Last week, on My Fellow Traveler, we travelled to the Bordeaux wine country, specifically Haut-Médoc, to discover the Château Lanessan estate. More than just a beautiful vineyard and exquisite wine, we wanted to understand the process of running such a big estate.
We sate down with Paz Espejo, the director of Château Lanessan for a one on one conversation, to understand how she came to be one of the few women to run a vineyard and the challenges and joys of working at Château Lanessan.
I was very curious to get her impression on the notion of the wine world being a very masculine industry. She agreed with this idea, however she nuanced her opinion, stating that “even though the wine world is quite masculine, things have been changing over the last 10 years.” When she started her wine studies, there were very few women studying enology, however that has changed recently.
She did note that “very few women hold responsibility jobs in the wine industry so the situation has improved but it does remain a rather masculine world.”
“Women are joining this world through the notion of taste, through their own taste through the taste of the public that can lean towards a more feminine taste. Through their taste, women are becoming integrated in the wine industry.”
“A woman enjoys drinking wine and tasting wine, it’s a pleasurable experience. Women are joining the world of wine through sensation. For example there are studies that show that Rosé is a rather feminine wine that women choose for its aspect, for its color, for its taste. So women are attracted to wine, though differently because wine still remains a very masculine decision whether you go to a restaurant and a man orders the bottle or if you were going to a wine shop, the man will usually choose the bottle.”
Paz arrived fortuitously in the wine world. “It was just pure luck, it’s just life” that brought her there as she says.
She studied biology in Madrid, and was very passionate about microbiology and botanics. She wanted to pursue studies and her career in biology, but in a more practical manner. She was inclined to continue her life abroad and one day while watching television in Madrid, she came accross a show with an enologist being interviewed and it spoke to her immediately. He talked about being able to produce wine anywhere in the world, including France and that set off the idea of pursuing enology studies in France. Paz studied all though middle and high school at the lycée Français of Madrid and is perfectly fluent.
The words of this man really struck a cord with her : “I thought how great is this, I could continue to travel, to study be in contact with another language and culture. So I jumped into enology because the words of this man reallyspoke to me. How extraordinary it is to be able to pursue a career in a field in contact with nature but where our senses are also very important. Where we project outselves on a product that isn’t done yet but where you intervene so that it becomes something that is completely unexpected but at the same time you know exactely what it is you want to do.”
The first time she tasted wine during her enology studies, it felt like a firework. “Working with your senses everyday is extraordinary” she says. She doesn’t claim to be an artist but “there is a creative side” to this line of work she says.
“We’re in direct contact with nature, each year is very different. We adapt to mother nature and we need to remain humble because mother nature always wins” she says.
“It’s an extraordinary job because I do what I want, which is to be in contact with others and talk about wine. I’m very passionate about making wine but even more so talking to people about it and turn non eine drinkers into fans of the drink. To leave a wonderful memory of the experience. To leave a great souvenir. I understand singers and actors who love to communicate with the public and leave them with enduring memories.”
“I feel the same way when people open a bottle of wine that I’ve created and have a great experience a positive experience with it. It’s truly a wonderful job.”
Tomorrow, in part II of our conversation, we go into the intricacies of managing an estate and what challenges come about with such responsibilities.