The wine world is changing in many ways, and one major evolution is the influx of new, young winemakers to what has traditionally been a business that older generations ran. There’s no better example of this shift in both ideology and practice than Ignacio and Martina Pariente (right), a brother-sister duo who are the brains, brawn and tastemakers behind the José Pariente winery in Rueda.
After taking over the winery from their parents, Ignacio (who runs the export and business operations) and Martina (winemaker) are bringing a clear generational shift to their wines, experimenting and using modern techniques and technology to set themselves apart from other wines. The twosome would look just as at-home in a fashion photo spread as they would hand-picking grapes in their vineyards, and they embrace their status as the new blood in a centuries-old region. In fact, Ignacio sees being on the young side of the wine equation is a bonus, as exporters and consumers appreciate that they’re able to gravitate towards social media, connect directly with anyone looking for their wines, whether in Barcelona, Beijing or Buffalo.
“We [younger winemakers] have an advantage because with the wine industry, everything is becoming more global and interactive. They want to comment and direct link with the producers and consumers, but now they want to see a face and personality behind it. It’s not as easy to just make wine nowadays.”
We [younger winemakers] have an advantage because with the wine industry, everything is becoming more global and interactive. They want to comment and direct link with the producers and consumers, but now they want to see a face and personality behind it. It’s not as easy to just make wine nowadays.
Taking risks and seeking out innovation is in their blood, as they discuss below in our Meet Your Makers with Bodegas José Pariente.
If you had to tell the story of Jose Pariente winery in a tweet (140 characters), what would it be?
What sets José Pariente apart in your mind?
Martina: In my mind, what distinguish José Pariente in the market, is quality, respect for the nature, innovation and passion. We always search for the best quality grapes to use in our wines – we strongly believe that the quality of the vineyard and the grape is the key for a great wine. Additionally, we are a company driven by innovation, searching for new technologies and ways to make wines, as well as trying to be innovative in the product offerings (the different wines – f.ex. Apasionado de José Pariente, our curious sweet wine, and José Pariente Cuvée Especial, fermented in concrete eggs). Last but not least, we are passionate about what we do and the passion makes us reach a little extra and search for excellence in everything we do.
Was there ever a question that your careers would be in wine? If you weren’t making wines, what would your dream job be be?
Martina: I think I was always very influenced by my mother and her passion for winemaking, so my evocation for the wine sector started early. I’m passionate about making wines, and don’t think I could see myself in any other sector.
Ignacio: I always had the wine sector in the back of my mind, wanting one day to join my parents winery. But I was also curious and ambitious to learn from other sectors and international companies before joining the winery, and after graduating in Law and Business Administration, I worked for some years in several multinational companies (KPMG and L’Oreal). Now I’m very happy to have joined José Pariente, and it is really a pleasure to be working for your own family company.
As the new, young generation of winemakers, what type of different thinking do you bring to the industry?
Martina: The combination of traditional winemaking and old vineyards, and new technologies and innovative ways of making wines.
Ignacio: A more international approach to the wine sector, listening and communicating directly with the consumers, creativity.
Have you faced any challenges in the industry because of your age?
Ignacio: No, not really. Actually I would say now in these days people are willing to meet or have a new project with fresh blood and young people. It looks like the wine industry has to be a traditional thing with old people everywhere, and this is changing very fast. They accept and like when new generations arrive and they can give some new orientation and perspective.
We have an advantage because with the wine industry, everything is becoming more global and interactive. They want us to comment and direct link with the producers and consumers, but now they want to see a face and personality behind it.
Similarly, let’s discuss experimentation in winemaking – particularly, “the eggs.” What caused you to want to use them, and what are some other modern techniques you’re using?
Martina: We started with the concrete eggs (below) in 2008. We were looking to make an elegant aged white wine without the touch of the wood. We heard about them, we made some research and finally decided to start making wine with them as an experiment. The result was excellent and it took us 2 years experimenting until we found the wine that we wanted. In 2010 we used the 2 oldest vineyards (around 90 years old) and made the first José Pariente Cuvée Especial. These eggs have 2 great characteristics: 1. the shape allows the lees to be in constant movement for a longer period, and 2. since the surface of the eggs has small pores allowing a microxygenation, we can work the lees for a longer period.
