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Cava Women and those Timeless Bubbles

Wed, 16 Mar 2022 |
Silvia Culell

Take a good look at a glass of Cava. The bubbles form rows at the bottom, and slowly but surely rise to the surface, getting bigger along the way. That's how we want to see the women in our sector today.

Women have always been prominent in the world of Cava, but their names have almost always remained in the shadows. Reclaiming this history, and shining a bright light on the role that they've played is one of the goals of a recently created organisation called Cava Women. But that's not all. More and more companies are bringing women on board in high level positions in the wineries, although unfortunately there's still a long way to go. Today we want to find out a bit more about the achievements and ideas of three experienced Cava Women over the course of their professional careers. The first of them is Anaïs Manobens, who heads up a winery that carries a woman's name, that of Maria Rigol Ordi. Very aware of the differences when comparing men's and women's visions, she explained:

"Our inclusive approach, our commitment, teamwork, and empathy represent a valuable contribution to the sector, in terms of marketing and communication, as well as viticulture and oenology." - Anaïs Manobens

A statement that's certainly supported by the family history: "We have women who were very much involved in the business in the past; my great-grandmother took charge of the winery when she was widowed in 1937, and today we have the challenge of living up to her example."

And that's no easy task, according to Olivia Junyent, manager of Castell d’Age: "There's still a lot of work to be done, above all because of the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching the higher rungs of the career ladder, and so also from introducing structural changes."

The fact is that women can and must contribute to excellence in the sector, and as our interviewee points out, this will happen when we're capable of smashing that glass ceiling, when women reach positions in management or in representative bodies where they can assert their influence and bring that fresher, more creative vision that we're always hearing about to the table.

Laia Esmel, oenologist at the winery Cava Esmel that bears her surname, agrees: "We need to get to the point where gender differentiation no longer exists. Women need to be able to work at all levels - in administration, on winery visits for tourists, in jobs connected with cultivation - gender [A1] shouldn't be a limitation." A clear reference to the empowerment of women which is so very necessary across all sectors.

"We have to be able to break down the barriers, barriers that all too often are of our own making, and to reconcile our professional and personal lives. This is the best example we can set our children," concludes Anaïs.

Essentially what she's saying is that there needs to be a paradigm shift that will make way for this social transformation that has so often been demanded, a transformation that means nothing more than working together to promote female talent in all areas of the winery.

In fact it's not just feminist organisations that are committed to female leadership. Many studies highlight women's complementary skills: better interpersonal communication, better co-operation and listening skills, the fostering of a more humane economy and an innate ability to understand and resolve conflict. And then there’s the question of sustainability. I'd be interested to know how the women in the sector view and experience Cava's - and more specifically the DO's - firm commitment to sustainability. Laia Esmel is very clear about this: "It's not only important in the world of Cava, it should be mandatory in all other sectors as well. Obviously it's a feature that helps us to stand out, and one that should also serve as an example for other types of business".

Olivia, her colleague at Castell d’Age, couldn't agree more: "To guarantee a future, all agriculture and processing systems must be organic and sustainable." She fully accepts that this will be a tough challenge, but it’s one that they have taken it on board as one that their generation has to address:

"We need to define a model that is sustainable in the broadest sense of the word, and make it a reality, taking three key aspects into account: environmental, economic and social."- Olivia Junyent

We have to understand that this really is the only way forward for our planet. It’s not simply a part of our own story that differentiates us, it’s a huge responsibility that we need to be firmly committed to".

Because if there is one thing the three interviewees agree on, it's that Cava is different from other sparkling wines because of its high quality and the traditional method of production, albeit with a few subtle differences. Esmel is convinced that the land, above all in the case of Catalonia.

"Has an important differentiating role to play, because although the traditional method is also followed in other winegrowing regions, the end product mirrors the land that it comes from." - Laia Esmel

All this, together with the native grape varieties has made Cava a product that is unique, and difficult to imitate. Not to mention its gastronomic side, which, according to Anaïs, makes it "a product capable of competing with the world's great sparkling wines." She adds that, "our way of doing things also gives it a unique character and identity that we need to understand how to explain and communicate, both here at home and beyond our borders."

It has often been said that a woman's vision can open up new perspectives. And this is certainly something that’s even clearer to me after our very enjoyable chat. I pick up my glass again, to reunite myself with those bubbles. I can already feel them bursting on my tongue. At a Cava tasting they're responsible for giving a sensation of freshness and purity, as well as a pleasant sensation in the mouth. But above all, those bubbles are perfect for a toast. So here's a toast to the Cava women, long may those beautiful bubbles continue to rise to the top so that we can enjoy them for many years to come.

silvia culell.jpg
Silvia Culell
Renowned professional sommelier and journalist, Silvia Culell, is an expert in wine communication, as well as a current member of the editorial team of the BulliFoundation's Bullipedia. She is also the owner of two restaurant businesses and continues to spread, through tastings and training, her passion for wine and communication.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the D.O. Cava.
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