ALMUDENA ALBERCA, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR OF BODEGAS VIÑA MAYOR, FIRST SPANISH FEMALE MASTER OF WINE
3 de September de 2018
Almudena Alberca MW juggled her studies with her winemaking career. She developed her career in Spain, combining it with international experience in countries including New Zealand. She has worked in boutique wineries, such as Viñas del Cenit (D.O. Tierra del Vino de Zamora) and Dominio de Atauta (D.O. Ribera del Duero.) She currently heads up Bodegas Viña Mayor (D.O. Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Valdeorras and Rías Baixas), creating wines that are greatly acclaimed by specialist wine critics.
This title is yet another example of the growing role of women in the wine sector, as winemakers, winery managers and sommeliers, among other disciplines
Almudena Alberca, Bodegas Viña Mayor's Technical Director, became last 31st of August the first female Master of Wine (MW) from Spain.
She is the first Spanish woman to obtain this title, which is granted by the Institute of Masters of Wine in the UK, a title that represents the pinnacle of knowledge and excellence in the world of wine. There are only a mere 380 Masters of Wine in the whole world, of which 131 are female. Of the ten new names announced today, six are women.
With more than 15 years winemaking experience, Almudena Alberca MW combined her Master of Wine studies with her professional career in various wineries and she forms part of the current generation of the most nationally and internationally recognised young Spanish winemakers.
Her designation as Master of Wine underlines the growing role of women in the sector, both as consumers and professionals.
"The world of wine reflects what occurs in society, and women are gradually achieving positions of greater responsibility, so it fills me with pride to become Spain's first female Master of Wine. We have to continue to work to consolidate our position in order to make the wine world more egalitarian, giving women greater visibility and breaking boundaries in the sector." she comments.
About Almudena Alberca MW
She holds a degree in Oenology, a university specialism in Viticulture and is also qualified in Agricultural Engineering.
Almudena Alberca MW began her professional career in her homeland of Zamora, starting in 2003 as winemaking assistant in the winery Viñas del Cenit, in the DO Tierra del Vino de Zamora. To extend and complete her training she decided to go to New Zealand, from where she returned in 2005 to her previous employer.
Almudena was lucky enough to join a project at its very outset, where she could gain first-hand experience of all the stages of development of a winery and its wines; taking part in everything from the selection of the vineyards to defining the final profile of the wines, to eventually take charge of oenology at the winery in 2008.
This was when she achieved the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Advanced Certificate, the first step on the path of studies that would lead to her becoming a Master of Wine. Her work in Viñas del Cenit also began to bear fruit; Cenit 2009 was awarded 98 points by The Wine Advocate, this being just one of the many accolades that would come later.
In 2010, as part of the same winery group, she added wineries Dominio de Atauta and Atalayas de Golbán to her portfolio, both well respected wineries located in the easternmost part of the Ribera del Duero, where she became a dedicated winemaker. The result of Almudena's work in these wineries was notable, improving the quality of the wines and obtaining very good reviews from the national and international wine press after her incorporation. Her achievements included the following scores: Llanos del Almendro 2010 and 2012 were awarded 96 points by The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator respectively; La Mala and Valdegatiles were given 95 points for the 2010 and 2012 vintages by The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Vinous.
Almudena showed her versatility and multiple talents by working on these two, very different projects, as the two areas represented climatic extremes, managing to create wines of high quality year after year.
During this whole period she juggled her work as a winemaker alongside her role supporting the American wine importer Aviva Vino NY, selecting and preparing Spanish wines for distribution in the USA.
It was in 2015, already in the final stages of her studies, that Almudena Alberca MW arrived at Bodegas Viña Mayor as Technical Director, with the aim of transforming the winery. Since joining, she has been responsible for repositioning the winery, firstly with the modernisation of its traditional range, followed by the creation, design and relaunch of new products. Eight new wines bearing her signature were launched in the record time of 18 months, in addition to the production of wines in new D.O.s such as Valdeorras and Rías Baixas, where the group had not previously worked.
