Anna Espelt, 5.3.19
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
20 years! Time goes by so quickly (what a cliché). My family has been in viticulture for at least eight generations, but my plan was not to follow that path. I studied biology, and when I was about to start my PhD in genetics, I decided to study winemaking instead. After working for a while in California, I went back to Spain when I found out my grandfather and founder of the Espelt winery was very ill. Then I started taking care of the viticulture for eight years, five more years on winemaking plus viticulture, and in 2012 I took over the general management of Espelt.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Yes, I remember it very clearly. This was when my father took me to walk around the land they just bought to build the winery and showed me the places that would become vineyards. I can remember the smell, the energy of the site ... and a few days later I decided to be a viticulturist.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Taking care of the land. Feeling the seasons. Living in the middle of the vineyards and between two naturals parks is a great place to raise my three girls.
At the same time, it is excellent to recover an ancient scenery where vineyards have been grown for centuries and understand what terroir is in our little place in the world.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
When I started, in our region there were almost no women in the business and none of them were in viticulture. It was a traditionally masculine world. Prejudices began from the very beginning when the workers were not exactly happy to have a very young woman as a boss. It did take me some time to get their trust.
Those were clear prejudices and therefore, easier to fight. I found more difficult to handle the more subtle prejudices, such as a certain self-imposed masculinity in order to be taken into account in mostly male meetings.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
From my point of view, the main prejudice is that we need to leave our femininity hidden in order to be good in this business. It's important to be aware of each one's strengths and use them even if they are not as common as other more related masculinity.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Wine is a product that unites taking care of the land. There is a hedonistic side and a spiritual side. I believe those points will be stronger in the business if we support one another.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope I can see a lot more women in viticulture. At least in Spain there are some areas like sales or winemaking were the presence of women is becoming common, but in viticulture, this is still rare, and I believe this can make some significant changes from the roots of the business as vines are the base of it.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Wine is a beautiful world, enjoy it! It will allow you to enjoy life at it's best. At the same time, I would recommend keeping in contact with your own femininity whatever your role is.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
It's a horizon that appears closer than it really is (as in the rest of the non-wine industry world), where men and women have the same opportunities and there aren't biases because of the gender.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I am employing women in all different kind of roles, from cellar hand to viticulture and technical staff as well as in sales or as accountants. I am conscientious of having a balanced team where both genders are at all levels.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
It should be someone looking for excellence on wine -the product itself- but could also be on the society this business is creating around it or taking care of Mother Earth the best way possible.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
I admire my grandma who started the winery with my grandfather when they were 66 and 69 years old, and she never got recognition for it. She worked hard! I still ask her for advice.
Sara Perez, from Priorat and Montsant. I admire her because she's been able to make beautiful wines, and at the same time be an example of not needing to become masculine to be successful in the wine industry.
Elisa Errea. She is the founder of The Wine Studio, the most important wine education in Spain. I admire her because she's got a fantastic knowledge about wine and is also able to juggle happily on all spheres of life more than any one else I know.