So, tell us about yourself and what got you to where you are today?
I am the eldest daughter of three, and my parents owned orchards and ran a domestic fruit distribution company, as well as an export fruit company.
I studied to be an Agriculture engineer, specialising in Economics and Viticulture/Oenology. I was inspired to work in this field as I had done so with my dad from a young age, such as driving tractors, supervising pickers, and selecting fruit at the fruit warehouse.
Following graduation, I chose to follow winemaking after a short period of work at the Central Bank of Chile agricultural department. Once I knew I had found my passion, I decided to leave Chile to learn winemaking techniques and other languages from throughout the world.
It was during my second vintage in the USA in Napa Valley, that I tasted several New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines, and I remember immediately falling in love with the vibrancy, fragrancy, and flavour profile of the 2003 vintage New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s.
This made me decide I need to do a vintage in Marlborough and experience these wines first-hand.
I applied for a harvest internship in in Marlborough, and in 2004 went to work at family owned Isabel Estate. Toward the end of my internship, the family offered for me to stay as an Assistant Winemaker, and I was soon promoted to Chief winemaker in 2005 after returning from doing vintage in Loire Valley, France and Mossel, Germany.
In 2008 I decided to go home to Chile, but that same year I met my British husband to be and years later we had a daughter called Sienna, and we never left! I became a proud citizen of New Zealand in 2011.
What’s your favourite place in New Zealand to visit?
I have a lot of favourite spots in New Zealand. Some are common and some are not-so-common. Some are off the beaten path, and some are obvious. I love them all, I’m not picky. But if you asked me to drop everything I was doing and head there immediately, it would be to Mt Cook / Aoraki. She’s a beauty. With a bold, super iconic peak with a sense of immensity and serenity, there’s no mistaking Mt. Cook when you are within a hundred miles of it. It stands out above and beyond the surrounding Southern Alps.
What made you want to become part of the wine industry?
After finishing my degree and my first speciality in Economics, I worked for the Central Bank of Chile. From there, I became interested in Viticulture and Oenology, which I also studied, and it seemed a dynamic industry to work in and one I could travel the world doing.
I was lucky to work for two years as a winemaker in Chile, then I decided to travel overseas to gain experience in other wine- growing countries. At the time, not many female Chilean winemakers did this, but I was very adventurous, and I literally never looked back! The passion for making wine is still growing and I love all the aspects of wine - not just making wine, but also the operations, finances, technical, quality, sciences, hospitality, management, leadership, and so much more
What do you love most about your job?
Winemaking is a fascinating job! I love to be able to communicate, interact, and be part of multidisciplinary departments. Working with a big pool of expertise of people in viticulture, finances, laboratory, hospitality, sales, marketing, science research, health and safety, human resources, continuous improvement, is amazing.
Although I love what encompasses winemaking as a scientific career, I am also able to unleash my creative and social side of my personality when I make wine, which I love.
What is your favourite wine variety?
Probably 2 varieties, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Riesling is a wonderfully versatile grape variety and can make almost any style of wine, from delicate dry wines to rich sweet wine, and even sparkling.
Pinot Noir is a very delicate, fragile and difficult grape to grow and turn into wine. If you treat Pinot Noir fruit or/and wine well and spoil it, it will give you the same in return, but do one thing wrong, just one thing, and it’s all downhill from there!
To you, what makes the New Zealand wine industry special / unique?
Several reasons the NZ wine industry is special and unique.
Firstly, New Zealand has one of the best terroirs to grow grapes varieties exceptionally well with an outstanding flavour profile which equals outstanding wine quality.
Furthermore, the New Zealand wine industry is open-minded, innovative and agile, and also very supportive.
There is good cooperation amongst companies within industry peers. - I have made many friends over the years in the New Zealand wine industry, with people from all corners of the globe.
What would you like to see more of in the New Zealand wine industry?
I am fascinated by the world of wine; I enjoy tasting wine and like how each year wine tastes different from other years, and how different wines are between different growing areas. It is also incredible the experience that wine gives – how it is perceived when paired with different food as well as the social occasion, let alone the feeling when you see how people react when they like a glass of wine.
So, I like to see this more in the New Zealand wine industry - keep evolving to create an unmistakable New Zealand wine culture that can be lived, experienced and recognised domestically and internationally.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
I think the biggest challenge we are facing globally, and as a wine industry, is climate change. As an industry and as a profession, we rely constantly on weather condition.
The environment is unpredictable and ever-changing, and in recent years bad weather conditions make wine quality and consistency a challenge our winemaking processes. This has a large impact on financial aspects of winemaking, which with a combination with the global commercial pressures, is something that Winemakers must keep managing and try to balance.
Do you think there are gender-specific challenges in winemaking? Do women have a harder time becoming successful/being taken seriously, or is that a thing of the past?
I think is a thing of the past as present day in New Zealand wine industry, both male and female have the same opportunities to become and work as a Winemaker.
Where there is an opportunity for improvement is how to get to the next level, to obtain a high managerial position within the wine industry for females.
What would you say to women considering a career in wine?
Is not easy to succeed and has required a lot of hard work and perseverance. There has been a lot of challenges along the way but is totally worth it, and I have had incredible fun growing through the career. If you have good values, they are appreciated and pay off for it.
The New Zealand wine industry has offered me wonderful opportunities and I have had the bliss of many incredible moments in the last 16 years.
I am very proud to be Winemaker and to be part of the New Zealand wine industry.