Juggling her professional career and Master of Wine studies
Less than 10% of the candidates accepted on the Institute's study programme pass the exam to become Masters of Wine, and as such Almudena Alberca MW feels "proud to be first woman in Spain, and in having achieved the title alongside my success as a winemaker, dedicating a large part of my free time to my studies."
"As Spain is a country that produces a great variety of different wines, and one that primarily consumes locally-produced wines, one of the greatest challenges that I faced was getting hold of international wines for the tastings. In small cities like Salamanca and Zamora, there are hardly any foreign wines available at all, and I have fond memories of having to travel frequently to attend tastings and returning with my suitcases full of wines," she comments. "This was in addition to the language barrier in terms of the theory part, as well as having to structure my answers in line with a different system, the British one. "
After six years of studying alongside her professional career, and passing the theory and practical exams (in June 2016 and 2017 respectively), Almudena Alberca MW spent the last year working on her research project, a comparative study into different filtration techniques on a Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero.
"One of the few studies carried out on this subject, I developed it with the support of Bodegas Viña Mayor in the winery and on an industrial scale, so that any conclusions on the effect that each type of filter has on the structure of the wine and its taste characteristics, can be extrapolated to make more rational decisions about winemaking in large volume wineries,” she explained.
In the future, she states "I've always wanted to be a consultant, creating new projects and restructuring existing ones, as I am doing currently through the transformation of Bodegas Viña Mayor. I am also committed to my country, and I trust that as a Master of Wine I will be able to help make Spanish wine more visible on the national as well as the international level."
Masters of Wine
The Master of Wine title represents the pinnacle of knowledge and excellence in the world of wine, including the strategic vision of the business model and the ability to transmit this knowledge clearly.
There are currently 380 Masters of Wine in the world, working in 30 countries. They include winemakers, wine buyers, journalists, winery managers, distributors and educators.
Only four Spaniards have been recognised at this level: Almudena Alberca MW, Pedro Ballesteros MW, Andreas Kubach MW and Fernando Mora MW. They are joined by the Scotsman Norrel Robertson MW and the Brit David Forer MW, who work in Spain.
To become a Master of Wine, it is necessary to pass the theory and practical exams that are organised annually by the Institute, as well as completing an original research project. The theory exams cover the art and science of wine in its entirety, from oenology and quality control, to business, commerce and contemporary and legal aspects of the world of wine. The practical exams consist of three blind tastings of 12 wines and the evaluation of not only their origin and variety, but also their production methods, quality and commercial potential. The MW practical exam is considered to be the most difficult tasting exam in the world. It demands not only in-depth knowledge of all the wines in the world, but also great tasting experience and the ability to concentrate under pressure.
About Grupo Bodegas Palacio 1894
Next year will mark 125 years since Don Cosme Palacio Bermejillo founded Bodegas Palacio in Laguardia, the heart of the Rioja Alavesa, making it a precursor of modern Rioja.
Grupo Bodegas Palacio 1894 is now present in all of Spain's main Designations of Origin, with brands of renowned prestige such as Cosme Palacio, Viña Mayor, El Secreto and Caserío de Dueñas, making it one of Spain's leading wine groups, recognised beyond the country’s borders.
In a desire to develop high-value brands in the ultra-premium segment, Grupo Bodegas Palacio 1894 has recently established new business partnerships, including the exclusive distribution in Spain of the prestigious Barons de Rothschild Champagne.
Bodegas Viña Mayor has been a driving force in Spain in terms of Wineries for Climate Protection (WfCP), becoming the first winery in the Ribera del Duero to achieve this certification aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water management, reducing waste and energy efficiency. From its creation, the Group has been closely committed to the environment, with sustainability being an essential guide to the company's activities whose energy consumption is from 100% renewable sources.