Spain’s women in wine to watch

Veronica Ortega

veronica-ortega

Hoping to introduce the world to the fragrant charms of Mencía is talented young winemaker Veronica Ortega, who views the grape as the “Pinot Noir of Spain”, due to its delicacy and sensitivity to terroir.

Based in Bierzo, Ortgea makes two hand-harvested Mencía expressions: Quite (pronounced ‘keetay’) that spends eight months in oak, and top drop Roc, made from an 80-year-old schist vineyard in the village of Valtuille de Abajo.

Before settling in northern Spain, she cut her teeth at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Crozes-Hermitage in the northern Rhône, and was mentored by Alvaro Palacios in Priorat.

“Most people view Spanish wine as highly concentrated and alcoholic – I want to show that there’s another way. I want to make a Burgundian style of wine,” she says. She is experimenting with ageing a portion of Quite in amphora and made her first Godello this year. Her dream is to return south to make Sherry from her own solera.

Who or what made you want to become a winemaker? The real beginning for me was my first grape harvesting in Jerez. After that I headed to Priorat where I was fortunate enough to work with Alvaro Palacios, who became my teacher and mentor. I was struck by his passion and decided to devote myself entirely to the art of winemaking.

How would you describe your winemaking style? Minimal intervention. I try to work with the best raw material and not force anything. I don’t use yeast or additives, except low doses of sulfur as Mencía is a vulnerable variety. But I work in as natural a way as possible.

My aim is to produce a wine of character that reflects the variety of the area and the climate, nothing more. I like wines that speak to you and reflect where they come from. Wines that are lively and elegant, fresh and drinkable.

Who is/was your winemaking inspiration? I’ve been lucky enough to work with amazing producers, some I still consider as the best and most complete professionals that exist, for whom I feel a deep admiration. I particularly respect Benjamin Leroux’s precision. I consider him one of the best producers in Burgundy.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far? Starting from scratch, alone in a relatively short period of time.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job? The comforting feeling pf being a part of something as mystical as a bottle of wine,

Desert island wine: Castillo Ygay 1964 for its complexity and finesse.

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