Paula Fandiño always knew that she wanted to be a winemaker. But few could have predicted that, in following her passions, she would also create an amazing new style of sparkling wine. Meet Paula, the incredible winemaker behind the Mar de Frades Brut Nature in March’s Bubble Box.
Ever since childhood, Paula Fandiño has been fascinated by vineyards. From the neat rows of vines to the soil crunching underfoot, every aspect of these beautiful places intrigued and excited her – especially when she started tasting different styles of wines.
Her calling was obvious to everyone who knew her: Paula was destined to harness the forces of nature in the pursuit of amazing bottles of wine.
“When I had to choose my way in life, it was clear to me,” she says. “I wanted to be an agronomist engineer. When I finished my university degree, I delved deeper into winemaking. That’s how I began my adventure.”
Paula studied hard, and she joined the Mar de Frades winery just in time for the 2007 harvest. Situated just metres from the sea in the north-western Spanish region of Galicia, Mar de Frades’ vineyard sprawls across the green, granite-rich soil of this rainy region. Forget about the cracked earth and hot sun that ripens Cava grapes to perfection; in Galicia, tucked right on the northern border of Portugal, the salty air of the Atlantic Ocean rules all.
“Life and work take us to the sea,” Paula says of Galicians. “It’s what makes us different.”
It’s also what sets this region’s wines apart from the pack. The winemakers here prize one grape above all others: Albariño, a native variety that evolved right alongside the Galician ecosystem. It’s the only grape grown at Mar de Frades, where Paula set to work studying its potential the moment she signed on.
As she explains: “Right away I did two things: studied the profiles of every Mar de Frades wine and started looking for a way to preserve all of the aromas of the Albariño grape. My goal was to characterise our native Albariño grape as it grows here: the sea, the Arousa estuary, and the soil – granite and deeply sandy.”
On the Mar de Frades vineyards, the neat rows of Albariño vines are carefully pruned to 2 metres in height, so that the northern winds can whip between the rows. Every single vine is within 10 kilometres of the ocean, exposing the vines to the salty bite of the sea. As Paula surveyed the vines sloping down to the sea, an idea struck her: what would these aromatic, floral grapes taste like in a sparkling wine?
“I started thinking about this wine way back in 2008,” she says, “when I went out into the vineyard and selected the most suitable grapes. We did the first fermentation in vats, and it wasn’t until 2009 that I dared to bottle it and let it undergo secondary fermentation. I needed three more years of choosing grapes and trying things to be fully convinced that our sparkling wine could be enjoyed.”
But enjoy it Paula – and every fizz lover – certainly can. This bright, lemony wine is the first of its kind from the region; a unique and expressive liquid, rich with hints of sea water, eucalyptus and white fruit. Made using the traditional method – wherein the wine gets its fizz by aging for a second time ‘on the lees’, or in the bottle with the addition of yeast – it has the signature toasty notes of a fine Champagne or Cava. After years of tests, Paula was onto a winner.
“Albariño is a very aromatic grape enhanced by the granite soil we have here, which works brilliantly for sparkling wine,” Paula says. “The shape of the grape gives the wine different aromatic nuances, and floral, saline and balsamic notes are always very present. It’s also a very long-living variety, which transforms when it’s exposed to yeast, barrels, concrete or other materials during the winemaking process.”
Paula’s trailblazing work with the Albariño grape has made her a big name in the Spanish wine industry – just recently she was named one of the 10 best women winemakers in Spain – and now British bubble lovers will get a taste of this pioneering wine.
But however early her calling came to her, and however naturally talented her colleagues believe her to be, Paula doesn’t think that she was born to excel in the world of wine. Like all great winemakers, she says, she worked for it.
“You’re not born a great winemaker,” Paula says. “Besides having a good sense of taste and smell, we must work hard and train for it. We also need a great dose of passion for wine, time and dedication to apply our knowledge of soils, grapes and climatology.”
And the most exciting thing about Paula? While the mark she’s made on the Spanish wine industry is undeniable, she’s not even closed to finished making remarkable wine.
“We’ve just started,” she laughs. “We have a long way to go, and will keep investigating ageing times and the influence of the winemaking process. Albariño is a variety with great finesse and adaptability to bubbles. It’s a wonderful challenge!”
So keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful blue bottles of Mar de Frades wines. Paula’s best work is yet to come!