Internet Embassy Santiago

Wine made by women

Female Winemakers On Their Special Gifts

Making accessible wines characterized by a certain “sensitivity” was the theme that emerged from interviews with three Chilean female enologists about what they bring to the wine industry. They are Cecilia Torres, chief winemaker at the historic Santa Rita winery; Irene Paiva, the new head of reserve wineries at San Pedro; and Carolina Arnello, president of the Association of Agronomist- Enologists and winemaker at the Portal del Alto artisan winery.

After completing her studies at the University of Chile, Arnello had the good fortune to work with Portal del Alto owner Alejandro Hernandez, a giant among Chilean winemakers who has imparted his craft to a generation of young people.

“It doesn’t matter to me that he’s the well-known figure,” Arnello says. “I think people know I’m the chief winemaker at Portal del Alto. In any case I don’t feel less valued — I’m not marketable, he is, and I’ve been able to take advantage of this.”

She says her 10 years at the winery have been bittersweet. With Hernandez often attending to his academic and consulting work, Arnello has had to take charge of exports to Asia and a variety of other duties at the family-run winery in addition to her first love, winemaking. Yet she hasn’t missed working in a larger winery, she says, because “here I have the opportunity to be involved in the entire process of winemaking … and Alejandro always participates in our tastings and wine blending.

“My signature here has been to give absolute primacy to the grape, to what nature provides,” Arenello continues, “and not to just use oak. My wines have been criticized, but I defend them for their honesty, and perhaps because they aren’t commercial.”

She says wine does turn out differently when made by a woman. “There’s more sensitivity around and about — taking care of the tanks and worrying about the labels … undoubtedly it has to do with administration, and with creating something very personal.”

Irene Paiva has worked at the Curico cooperative and the well-known Errazuriz and Caliterra wineries , and was hired in July by San Pedro winery, Chile’s second largest. She is in charge of their reserve wines as well as their new winery under construction in Totihue. A quiet woman, Paiva says she is happiest during harvest time when the bodega takes on purple hues as the red wine starts fermenting and the most profound contact between winemaker and wine takes place.

“More than any difference between men and woman, I think there are personal styles of vinification,” Paiva says. “Male enologists have the capacity to be generalists, whereas women are detail-oriented.”

Paiva says her goal as a winemaker is to make wines the consumer understands, that are without defects and that have a great aroma, as with Sauvignon Blanc, or are robust, well balanced reds. And after working with such well-known enologists as Aurelio Montes (Vina Montes), Tim Mondavi (Robert Mondavi winery) and Jacques Lurton (maker of the super-premium Gran

Araucano), Paiva says, “at this point any new knowledge is welcome. In the face of a global wine world, where we’re not competing with our compatriots but with wineries around the world, we have to be more and more efficient and give our wines the chance to show themselves.”

Perhaps the best known female winemaker in Chile is Cecilia Torres, who has been making one of the country’s top wines, Carmen’s Casa Real de Exportacion for a half-dozen years. “There are very volatile winemakers, and then the ones who are super dedicated,” she says. “There’s no difference between men and women working in wine,” Torres says. “More than a question of gender, a wine reveals itself according to the style you give it. I work like an ant, very steady and dedicated, and it’s very hard for me to make decisions.

However, I do believe women have a certain instinct for enology, thanks to our sensitivity.”