barrel cellar for production of the “crianzas”. “What I have always pursued is quality in the final product, in the wine and, according to Sonia, this is precisely what our winery contributes to the PDO.”
Eva, Administrative and Member of the Ribera del Júcar Protected Designation of Origin’s Steering Board
Now, as we cover the last span of our walk through these villages of Cuenca we finally reach Sisante, where the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno Cooperative was founded in 1942 as an olive oil mill, but where in 1958 the cooperative also erected the walls that were to form the current winery. This is where Eva Ovejero Preciado exercises as Administrative and Member of the Ribera del Júcar PDO’s Steering Board along with another colleague. They are the only two women who work in the Cooperative and when I ask Eva why she works in the Administration Department, she points out “this is because we are more organized and from this post we can offer the winery sensible decisions and moderation.”
Eva assures us that “despite the fact that this Cooperative is the one that produces the least number of bottles that make up the Ribera del Júcar PDO, we do however provide reliability and fidelity to the group, because we have always been here. This is mutual enrichment in which we offer our experience, while the PDO offers training and presence on the markets. We all learn from each other during the Executive Councils and other work meetings that are set-up.”
Hence, men and women indistinctly integrate and bring the prestigious Ribera del Júcar Protected Designation of Origin to life, with the Designation currently covering an extension of more than 9000 hectares of vineyard, including the municipalities of Casas de Benítez, Casas de Fernando Alonso, Casas de Guijarro, Casas de Haro, El Picazo, Pozoamargo and Sisante, all of which are located in Cuenca. The PDO is currently made up by seven wineries, characterized by their soft and elegant wines, in which the aromas of the Júcar River are pervasive, the Mediterranean climate, the humid soil overflowing with shingles and pebbles shaped by the river’s passing as well as the patient and constant toil of the people that have lived in this centuries-old land of viniculture tradition.
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