The myths of the world of wine that (perhaps) you didn‘t even suspect
The renowned winemaker Camino Pardo helps us to demystify some of the most common clichés related to oenology. Pay attention because more than one may surprise you...
Graduate in Philosophy and Literature, expert in Business Management and Administration, Real Estate Agent... It is difficult to come across a curriculum as extensive and, at the same time, as diverse and heterogeneous as that of Camino Pardo. However, it was the world of winemaking that, more than two decades ago, managed to professionally ‘catch‘ this vine lover, at the head of Bodegas Nexus & Frontaura today (the former, located in Pesquera de Duero; the latter, in Zamora). They produce delicious wines from Ribera del Duero, Toro and Rueda -three of the most prestigious Apellations of Origin in Castilla y Leon-, which are then sold halfway around the world, from China to the United States, including Brazil, Central America, Russia and, of course, Spain.
"This winemaking adventure was initiated by my husband, and I couldn‘t help but fall in love with the project. I was deeply attracted to it. At first you don‘t realize it, but that attraction fills you up so much that a day comes when you don‘t remember what your life was like before wine," Pardo tells us in this interview with Hola Cocina.
If, like us, you think that sometimes life gets a little more interesting with a glass of good wine in hand, don‘t miss this talk. In it, Camino helps us dispel some of the myths about wine; she also offers us very practical advice, from how to choose a bottle in the supermarket to how to serve the best glass at home; and she talks to us about subjects that are not exempt from a certain controversy (such as the excessive price of wine in many restaurants), as well as the trends that are about to arrive in this exciting sector where, fortunately, women are playing an increasingly important role.
Woman and director of a winery. Unfortunately, not so long ago, the blending of both concepts was not usual...
Certainly, women have not enjoyed visibility in the Spanish wine sector or, in general, in activities linked to the rural milieu. Their historical and essential figure has been silenced by the masculinization of the primary sphere. But today there are more and more women who are professionally prepared to develop in agricultural economic activities and, of course, in wine growing. The feminine perspective has brought a renewed air to the wine sector, a very enriching contribution to the industry: from vineyard production to winemaking, marketing and winery management. We women are very interested in excellence and efficiency, and we show a very sensitive direction to the human factor. In addition, we have a very integrated vision of nature, the heritage we manage and its relationship with inherited history, and we are able to defend our business with spirit and courage, with a high level of commitment.
"Women prefer whites and sweet wines". Will you help me to dismantle this belief?
Of course, that‘s just a stereotype! In fact, it is the opposite of what I have experienced in my personal experience, since the women in my family or around me have been red drinkers. There are even studies on the subject; some time ago I read a report made for the ‘Spanish Observatory of the Wine Market‘ in which it was stated that, of the sample of women consulted, 60% preferred red wine and that for most of them, this represented their favourite drink. Moreover, contrary to this old-fashioned belief, women wine consumers are characterized by being curious, wanting to try new things, and being able to distinguish different tasting moments: sometimes we feel like a refreshing rosé to enjoy with friends, sometimes we like to bet on a red for a meal at home ... We are interested in the range of ‘emotions‘, the different sensory experiences that can bring us wines and which we enjoy so much.
Is there any other myth in the world of wine that gets on your temper specially?
For example, ‘Wine, the more expensive, the better‘. This must also be demystified. Of course, there are exceptional expensive wines, but there are also magnificent wines under 15 euros.
Reds for meat; whites for fish... The field of pairing is also full of clichés. To what extent should we pay attention to these guidelines?
Marriage is harmony. Seeking affinity has triumphed for generations: Young whites and reds, with starters, seafood or light cheeses; crianza whites, with fish, white meats and sauces; rosés with pastas, rice dishes and vegetables; crianza reds with meats, stews, sausages and cured cheeses... Now the rules have been reinvented opening up to a world of contrasting sensations: spicy foods with fruity whites; reds with fatty fish; blue cheeses or foie gras with sweet wines; chocolate with sweet red wines... And the fact is that pairing is not only pleasure, it is also surprise. Experimenting usually opens up a new world of sensations. I like freedom, we must discover what we like, and experience what makes us happy.
And what do you think of the lists and rankings that state the name ‘The best wines‘?
Well, this ‘The best wine‘ thing is very subjective. Wine is a living product, and its life is completed when we enjoy it. Both the personal and emotional component as well as the moment of consumption have a great influence. For example, we don‘t always feel like listening to a piece of Wagner‘s music no matter how good it is. Sometimes, we feel like Rolling, or flamenco... Would you like a great red reserva, no matter how magnificent it may be, to accompany a paella at 40 degrees? Do you have the same memory of a wine that you had at a romantic and special dinner, as of having that same wine at a work lunch? Surely not. That‘s why our perception of wine in every situation is different. That‘s what I mean when I talk about subjectivity.
We have a meal with guests. We are in the supermarket and we don‘t know which wine to choose. Any word of advice?
Once we have decided whether we want red, white or rosé, good advice could be to use the wines endorsed by the quality seals as Apellation of Origin, as they guarantee the origin and a controlled quality rating. This does not mean that there are wines outside these areas that do not have quality, but this will help us. Nowadays the labelling of wines has improved considerably and presents very useful information when choosing: the vintage, the type of grape, the ageing in cask, the service temperature, even recommendations for pairing. However, there is no need to go crazy either: there is currently a lot on offer, and plenty of information available to help you find the right wine.
One of the chapters that increase more the bill in a restaurant is wine. Why do you think that the difference regarding the price in the store is sometimes so out of proportion?