One surprise at your winery was the sweet Rueda wine. What made you want to try producing that?
It was kind of a result of our research and experimentation. All of our sweet wine comes from only one plot and vineyard. We were using this vineyard for our sauvignon blanc, the dry one, and we make wines by plot. So we have complete control of the wine. In this case, we saw that this plot was keeping very high acidity — too much, maybe — and the result in this plot was always not the best one, but we didn’t want to just stop working with it. The acidity is very high, yes, but what if we make a late harvest and see the acidity as a good point. With the late harvest, we get a sweet wine but with a very good acidity which gives it a lot of freshness.
As a winemaker, what’s the balance between the intense, sometimes scientific process of winemaking while also keeping the romantic side of it?
Martina: Being surrounded by the beautiful landscape of vineyards everyday is romantic in itself..and the moment when the wines are finally ready to be launched and you serve yourself a glass of wine and taste the new vintage, it’s a little moment of magic. The technical process of elaborating wine is later balanced when tasting the wine and enjoying it with friends or family in a social setting.
Since we are brother and sister, we can always be 100% honest with each other. This makes the work more easy and more efficient, obtaining better results.
Brothers and sisters working together can be challenging. What are the hardest and also the best parts about working with your family?
Ignacio: Some of the hardest parts are that it´s more difficult to separate work and personal life.. Sometimes during family lunches, we end up discussing topics related to the winery, but that’s part of the business.
Martina: Even if there are challenges, there are many benefits and positive sides to working in a family winery. Since we are brother and sister, we can always be 100% honest with each other. This makes the work more easy and more efficient, obtaining better results.
In terms of innovation and experimentation, is there anything new you’re trying that you’d like to share?
A focus on sustainability is a growing trend in the wine world. Why is it important to you?
Ignacio: It’s a matter of philosophy. If you want to have very huge yields in the vineyard and wants to get the most from the vines and use chemicals doing that, you could have two or three years with a good yield, but the quality and yield will keep going down. In our case, one of the key things is the respect for nature. The grape is key for good wine — excellent wine needs excellent grapes, plain and simple.
Secondly, it’s responsibility. I think and hope that we are getting back a bit to the old times, being more respectful with the vines and with the land. The path of the future of viticulture. I understand there are a lot of areas or wine regions with huge humidity and hard conditions to grow — I won’t judge or say it’s better or worse. For us, we want to be as natural with the viticulture as possible.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about one of your wines?
Martina: Receiving a personal written letter by the former Spanish King Juan Carlos after having order wines from us, is one of the best compliments.
Ignacio: During a wine showroom in Germany a middle-aged couple came over to our stand and told us that they got to know each other drinking José Pariente, and today they have a child together.
What do you love most about making wine?
Ignacio: The possibility to make a wine that everyone enjoys in special moments; contribute to create happy moments.
Martina: The possibilities of see the whole evolution and process from the field to the bottle or the glass. Winemaking is a long and nice process, and I really enjoy seeing the whole process how everything develops from the vineyard and the grapes, to the final wine consumed with a good meal among friends or family.
Ignacio, you spent time living in San Diego – what are three things you miss about the U.S.?
The nice Californian weather, the beaches of San Diego, the relaxed ambience and the friendly people. And the food, because the influence of international food is awesome, it’s huge. In any middle-sized city, you can get food from everywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter — Thai food, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, any small country — you find foods from there. It’s very nice that you can so easily get to say ‘OK, today I want Thai food,’ and it’s two blocks away.
If you compared your wines to a famous person – an actor, a writer, a politician, etc. – who would it be and why?
Our wines are elegant and classics, so perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow.
Martina, the process of winemaking is very precise and detail-focused. Outside of work, is that also your personality?
No! [laughing] I’m much more of an improviser outside of work.
What’s your most memorable food moment from your childhood, and what (if any) impact has that had on you?
Ignacio: During my childhood I spent the summers in the house of my grandparents, and both of them were excellent cooks. My grandfather, José Pariente, made some delicious paellas (Spanish rice dish) every Sunday during summer. I still remember all the family together in the garden enjoying lunch and wine together.
Where can people follow Jose Pariente on social media?
Twitter: @bodegajosparien https://twitter.com/BODEGAJOSPARIEN
Instagram: @bodegasjosepariente https://instagram.com/bodegasjosepariente