This question is not easy to answer... In a restaurant you buy a service; it is not a simple act of acquiring a bottle, but an attention, a type of service. I think the problem sometimes has more to do with the training provided to the staff. I understand that extra cost when in a restaurant we meet a professional capable of satisfying our expectations: he knows how to advise us, answers our doubts or desires, makes sure that the wine reaches the table in optimum conditions... This is: delicacy, professionalism and good service. If this does not exist, the client is not satisfied and this extra cost will not be justified.
Rosé wines are living in a kind of golden age. Their ever-increasing quality makes them compete without complexes with reds and whites, doesn‘t it?
Yes, they are magnificent. Rosés are very versatile, refreshing, very pleasant to the palate, light, easy to drink as an aperitif, or with any type of food, and have the virtue of timelessness. They can be made with many types of grapes, and are affordable, not only economically, but also perfect for those who want to start in the world of wine.
Natural, ecological, biodynamic... are some of the fashionable last names of many wines. However, we are not always clear about the differences between them.
Yes, there is some confusion about that. Natural wines are, in general, ‘naked wines‘ that are made without added products either in the vineyard or in the production process, and it is a concept that is applied even to the energy needed for production. In organic wines, attention is paid to viticulture, to the traditional work of the vineyard but sulphurous can be added. They must comply with a European regulation with very clear production requirements (in relation to the land in which it is cultivated, the grapes and the conservation of the wine). For its part, biodynamics takes organic farming one step further, following the lunar and astronomical calendar as a guide to natural cycles and planting ‘healing‘ herbs in the vineyard, such as valerian, nettle, dandelion or chamomile. It has sometimes been accused of having a mystical approach without scientific rigour. It is easy to find detractors of these practices, but the results, whether by ecological practices or by global respect, are positive for the whole sector, and for the market, where you can choose various options.
What other trends would you highlight in the world of wine? Where do you think the ‘oenological shots‘ will go from here to there?
I believe a lot in variables such as typicity and singularity, which is what sets us apart from other regions and other countries. Spain is rich in nuances. Its different climates, varieties, landscapes... All this means that we have wines of great quality and variety. I believe that this will not change as a trend because quality is always a value that the market appreciates. Another question is whether we are able to communicate our peculiar characteristics of production and quality. I think the trend should go that way: to provide new wisdom to improve the dissemination of our potential as producers, and to collaborate with all kinds of agents in the content of the culture involved in wine. There is a lot to be done with many agents: gastronomy, sommeliers, oenologists, journalists, quality tourism, designers...
Wonderful wines are made in Ribera and Rioja. But many times it is as if these two D.O.s only exist when there are other areas of Spain where great wines are also made. Does this have to do, perhaps, with this lack of dissemination?
It is true that Spain continues to tend to consume well-known brands, which shows a lack of communication between the sector and consumers, as our country has a wealth of wine of enormous interest, which many consumers do not even know or dare to taste. On the other hand, it is also true that today there is a growing interest in being more informed about what you ‘drink‘. We must take advantage of it to spread more and better information about the culture around the world of wine, and incorporate other consumer groups, promoting the diversity of supply.
Oenology for beginners: any basic tasting hints?
Well, I would say that essential factors such as using a good sized glass that allows oxygenation, as well as serving the wine at the correct temperature are basic to appreciate its quality well. Whites and rosés are recommended to serve between 6-10º, young reds between 14-16º and crianzas or reservas reds between 16-18º. In addition, the recommended tasting order that will most favour the appreciation of each wine: from rosés and whites to reds, and within the reds from lesser to longer ageing, i.e. first the young reds and finally those with longer ageing times. For wines aged more than 3 years, it is highly recommended to decant it beforehand to allow it to oxygenate (in this case the wine has been ‘locked up‘ in the bottle for several years and needs a few minutes to offer its full potential). It is important to bear in mind that in a tasting each sense is essential. Each phase (visual, olfactory, gustatory) will give us different information. Once initiated in the tasting of wines, everything flows. The important thing is to lose your fear and enjoy!
Plastic stopper, yes or no?
Yes, I‘m a supporter depending on the product. The natural cork stopper is used for wines of long keeping in the bottle since they allow certain micro-oxygenation of the content. It is a natural, waterproof and totally flexible material. Plastic or synthetic stoppers are perfect to maintain wine as it is at the time of bottling and so it will not change or adulterate its flavor. In other words, so that it remains watertight. For many it has been a ‘dignified‘ solution to not avoid the screw cap, as it produces a feeling of poor or inferior quality in the market. It is the solution for young wines and it reduces economic costs.
-A special wine to you: Without a doubt, Frontaura Crianza, from the Toro D.O., the first wine we made and launched on the market.
-An experience around wine that you will never forget: During a trip with my husband through Central America, there was a day when we were caught by intense tropical rain. Blinded by the rain, and not knowing where we were, we stopped the car in a passing bar. Inside, the water also fell everywhere: through the light bulbs, through the sockets... And, suddenly, we ran into one of our brands of Toro, Dominio de Valdelacasa... We drank it all! Life is just enjoying simple moments.
-A favourite grape variety: Undoubtedly Tempranillo, with its own personality.
- A well-known character with whom you would like to share a glass of wine: I would surely love to share it with Plácido Domingo, an international Spaniard. His language -music- is universal and his career is unrepeatable.
-A combination of ‘wine + food‘ that you especially like: I really enjoy Toro wine with legumes, or Tempranillo Reserva with roasts.
-A book related to the world of wine that you recommend: To enjoy a wine environment, Noah Gordon‘s novel The Winemaker. It‘s an exciting thriller that gets you hooked right away. I would also recommend Carlos Falcó‘s Understanding Wine as an easy book to introduce yourself to wine culture.
-How would you end the phrase ‘A good wine is one that...‘? ...the one who tastes like heaven to you! The one you don‘t forget, which remains in your memory as a moment of pleasure and pure joy.